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UW educators receive award for online teaching quality


A professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming and an Extension service emerita educator are being honored for their online community leadership course.

Randy Weigel in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences and Rhonda Shipp of Cody, who retired from the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service in 2008, are receiving the Pearson Excellence in Online Teaching award this month. The award is presented to educators who use the Pearson LearningStudio platform and who demonstrate a significant commitment to quality in online education.

The two are teaching Understanding Community Leadership. Pearson Learning Solutions offers learning tools, resources and support services for educators. The award will be presented during the organization's conference April 12 to 14 in Denver.

"In all my years as an educator, I have rarely seen an online course that has been so thoughtfully constructed," said professor Karen Williams, head of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. Weigel is a member of the department.

The course was developed for seniors and graduate students.

Shipp said her preference prior to teaching this course had been face-to-face educational experiences in real time. "I admit I wondered about online instruction," she said. "I discovered that, even online, the students' personalities became evident as we progressed through the units each week, and I felt like I knew them."

Shipp and Weigel used a variety of tools to make the course experiential and interesting.

"It was important to us that we immerse the students in the course materials in ways that increased their level of reflection, absorption and integration of the information," said Shipp. "I was pleased to see their online conversations about the course content demonstrated depth in original thought and analyses."

Shipp and Weigel discovered the parts that worked well and those that needed improvement. The changes are part of this fall's FCSC 4117/5117 class.

"The instructors have incorporated strong content that blends all the best of extension and outreach teaching strategies with the use of technology and online tools," said Larry Jansen, an instructional designer and Online UW coordinator with the UW Outreach School.

Weigel is the human development specialist with the extension service, and Shipp specialized in community leadership in her educator position in Park County.

The award is a $1,000 donation to the scholarship of the winner's choice. Weigel and Shipp have selected the UW Outreach School Edelweiss Fund.

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