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An Eastern Kentucky University online course created for the master of arts in teaching (MAT) program has won a 2019 Catalyst Award from Blackboard, Inc. 

Esther Tattershall, an instructional designer with the Office of eCampus Learning, and Dr. April Blakely, director of online programs for the College of Education, received the honor in the category of Teaching and Learning for their work on EGC 820 – Professional Studies I. Catalyst Teaching and Learning awards recognize exemplary achievements in distance and online education that demonstrate innovative use of the Blackboard online education platform, enhance learning and increase flexibility for instructors and students.

Dr. April Blakely“This is the first course that students take in the master of arts in teaching program,” explained Blakely. “Many of them have never taken an online course before, so it is essential that we use this opportunity to familiarize them with Blackboard and orient them to critical progressions within their degree.”

To achieve this, Tattershall and Blakely introduced streamlined navigation that is mirrored in the other graduate education courses students will take throughout the program. An orientation video was created to introduce them to features of the learning management system that they would use most often, such as discussion boards, journals and video conferencing. Students are given an opportunity to provide feedback to the instructor and designer at the end of every assignment so improvements can be made in real time.

The MAT program prepares future teachers to work with students in preschool through 12th grade. Since today’s educators employ numerous digital tools in their teaching, the design team included carefully curated technology that both stimulates learning in the graduate coursework and introduces students to tools they can eventually use in their own classrooms.Esther Tattershall

“We really focus on the student experience in our course development process. The ongoing learner reflectionsandself-assessments in EGC 820 are particularly strong aspects of the course design,” Tattershall said.

Engagement is critical to success in the online learning environment for faculty and students. Self-assessments give students multiple attempts to test their knowledge throughout the course. Blakely and Tattershall also looked for ways to make activities highly relevant to those who teach children, such as incorporating instructional content about food insecurity in the United States. To ensure students receive constructive, individualized feedback, Blakely records audio commentary and speaks directly to students about their assignments.  

EKU’s online degree programs are ranked among the best by U.S. News & World Report. More than 3,400 students are pursuing degrees and certificates with EKU Online. The EKU College of Education offers numerous online graduate degrees and certificates, including the MAT, the master of arts in education (MAEd) and the specialist in education (EdS) degree. 

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