by Claire Miller
Online courses are often designed for individuals to learn each lesson independent of other students.
But Steve Harmon, College of Education associate professor of instructional technology, believes online learning can be more effective if students interact more with their professors and peers.
With this in mind, Harmon created an instructional strategy that encourages more collaborative learning online – an innovation that earned him the Georgia State University Instructional Innovation Award for 2011.
In his innovative approach, students from GSU are paired with students at another university and use information technologies to form a virtual class that employs a variety of learning and instructional principles. He uses a construct called “cognitive presence” to help assess students’ learning.
“Online learning is already a large part of higher education and is growing every year,” he explained. “We generally don't do a very good job of assessing learning outcomes in this environment, beyond basic testing. Using cognitive presence as a measure of the level of intellectual discourse gives us another valuable tool in enhancing student learning.”
This honor, one of five given by the GSU Center for Teaching and Learning, recognizes university level outstanding innovations in teaching that result in improved learning. Harmon received this award and its $1,500 prize at a ceremony on April 14.
“I was very surprised when I found out I’d received the award,” Harmon said. “The development of this innovation has been a long running collaborative effort between me and the classes of students who have been a part of it the last few years, and it was nice to see that work on all our parts be acknowledged.”
For more information about this award, visit http://www.gsu.edu/ctl/35024.html.