The Oklahoma Online Learning Excellence Awards were established by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education’s Council for Online Learning Excellence to recognize individuals and groups from organizations in the State of Oklahoma that are dedicated to supporting and advancing excellence in online learning. Nominees have been determined by their peers to display the highest levels of achievement in leadership at their home institutions as well as across the state of Oklahoma and the nation, develop ground-breaking innovations in the industry, cultivate collaborations with internal and external peers, and promote high quality online learning experiences that evidence robust learner achievement and success.

The award selection committee comprised of representatives from several of Oklahoma’s public and private, 2- and 4-year institutions of higher education commented on the outstanding quality of nominations received for 2017 from such diverse organizations as Oklahoma State University, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Western Oklahoma State College, Carl Albert State College, and Mid-American Christian University, among others. The award winners exemplify the very best of online learning in the State of Oklahoma and the State Regents and COLE are honored to recognize this level of excellence that exemplifies the elite of our industry and contributes to positioning Oklahoma as a global leader in online education.

2017 Individual Faculty or Staff Award Winner

The 2017 Oklahoma Online Excellence Award for an individual faculty or staff member recognizes Dr. Maria Christian of Northeastern State University.

Photo of award ceremony for Oklahoma Online Learning Excellence Award

Dr. Christian, Assistant Professor of Higher Education Leadership, has been recognized by her colleagues at NSU for her efforts to enhance and strengthen the university’s Higher Education leadership program as well university-wide online course offerings as a whole. Her efforts to advance online education at NSU include co-authoring a proposal to develop NSU’s Higher Education Leadership Master’s degree program into a fully-online offering. In addition, she shares her online teaching experience through her collaboration on various initiatives with the university’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Those interactions include participating on the Center’s Advisory Board, testing new software, and collaborating to conduct research on effective online course design. In addition, she welcomes opportunities to share her expertise and experience in online learning and teaching with others in and outside the university and has been invited to address online course accessibility at the 2017 Quality Matters Connect Conference. These and other endeavors in support of online education have been praised by her colleagues for their significant impact on faculty and students alike.

Dr. Christian’s dedication to online education has been recognized by her selection as a Faculty Fellow for NSU’s Center for Teaching and Learning. In this role, she oversees the university’s advanced online educator course that focuses on course design, curriculum alignment, and assessment and also models effective online teaching techniques for colleagues to integrate into their own online teaching practices. Her expertise in online education has been further recognized by an invitation to serve as a Reviewer for Online Courses at NSU.

In all of these efforts and in her teaching, Dr. Christian has enjoyed positive results that are recognized by students, peers, and university administration. Her success with teaching online and designing engaging online learning experiences is evidenced in feedback from conference presentations about online course design and in positive student evaluations from online and blended courses she offers. Dr. Christian’s colleagues praise her dedication and excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service and look forward to the many future contributions and innovations she will certainly bring to advance online education at Northeastern State University.

2017 Institution, Team, or Program Award Winner

The 2017 Oklahoma Online Excellence Award for an institution, team, or program celebrates the Learning Design Team at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Center for eLearning and Connected Environments. UCO defines its mission as helping students learn through transformative education experiences and its students are engaging in those experiences online at a rapidly increasing rate. To support the university’s purpose, the Center for eLearning and Connected Environments, known across the university as CeCE, has identified its own mission as one to “empower course design, teaching, and learning experiences that are learner-centered, high-quality, flexible, and affordable.” The Center’s Learning Design Team is central to this effort and is recognized across the university and beyond for its pursuit of excellence in supporting and advancing online education. The Team is led by CeCE Assistant Director Tracy Fairless who oversees the team’s initiatives to ensure excellence in the design and delivery of online courses at UCO. Other team members include instructional designers Katie Carnes, Liz Crowell, Brett King, and Kelly Ross; Instructional designers and online course facilitation certification specialists Sarah Harrell and Kyle Motsinger; Accessibility Specialist Stephanie Rogers; and video team members Kelsi Thompson, Spike Alkire, and Joaquín López.

Photo of award ceremony for Oklahoma Online Learning Excellence AwardThe Team models excellence in all regards. UCO’s fully-online course offerings increased 69.57% from Spring 2013 to Spring 2016 and, in response, online faculty numbers increased during this period by 42.36%. In support of this growth, the Learning Design team has developed effective, sustainable practices for supporting high, quality, engaging online design, teaching, and learning experiences. The Team’s Online Course Quality Principles Rubric communicates rigorous standards for online courses from inception to completion and throughout delivery. Team members work individually with faculty course designers in Online Course Development Workshops to ensure that courses not only attain the 90% score required for authorization, but are also engaging and innovative. These workshops have supported approximately 90 new online course designs and redesigns each year. Team members also promote effective practices in online course facilitation through CeCE’s Online Course Facilitation Workshop required of all UCO online faculty. After the certification moment, the team promotes continuing course quality through its comprehensive portfolio of online faculty development offerings that empower faculty to innovate, refresh, and reimagine their online learning designs and online teaching. Recent innovations to these initiatives include the integration of Learning Environment Modeling to all online course design projects and the Online Course Quality Principles Rubric that guides the design and evaluation of UCO online courses.

Many of the Team’s collaborative endeavors for which it is widely appreciated at UCO and across Oklahoma entail efforts to share Learning Environment Modeling and effective practices for supporting excellence in online education. The team routinely partners with other UCO divisions to host or present at UCO faculty development offerings and conferences. These opportunities are welcomed as a vehicle to connect with faculty and staff, model and share effective practices, and form alliances with advocates in academic and administrative divisions who help advance and share its vision for online education. Several team members also assist with state-wide and national workshops offered by UCO’s Institute for Learning Environment Design and are active in the state-wide Council for Online Learning Excellence. The effectiveness of the Team is reflected in high approval rates reported through surveys and testimonials of stakeholders and the continued growth and high learner completion rates in online learning that Team initiatives support. Team members also maintain active local and global conference and consultation agendas, further attesting to the value they contribute to the field. The Learning Design Team’s sustainable, scalable, and dynamic initiatives and innovations to support the many facets of high-quality online education provide an effective model for others across the industry.