Dr. Steven Foulke Receives USDLA Gold Award for Distance Learning Teaching

Posted by Paula Paine on June 2, 2014 in "Your OU" Ottawa University’s Associate Professor of History, Dr. Steven Foulke, was awarded the 2014 Excellence in Distance Learning Teaching Gold Award by the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) during an international awards ceremony on May 5 as part of the USDLA 2014 Annual National Conference. He received the honor in conjunction with Assistant Professor of Philology and American Cultural Studies Dr. Rumena Buzarovska (Saints Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje, Macedonia).

The Award for Distance Learning Teaching is presented annually to an organization or individual engaged in the development and delivery of distance learning programs. Drs. Foulke and Buzarovska were nominated for the award based on their joint, fully online Spring 2013 course, “Regions of the Balkans and the U.S.: Studies in Space, Place and Cultural Geography in Macedonia and the U.S.”

The eight-week course involved five OU students from around the U.S. and 10 Macedonian students who shared texts and films, which they accessed online, to explore ethnicity, religion, electoral politics, economic trends, student culture, and perceptions of the future in both countries. Dr. Foulke was in Macedonia on a Fulbright teaching grant for the duration of the course.

The online course was conceived and designed by Ottawa University’s Director of the Office of Academic Technology Carine Ullom, who supported the students and faculty in their use of technologies throughout the course.

The course consisted of three main technical components: the Blackboard learning management system, the Zoom desktop video conferencing system, and Google Docs.  Blackboard housed the course materials, the students’ journals about the course content, and the text-based discussion forums; Zoom was used for three, 30-minute real-time “Cross-Cultural Conversations,” during which OU and Macedonian students were grouped together; and Google Docs was used as a virtual collaboration space in which the students worked together to create an “image gallery” of pictures and narrative related to the course content.

“This year’s USDLA Awards recipients represent the finest examples of online courses, best practices and leadership in our field. We are so very proud and excited to be able to recognize this level of excellence,” said Ms. Jenny Jopling, president of USDLA.

Dr. Foulke is happy that this type of course technology and instruction is being recognized. “We’ve done something truly innovative by bringing students from two countries together for an extended learning experience, a kind of ‘virtual study abroad,’” he said. “The students from both universities expressed genuine excitement about the course. The experience of developing and teaching this course has to be one of the highlights of my career.”

Since the conclusion of this successful course, Drs. Foulke and Buzarovska have collaborated on two more joint projects involving their students, the most recent being a live trans-Atlantic student conference during the spring semester. Students in Dr. Foulke’s “Ethnicity in U.S. History” course attended class at the Ottawa, KS, campus, as opposed to online, but worked in groups with Dr. Buzarovska's students to present their material to audiences in both countries with the help of Zoom.

The USDLA Awards were created to acknowledge major accomplishments in distance learning and to highlight those distance learning instructors, programs and professionals who have achieved and demonstrated extraordinary results through the use of online, videoconferencing, satellite, and blended learning delivery technologies. Other awards presented during the ceremony include those for 21st Century Best Practices, Best Practices for Distance Learning Programming, and Outstanding Leadership by an Individual.

“Each year these recognized leaders raise the bar and exceed best practice expectations for the industry as a whole, and we are truly honored by their contributions within all distance learning constituencies,” said Dr. John G. Flores, executive director of USDLA and program professor at Nova Southeastern University.

USDLA is a non-profit association that was founded in 1987 as the nation’s leading distance learning organization that reaches 20,000 people globally.