Engagement, experience and an encouraging nature were attributes that prompted online Educational Studies student Theresa Sullivan to nominate Katherine Wesley, PhD of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) for the Pearson’s 2016 Online Learning Excellence Award.
“I had just completed an online summer session of Law and Higher Education with Dr. Wesley when I received the inquiry for nominations (for the Pearson’s award),” explained Sullivan. “That law class was one of the best designed accelerated courses I’ve ever experienced. It was so engaging – so well designed.” Sullivan is currently a student in Educational Studies, Specialization in Educational Leadership & Higher Education, a program offered online through UNL’s College of Education and Human Sciences. She is continuing her education after completing a non-degree certificate in community college leadership, also offered through the Department of Educational Administration.
“Dr. Wesley provided timely, personalized and thorough feedback on every assignment,” Sullivan said. “Each assignment was thoughtfully constructed.” The course left a lasting impression as Sullivan used it as a model to redesign her own courses. Sullivan is assistant professor of office management at Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania.
Law and Higher Education, the course nominated for the award, is required in the online master’s and doctoral programs at UNL. It is an examination of legal principles applicable to various types of postsecondary institutions and covers the American legal system exploring frameworks of constitutional, statutory and decisional law pertaining to institutions of higher education.
The course was created alongside instructional designer Brian Wilson who added, “Dr. Wesley always takes a very student-centered approach in her courses, which I admire and respect.” The feeling is mutual for Wesley, who finds Wilson’s perspective vital to helping her raise her courses to the next level. Brian’s insight helped her rework the course she is nominated for.
Nominations were accepted for instructors who have demonstrated measurable best practices and innovation in online education. Sullivan cites the innovative use of video and classroom interaction were the reasons she was nominated Wesley for the award. The course presentation made it possible for the students to understand incredibly challenging material and complete rigorous assignments.
Wesley is an assistant professor of practice in the educational administration program in the College of Education and Human Sciences. She also serves as the executive director of the National Council of Instructional Administrators (NCIA). Wesley teaches in the Community College Leadership Certificate program and provides professional development for instructional administrators through NCIA.
“The Department of Educational Administration is proud of Dr. Wesley’s nomination for the Pearson Online Learning Excellence Award,” said Brent Cejda, department chair. “The primary role of a professor of practice at UNL is to provide exemplary learning experiences. An overwhelming majority of our students take their courses online and Dr. Wesley’s nomination is further evidence that professors of practice are committed to providing outstanding online degree and certificate programs. Dr. Wesley is well deserving of this honor and we are especially pleased she was nominated by one of her students.”
As a member of the faculty at UNL, Wesley says she is proud to come full circle and give back to community colleges, where she began her educational journey as a student. “Working with community colleges is important to me because, as a student, the community college offered flexible class time that worked around my regular work hours,” said Wesley. “I would not be here today if it weren’t for Skagit Valley College in Mt. Vernon, Wash. I now teach in our department’s Community College Certificate program and provide professional development for instructional administrators at community colleges through NCIA.”
Award winners will be announced February 10, 2016 at the Pearson’s online learning conference in Amelia Island, Fla.
The educational studies program is one of more than 100 online and blended degree, certificate and endorsement programs in 16 fields of study, offered by the four campuses of the University of Nebraska. The University of Nebraska Online Worldwide is NU’s university-wide distance education initiative, providing access to these programs at online.nebraska.edu. The university has made it a primary goal to continue expanding its online programs in order to meet the needs of students and help build a skilled workforce for Nebraska and beyond.