Livingston, Snook Receive Paragon Awards at iLearning Event

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi teachers received the 2011 Paragon Awards at the iLearning Event hosted recently by Ole Miss Online in the Johnson Commons Ballroom.

Carol Livingston, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the School of Education, and Jennifer Snook, instructor in sociology in the College of Liberal Arts, were honored at the event, which targets UM department heads and faculty members interested in learning more about online and other distance learning technologies. The awards recognize faculty members who have demonstrated the ability to provide quality education and/or service to Ole Miss students through the use of innovative distance learning technologies.

Faculty who taught an online or compressed video course during the 2010-11 academic year were nominated for consideration by deans, department heads, students and former award winners. The Paragon carries a $1,000 monetary award.

“The need for an award for online instructors was highlighted by continual student feedback, said Anne Klingen, Ole Miss Online director. “Our office frequently receives calls from current and former distance learning students wanting to express their appreciation for the availability of distance learning courses and the work done by distance learning instructors.”

Snook taught two sections of Introduction to Sociology and a section of Sociology of Religion during the fall semester. Both classes ask students to put aside their preconceived notions and assumptions about the nature of “common sense” and society, she said.

Snook said she appreciates the marriage of immediacy and distance that online courses afford, believing it provides a more informed, considered student response.

“With online there is the quick and steady access to media – YouTube, blogs, news websites, movies – juxtaposed against the format of the discussion boards in these courses which give students a moment to think about what they want to say, so they’re more likely to say it,” she said.

Livingston teaches two compressed video classes: Problems in Teaching Mathematics I (EDEL 625) and Problems in Teaching Mathematics II (EDEL 627). Both classes are geared toward elementary school teachers. The flexibility and convenience of distance learning appeal to Livingston.

“What I like most about distance learning technology is having the opportunity to serve more in-service teachers … the first time I taught EDEL 625 … we had just 9 students. The second semesters, utilizing the distance learning classroom, we were able to bring 17 students together on two remote campuses. Twenty-seven students on five campuses are enrolled in the spring semester class. That is an amazing number of students for a graduate level class that is not a ‘cohort.'”

When asked what advice she would give faculty interested in using distance learning technology, Snook said, “Be creative, stay current, be flexible, and make it matter. Students are already using the Internet for everything. Use that to your advantage.”

Livingston, who hopes to take Advanced Methods for Teaching Secondary Mathematics (EDSE 645) onto the distance learning grid soon, agrees and credits a team approach for a successful distance learning experience.

“The distance learning folks here at UM have been amazing. Every time I say, ‘This is what it will take to make it happen,’ they have made it happen.”

To learn more, visit Ole Miss Online.