Kent State professors win international awards

Daniel Bott

Two Kent State professors have won international awards for their achievements in online learning.

Karen Swan, professor for educational foundations and special services, was presented with the award for “most outstanding achievement in online learning by an individual.” Albert Ingram, associate professor for educational foundations and special services, was presented with the award for “best practice editor for online learning.”

The awards were handed out by the Sloan Consortium during a conference last week at a gala event in Orlando, Fla. Eric Frederickson, selection committee member and long time Swan associate, presented the most prestigious award to her.

“I can’t remember what he said because I was so stunned, but he said just really good stuff about me and how happy he was to be giving the award to me,” she said. “He gave me a big hug, the whole place stood up and gave me a standing ovation and that was the end of the award ceremony.”

Ingram received earlier in the evening an award for developing a program combining individualized personal instruction with online collaborative group work in a computer animated format.

“I put together a couple of systems for teaching that have developed into particular learning theories and combined them in a way that nobody had ever done,” he said. “(They are combined) in a way that got good individualized learning, as well as, good collaboration.”

For the past 10 years Swan has been involved in online learning. She began her career working at the State University of New York in Albany. She taught one of the first online degrees and has been heavily involved in the research of online learning since.

“I saw how powerful and unusual an online profession was,” she said. “I did a lot of work around online profession and concepts of interactivity, social presence and community in online courses and how online profession fosters that.”

After being initially “wowed” by online learning, Swan has written many articles and presented many workshops about it.

Since moving to Kent State four years ago, she has worked primarily in research, not teaching, which has meant more time for her research and has greatly benefited her career.

Sloan Consortium

The Sloan Consortium is funded by the Alfred C. Sloan Foundation, a large philanthropic organization located in New York City.

“‘Sloan C,’ the Sloan Consortium, is supported by the Sloan Foundation, but it’s a network of people in universities who are working on online learning,” Swan said. “When it started, the president had a vision for teaching online, and this is before the World Wide Web, so he started funding these kinds of programs around the country.”

The Sloan Consortium’s Web site reported its research has found “nearly 3.2 million students were taking at least one online course during the Fall 2005 term, a substantial increase over the 2.3 million reported the previous year.”

The Web site also reported 62 percent of academic leaders rated the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to face-to-face learning, a 5 percent increase from 2003.

‘Best Kept Secret’

President Lester Lefton said the awards were a reflection of Kent State’s quality faculty.

“Kent State has an enormously talented faculty, and it just seems to me that many people in parts of the country are unaware of what quality work we are doing here from our quality faculty,” he said. “Our college of education and our research center for education technology, for example, is just one of dozens of examples across the university, with people who are doing just terrific work.”

He said Kent State was “one of the best kept secrets in America” and plans are underway to launch new initiatives, to make people more aware of achievements like these.

Dale Cook, associate professor for teaching, leadership and curriculum studies, said the awards and other recent achievements showed a continued development of the Faculty Professional Development Center and its growing national credibility.

Recently, the center received a $1 million grant and has had books and DVDs published.

“We’ve been riding a big wave of success over the last six months,” Cook said. “These things over the last six months have been building over the last nine years.”

Contact technology reporter Daniel Bott at [email protected].