Monday, 28 September 2015

Dean's award recognises online teaching excellence

Professor Ross Coppel presents Dr Eleanor Mitchell with the Dean's Award for Excellence in Education (Quality of Teaching) in August 2015.

A love of online teaching and a passion to create change in that space has underpinned the significant achievements of School of Rural Health lecturer Dr Eleanor Mitchell.

Dr Mitchell, who teaches at the school’s Bairnsdale site, was a recent recipient of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Education (Quality of Teaching).

A former research manager at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, Dr Mitchell moved to East Gippsland to work with SRH about five years ago, to develop research in the region. Her role involves assisting academics and health professionals to establish their own research and program evaluations.

The Dean’s Award is in recognition of the successful delivery of a research methods unit to distance education Master’s degree students. Students who are enrolled in this unit come from all over the world and often are from a diverse range of health-related fields. “This provides for interesting and diverse online discussion,” Dr Mitchell said.

Dr Mitchell’s enthusiasm for the unit is infectious. “I teach the students about the background of research and they go through working on a topic of their choice, they undertake a literature review, prepare an ethics application, develop their own proposal and they often choose topics that they are working on.”

When Dr Mitchell took over the unit in 2012 it was being taught in a traditional distance education mode but, with a clear idea of how she wanted to engage off-campus students, Dr Mitchell moved the unit online into Moodle, to enable rich interaction between students and regular communication between Dr Mitchell and the students.

Student feedback indicates the success of these changes, received as part of the Student Evaluation of Teaching and Units process.

Inspired by her own less-than-ideal experiences studying by distance education, Dr Mitchell has also joined forces with Dr Angelo D’Amore, Senior Lecturer and Education Leader at MUDRIH, to conduct research into online learning. The pair are looking at what makes a good online educator and what can be done better.

“Eventually we would love to be able to develop a toolkit for those embarking on online teaching,” she said.

Dr Mitchell is also preparing to present the preliminary research findings at the 12th annual conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in October this year.

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