Guest Blog Post from Geralyn Stephens, Assistant Professor – Clinical College of Education at Wayne State University and 2012 Catalyst Award Winner for Blackboard Exemplary Course.

I aspire to be a great teaching Professor.  However, factors used to determine teaching effectiveness at the University-level are most often subjective.  There is seldom an opportunity for peer review and critique.  The 2012 Catalyst Award for my online course, CTE 6010: History and Principles of Career and Technical Education, provided the evidence to support that I reached that pinnacle!

On last Thanksgiving Day, I hosted dinner for the family.  While the turkey was baking, I was on my laptop reviewing the course I planned to submit for the 2012 Blackboard Catalyst Awards. No, seriously, it was a great time! I began a careful review of how well my submission would satisfy the standards outlined in the Blackboard Exemplary Course rubric.  I had modified my Blackboard online course, CTE 6010: History and Principles of Career and Technical Education course after receiving the reviewers’ feedback from my 2011 submission.  This was a perfect time because there was a relaxed atmosphere in my home.  I could hear my family in another room happily watching the annual Thanksgiving Day parade on the television.  The oven warmed the kitchen and there was the comforting aroma of freshly baked apple pies cooling on their racks.   A perfect setting for a comparative analysis of my Blackboard course and the Exemplary Course Rubric, which is used as a benchmark for the award I was submitting for!

I reviewed my  above mentioned Blackboard course to determine the effect of the enhancements on the assignments submitted by my students and on the overall level of student engagement. I was not prepared for the findings.  As Gomer Pyle says, Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! My students were excited about the course modifications and were more engaged than I had ever imagined! There was such a difference in the quality of their assignments from previous terms.  I was able to think of ways to use the new information as evidence in various sections of my Exemplary Course narratives.  The narratives are included in your submission and they provide the reviewers with information that describes where and why specific strategies were used for building a course.  As I continued reviewing my course through the parameters of the Exemplary Course rubric, I was able to identify more examples and illustrations of the impact of fine-tuning the course.  It had been years since I had visited New Orleans, but I was gaining confidence that I would be making the trip in the summer to receive my Catalyst Award in-person from Ray Henderson at BbWorld 2012!

In April 2012, I learned that my very own  course, CTE 6010: History and Principles of Career and Technical Education, was, an Catalyst Award winner for a Blackboard Exemplary Course.  My university administration was most impressed with the accomplishment!  I was appointed as a Faculty Fellow, this academic year.  In this position, I work directly with our Blackboard Support Team and our Office for Teaching and Learning to maximize the use of Blackboard by faculty across all units of our prestigious university.  We are documenting our efforts and plan to apply for the 2013 Blackboard Catalyst award for Staff Development.  Also, my home unit, the College of Education nominated me for the 2013 Board of Governors Faculty Recognition Award and the 2013 President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.  Both nominations are a result of winning the 2012 Blackboard Catalyst award for the Exemplary Course .  Wish me luck!

If you plan to submit your course for the 2013 Catalyst Program, I would encourage you to find time during the holiday break to casually compare your course to the Exemplary Course rubric.  You will be surprised at just how well you have already met many, if not all, of the standards.   For additional insight, please take a moment to enroll in the recorded MOOC: Designing an Exemplary Course, sponsored by a CourseSites to help others create exemplary courses.  I look forward to meeting you at the Catalyst Award luncheon at BbWorld 2013 in Las Vegas next summer!

Check out Geralyn’s Presentation Video for her course!

To learn more about the Catalyst Award program and submit your course for an award (beginning December 1), visit our website

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