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Wall named Innovative Professor

When Dr. Anne Wall, associate professor of education at Austin Peay State University, talks about online classes, her eyes suddenly widen and her words come out fast. Its a topic that clearly matters to her, and she wants people to know theres more to it than simply reading and answering questions on a computer.

Theres too much neat stuff out there not to take advantage of, she said.
When Dr. Anne Wall, associate professor of education at Austin Peay State University, talks about online classes, her eyes suddenly widen and her words come out fast. It's a topic that clearly matters to her, and she wants people to know there's more to it than simply reading and answering questions on a computer.

“There's too much neat stuff out there not to take advantage of,” she said.

Her enthusiasm for this learning medium likely played a major part in her being named the Innovative Professor of the Year for 2009, by the APSU Center of Extended and Distance Education. The award, given out in November during National Distance Education Week, recognizes excellence in online instruction.

“I was surprised. I really was,” she said. “I guess I wonder if I'm really deserving.”

Her students would argue that she more than deserves this recognition. Robert Anderson, instructional technologist with the Center, said they survey all students and staff members who participate in online courses when determining this award, and those enrolled in Wall's class consistently gave her high marks.

Specifically, the students mentioned the course's “organized and easily-followed framework” and the professor's use of “real-world scenarios.” Those scenarios are key, Wall said, to keeping online students engaged, and she tries to assign these types of projects as often as possible. For a graduate-level class she teaches on instructional technology, she recently required her students to design a technology plan for a school system.

“They have to use real federal guidelines,” she said. “All this is now available on the Internet, so you can say ‘these are the resources you're going to use,' and then they use different Web tools to communicate and put it together. We try to bring real things into the class, and I feel like the students believe what they're doing is something they might really do someday.”

Wall came to APSU nine years ago, and for eight of those years, she's taught online classes. She enjoys them as much as her “face-to-face” classes, and she's come to understand what works for her, in terms of teaching in an online environment.

“For online, the best practices are undiscovered at this point because it's so new,” she said. “But one thing you can't do is take a ‘face-to-face' class and put it online and expect it to be effective. You need to find new and different things for the student to do that take advantage of the Internet. Since that's the delivery of online courses, it's all-important.” -- Charles Booth