WCET’s 2017 WOW Awardees Transform the College Learning Experience…

WOW award logo

“This year’s four award recipients represent the entire 2017 class of proposals as an outstanding reflection of the innovation, quality, leadership and vision needed to help students, faculty, and institutions succeed in higher education today.” Kara Monroe, WOW Award Committee Chair

Since 2004, the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) has presented the WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) award to colleges, universities, and organizations who implement exceptionally creative, technology-based solutions to contemporary challenges in higher education. The WOW award helps WCET meet its mission of promoting innovative and effective practice by providing exemplary programs as models for the higher education community to adapt for their own students and faculty.
The four 2017 WOW award recipients have all implemented solutions in areas shown to have impact on student success.

  • Blackboard Inc.: Blackboard Ally
  • Healthcare Learning Innovations, a division of American Sentinel University: Sentinel City™
  • Oregon State University: 3-D Virtual Microscope
  • University of Central Florida: UDOIT: Universal Design Online content Inspection Tool, University of Central Florida

“Each and every year, the WOW Awards committee has a challenging task to review outstanding proposals from across the country to select our final award recipients,” said Kara Monroe, Vice President for Academic Innovation and Support at Ivy Tech Community College, and chair of the WOW Awards committee. “This year’s four award recipients represent the entire 2017 class of proposals as an outstanding reflection of the innovation, quality, leadership and vision needed to help students, faculty, and institutions succeed in higher education today.”

The WOW awardees will be recognized by WCET’s national community of higher education innovators during the WCET 29th Annual Meeting in Denver, CO, October 25-27th, 2017.

The 2017 WOW Award winners:

Blackboard Inc.: Blackboard Ally

Blackboard Ally is a new technology that integrates closely with the Learning Management System (LMS) and focuses on making digital course content more accessible. Blackboard Ally automatically scans course content in the LMS for accessibility issues. Within the context of the LMS, it then provides feedback to instructors about the accessibility of their content, as well as detailed guidance on how to improve the accessibility and quality of their content. Ally will also automatically generate alternative accessible versions (Semantic HTML, ePub, audio, electronic braille, etc.) for course content and will make these available to the student through the LMS. Lastly, Blackboard Ally will generate an institution-wide course content accessibility report. This enables the institution to understand how they are performing with regards to the accessibility of their course content and how they can further improve. Ultimately, Ally helps foster Universal Design thinking and can help provide access to higher quality and more usable course materials that can benefit all students.

Creating barrier-free opportunities for all students to succeed in reaching their higher education goals is critical for our nation’s health and prosperity. Technology-enhanced teaching and learning has been lauded from the start as a way of increasing student access to higher education but some of these tools have inadvertently hindered students with disabilities. By providing institutions and faculty with an easy to use, integrated solution, Ally can help provide the guidance and feedback necessary to improve course content and give all students access to a wider variety of course materials that may be best formatted for their unique educational style and needs. This is a type of personalization unlike any other that we have seen on a wide scale and has the potential to alter who can access and succeed in higher education.

Contact: Shawnee Cohn
Public Relations Associate, Blackboard Inc.
202-303-9053; shawnee.cohn(at)blackboard(dot)com

Healthcare Learning Innovations, a division of American Sentinel University: Sentinel City®
Healthcare Learning Innovations’ Sentinel City® Population Health Simulation is a digital city developed by nurse educators for use in population health and other nursing courses. The educational simulation harnesses the latest digital technologies, creating an immersive environment that increases new skill retention through elevated engagement while learning. The simulation provides practice experience and simulated clinical hours for students as they complete Family Support and Home Assessments, Clinical Care Plans, Nursing Diagnoses, Windshield Surveys and many other assignments. Sentinel City® can be used in a traditional classroom or online, distance learning setting.

Our team of nurse educators developed 17 complete assignments with AACN Essentials mapping and grading rubrics for use with the simulation. The assignments encourage students to engage with different locations and citizens to obtain important information about the city. The integrated Family Support and Home Assessments, Clinical Care Plan and Nursing Diagnosis create immersive and interactive assessment scenarios. The city Mayor, a virtual chatbot, provides information on the city’s 8 community health subsystems. There are 13 characters and 15 locations within the city which students can engage with to identify key biographical and environmental data for various assignments. Implemented by numerous nursing schools across the nation, Sentinel City® has proven to be an invaluable teaching tool.

Contact: Megan Sellers
Digital Marketing Manager, Healthcare Learning Innovations
303-223-0029; megan.sellers(at)americansentinel(dot)edu

Oregon State University: 3-D Virtual Microscope
Previously, a distance education student at Oregon State University in a degree program requiring biology lab work would have had to attend an on-campus offering in their local area. The lack of an online biology option was a barrier to degree completion. The big challenge with an online biology program was the lack of student interaction with lab equipment, such as a microscope. The goal of the 3-D Virtual Microscope project was to put a microscope in the hands of every distance student so that the full biology series could be taken online. As a land grant institution, Oregon State University’s mission is to increase access to education. This project was important not only for helping distance students take their course; it was important because it improved the institution’s ability to meet goals stemming from their land grant mission.

To create the virtual lab experience, developers mounted a camera on top of an actual microscope and took pictures of slides. The photos were woven into 3-D animation, which allowed students to adjust the lighting, zoom and manipulate the 3-D microscope. The student view of the real-life photographs responds to the ways in which they manipulate the virtual microscope’s controls. The use of 3-D animation for this purpose is certainly innovative, but what was especially creative about this approach was the manner in which the real and the virtual were combined to give students a real learning experience from a distance.
This series was created based on student need, which really galvanized all the people who worked on the project. That has helped us approach all projects with similar enthusiasm and passion – to boost student success and remove barriers to degree completion.

Contact: Tyler Hansen
Marketing Communications Manager, Oregon State University
520-312-1276; tyler.hansen(at)oregonstate(dot)edu

University of Central Florida: UDOIT: Universal Design Online content Inspection Tool, University of
Central Florida

The Universal Design Online content Inspection Tool (UDOIT) enables faculty to identify and fix accessibility issues. It scans a course, generates a report, and provides resources on how to address accessibility issues. UDOIT was created to help faculty identify and fix accessibility issues themselves while learning about accessibility in the process. Hence the name UDOIT (“You-Do-It”).
Accessibility has often been considered a reactive and compliance process; occurring mainly when a student with a disability is enrolled in the course. The most powerful aspect of UDOIT is the availability to check the courses’ accessibility during the initial development or maintenance of a course. This promotes a shift to a more proactive stance and embeds the concept of accessibility throughout a course’s lifecycle. UDOIT is open-source and can be adapted by other institutions to other LMS platforms. As it is available through GitHub, the source code is publicly accessible.

UDOIT is raising awareness of Universal Design for Learning and accessibility principles among online faculty within a familiar setting, the LMS. The response from faculty has been gratitude for helping them understand the concerns found in their course content by UDOIT, as well as having a quick and simple means to remediate most of them using UFIXIT. Many faculty have stated they will take what they have learned from UDOIT to be more proactive in their future development of course content. It is our hope that there will be a diminishing need for reactive accessibility requests through the use of UDOIT.

Contact: Gene Kruckemyer
News Editor/Writer, University of Central Florida
407-823-1637; gene.kruckemyer(at)ucf(dot)edu
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About WCET

The WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) is the leader in the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced higher education. WCET is widely recognized as one of the most informative, reliable and forward-thinking organizations regarding the role of technology and innovation in higher education. More information about WCET’s institutional membership resources and services can be found on WCET’s website – http://wcet.wiche.edu/