Innovation in Learning Center Team Recognized with Research Award


Posted on November 15, 2021
Joy Washington


Dr. S. Raj Chaudhury, ILC executive director, far left, Dr. Lisa LaCross, assistant director of faculty development, and Dr. David S. Williams, assistant director of course development at USA, are the recipients of the prestigious Robert J. Menges Award from the Professional and Organizational Development Network. data-lightbox='featured'
Dr. S. Raj Chaudhury, ILC executive director, far left, Dr. Lisa LaCross, assistant director of faculty development, and Dr. David S. Williams, assistant director of course development at USA, are the recipients of the prestigious Robert J. Menges Award from the Professional and Organizational Development Network.

A team from the University of South Alabama’s Innovation in Learning Center (ILC) recently received the prestigious Robert J. Menges Award for Outstanding Research in Educational Development from the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network, a national organization for teaching and learning centers.

The peer-reviewed award is given for the quality of research questions, design and data analysis. Dr. S. Raj Chaudhury, ILC executive director, Dr. Lisa LaCross, assistant director of faculty development, and Dr. David S. Williams, assistant director of course development, are the recipients.

“It is an honor for the Innovation in Learning Center to be recognized for the tremendous work they do to support transformational teaching of our USA faculty, especially during a pandemic,” said Dr. Andi Kent, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “This research award highlights the unwavering commitment of the ILC team to lifelong learning and the dedication of our faculty to student success.”

The research poster, “Tracking the Transfer of Research-Based Instructional Social Presence Practices,” was created based on the Summer Institute 2020, which included 60 faculty of various disciplines who taught an estimated 1,000 students. 

According to the ILC team, they developed and implemented a course design institute where faculty engaged with course climate-focused learning objects to lower the technology barrier, remove the fear of new virtual tools and turn “pandemic teaching” into a positive experience for faculty and students.

Chaudhury, LaCross, and Williams all worked on the proposal for the research, and LaCross was mainly responsible for the manuscript.  

“This is a great achievement for us,” Chaudhury said. “I have been a member of the POD Network organization for a long time. I feel grateful that I have amazing colleagues to work with, and our dedication and hard work have been recognized with this national award. I feel humbled we were able to achieve this outstanding award despite the challenges the pandemic caused. ”  

“At the same time, we were using evidence-based strategies, we leveraged the use of embedded technology training in the activity with the faculty,” Williams said. “We modeled the use of the  Canvas platform effectively along with video technology and Zoom.”

Williams is responsible for faculty training and use of instructional technology infrastructure, which expanded during the pandemic. LaCross, who leads many faculty development efforts at the ILC, added, “I am so happy that we have received this award. It feels good to have our research valued at a national level.” 

The ILC project utilized faculty responses to a survey about how they implemented strategies that they learned during the Institute, and incorporated the student perspective through mid-semester feedback. 

“The pandemic came with many challenges, and we have continued to work hard at the ILC to support the needs of the faculty and students, and the institution as a whole,” Williams noted.  “The overall goal was to keep the instruction strong to benefit all students. There’s value in what we have accomplished as a team.”

Dr. Esther Jordan, chair of the POD Awards Committee, applauded the ILC’s study, noting that this “was a great achievement, and thank you for your important contribution to research in our field.”


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