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AACC professor named nation’s top eLearning educator

5/23/2014, 1:21 p.m.
Donald P. Orso, Ph.D. (Courtesy Photo)

Anne Arundel Community College Professor Donald P. Orso, Ph.D., was named the “Outstanding eLearning Educator” for 2014 by the Instructional Technology Council. The runner-up teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Don's demonstrated commitment to teaching excellence is exemplified in his online classes. His courses are well designed and taught well--and he inspires and motivates students to succeed,” said Jean M. Runyon, Ph.D., associate vice president for learning advancement and virtual campus.

Orso has been a professor of Psychology at AACC since 1973 and began teaching online courses about 15 years ago when the college first started offering online classes. He designed the first online “Introduction to Psychology” course.

“It seemed to be the wave of the future in higher education,” he said. “Certainly, enrollment trends have validated that trend both at AACC and nationally. This academic year across the nation, over seven million students took online college-level courses.” (This spring at AACC, 38.6 percent of credit students took courses through distance learning.)

Students like online courses, he said, not only for the convenience of having material available to them for review at any time, but also because more communication goes back and forth between other students and between students and the instructor.

He prefers online teaching, too, because it allows much more substantial student-teacher interactions at times convenient to students whereas a face-to-face class limits interactions to scheduled meeting times. The way he communicates depends on the “whatever manner works best for students, that is, electronically via email, chat rooms, discussion forums, graded responses, Skype and or via the telephone.”

“Don has been an innovator in online teaching and learning, conducting ground-breaking research on students' perceptions of online teaching excellence. This award was a well-deserved recognition of his many contributions to distance education,” said Sandra L. King, professor of English and Communications, who coordinates AACC’s training and mentoring programs for online faculty.

The Instructional Technology Council is a national organization focused on sharing technologies and strategies to improve distance learning. It evaluates nominees on various criteria, including creativity and innovation strategies for helping students master the subject, use of a mix of instructional technologies, interactivity with students, communication ability, class management, group projects management, instruction effectiveness and retention strategies