WSU Announces Winner of Oaks Academic Technology Award

By Jeff Willadsen, WSU Academic Outreach & Innovation

William “Dr. Bill” Schlosser

PULLMAN, Wash. – William “Dr. Bill” Schlosser, a faculty member at Washington State University’s School of the Environment, is the winner of the 2020 Oaks Academic Technology Award. The annual award is sponsored by Academic Outreach & Innovation (AOI).

The Oaks award, named in honor of visionary innovator Dr. Muriel Oaks, WSU Dean Emeritus, recognizes a faculty member’s innovative application of an existing technology to transform teaching and learning in their classroom.

“The ability to adapt and use new technology to enhance student learning is becoming increasingly important, especially recently,” said Rebecca Van de Vord, assistant vice president of AOI. “We are very happy to be able to recognize faculty who enthusiastically embrace and effectively utilize the innovative tech tools that are becoming even more impactful in these changing times.”

Schlosser is being awarded in recognition of his innovative use of multiple software tools to give students a platform to effectively complete environmental research activities and present their findings following the system-wide transition to distance learning in Spring 2020. He will receive $3000 in faculty development funds and a trophy in recognition of his achievement.

For his Natural Resource Ecology (SOE-300) course, Schlosser utilized Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus tools, as well as YouTube and Audacity, to facilitate student collaboration from a distance and create audiovisual presentations of their research related to carbon and nitrogen sequestration. SOE-300 students had collected tree-core samples during field trips to Kamiak Butte before Washington State’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order prompted all WSU courses to transition to distance learning in March 2020.

Schlosser also created tech tool training videos, promoted through the Blackboard Learn platform, to help students successfully use these tools to present their research findings as written reports and video productions.

“The most revealing impact of this tech tools endeavor has been seen through noticeable improvement in student writing capabilities” said Schlosser. “About 90% of the students in my class were able to complete their term reports and receive high marks, many exceeding the anticipated requirements of the writing process. This is teaching technology proof of concept, placed into the context of learner success.”

WSU faculty members can nominate themselves or their colleagues for the Oaks award. The winner of the award is selected by a committee of members from each WSU campus, the provost’s office, the faculty senate and AOI.

“I am honored to receive this recognition, especially in terms of the acknowledgment coming from fellow professional educators,” said Schlosser. “I want to recognize the people who have assisted me along this journey to deliver improved teaching technologies, starting with my wife, Birgit Schlosser, who is also an educator. From AOI, Jon Author, Jake Ellis, Christie Kittle, Mary Packer, and James Hoplin all assisted me in weaving technologies seamlessly into the learning experience to benefit my students.”

Oaks served as a pioneer and visionary for WSU from 1979 to 2010. Best known for her work in distance education, she saw the growing variety of learning technologies as an opportunity to support the land grant mission, increase access to WSU programs, and improve the quality of the student experience.  Under her leadership, WSU was one of the first universities in the country to deliver video‑based distance education courses. Committed to making quality education available globally, she also oversaw the transition to fully online program offerings, many of which are still delivered today.

“I strongly believe that teaching techniques should utilize the full arsenal of modern technology. I encourage all educators to consider the adoption of new teaching technologies and to view it as a journey, not a destination,” said Schlosser. “Students evolve in their modes of learning over time. Since the target learner audience is constantly transforming, so should our techniques change to best reach them and deliver an impactful and meaningful learning experience.”