By Jeff Willadsen, WSU Academic Outreach and Innovation
Aaron Whelchel, associate professor of history, is the winner of the 2020-21 Excellence in Online Teaching Award. The student-nominated annual award is sponsored by Academic Outreach & Innovation.
The award, now in its fifth year, seeks to acknowledge and reward WSU faculty members teaching Global Campus courses who employ best practices to engage, inspire, support, and show care for students in an online environment. He will receive $3,000 in faculty development funds and a trophy in recognition of his win.
“Dr. Whelchel has an obvious enthusiasm for the material he presents,” said Robert Fisher, one of the students who nominated Whelchel, in his nomination form. “He gathered wonderfully thought-provoking content, often primary sources, that encouraged me to challenge what I thought I knew about the world.”
Whelchel earned his Ph.D. in World History from WSU in 2011 and taught his first Global Campus course the same year. He has been working at WSU’s Vancouver Campus since 2012.
“His approach to distance learning and group work is the most effective I’ve encountered thus far,” said David Bowman, another student who nominated Whelchel.“ He was also very enthusiastic… he made me feel like he was genuinely excited to read our papers, and not merely fulfilling his duties as an instructor.”
Whelchel was one of 43 online instructors nominated for the award. AOI received a total of 86 nominations from students.
“I was very surprised and honored by receiving this award,” said Whelchel. “It is very gratifying to know that students found the course valuable, engaging, and fun.”
According to Whelchel, his passion for teaching history was ignited by history professors he had as a student, and their example influenced his current teaching philosophy.
“My goal as a teacher is to help students develop the skills that are critical not only for academic success but also for understanding the context of the world we live in today,” he said. “I value connections and interactions and work to incorporate these aspects into online learning as much as possible.”
Christie Kittle, lead instructional designer at AOI, led the committee that reviewed nominations and selected a winner.
“In reviewing the nominations, it was very clear that the nominated instructors have all made a positive impact on the lives of their students,” she said. “That kind of passion and enthusiasm for higher education makes a real difference in our world and is something worth recognizing and celebrating.”