Two MAET courses named best at MSU

July 6, 2021

Two courses in the Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) program received top honors at the annual AT&T Faculty and Staff Award Competition in Instructional Technology. The courses—which made notable shifts due to the COVID-19 pandemic—were named the Best Enhanced and Best Fully Online course at Michigan State University.

Award is shown in forefront of Spartan Stadium.

CEP 815: Technology and Leadership – Best Enhanced Course

One simple change made a big difference for learners in CEP 815: Technology and Leadership. Most who enroll in the course are educators or leaders in K-12 schools, so when COVID-19 regulations necessitated a shift to fully remote teaching and learning, MSU instructors kept hearing from students that they were overwhelmed with work and struggling with the sudden lack of in-person connection.

“We wanted to connect better, but not overwhelm our students because they were already busy. We thought: ‘We want our students to work on their voices as leaders, what if we shared our voices as educational technology leaders?'”

Candace Robertson, assistant director of MAET, along with MAET instructor Kyle Shack, recorded narrations of the course content, much like a podcast, and offered those, along with traditional text and multimedia, for students.

The feedback from summer 2020 participants was overwhelmingly positive.

“We heard from students: ‘I love listening to this!’ ‘I love the flexibility,'” Robertson explained. During final course evaluations, some even indicated it was their favorite course at MSU. “The only thing we changed was recording our audio. That presence, the care of listening to what our students needed and doing something about it had a profound impact.”

Candace Robertson headshot
Candace Robertson

Today, as K-12 schools transition to post-COVID-19 realities, technology may be utilized in new and diverse ways. This course examines how to lead learning communities in meaningful and effective technology integration.

Moving forward, CEP 815 will continue to utilize the voice recordings. Robertson and other MAET leaders, including Liz Owens Boltz and Brittany Dillman, will do a portion of the readings to better familiarize students with them. The instructor for that section, including some of those who are listed with Robertson and Shack among the Best Enhanced honorees, will perform the remainder of the recordings.

“This wasn’t a large time or cost investment on MSU’s part, and it further improved the content’s accessibility,” Robertson said. “Kyle [Shack] and I listened to what students needed, and it made our course better than ever.”

Related: Robertson and other MAET leaders created a free program for educators to navigate remote teaching and learning (2020)

CEP 817: Learning Technology by Design – Best Fully Online

“Educators are so often pulled in many directions; it can be hard to pause, step back and think about what they’re doing as an act of design,” said Liz Owens Boltz, co-director of MAET. She is amongst a group of current and former instructors being recognized with the Best Fully Online honor through the AT&T Awards. “Thinking about the work we do as an ‘act of design’ is interesting … it can feel so amorphous. But there is a process. There is an internal spark, a method and an approach.”

Liz Owens Boltz

The course is built around “design thinking,” a creative approach to problem solving developed by the Stanford Design School. Throughout the semester, students, often K-12 educators or leaders, identify one problem they’d like to solve. Previous problems “solved” in the course include how to develop and adjust computer science curriculum for learners in various ages or how to better design (and maintain student accountability in) a fully online, flexible course for high schoolers.

CEP 817 is 100% accessible, according to Spartan Ally.

The course was fully online pre-COVID-19, so the structure of the course didn’t change in a major way, but accessibility was more in focus throughout. For educators and educational leaders perhaps looking at a re-envisioned classroom—newly online, hybrid or using more and different technology than before—the course can be a helpful reset for educators, Owens Boltz said.

“During COVID-19, so many educators were forced to pivot on a dime. They were not only going through a pandemic, but they were trying to take care of their own students in a way they might not have been prepared for,” she explained. “In the spring (2021), many of the learners in 817 took this as an opportunity to reflect on that experience and design solutions to the challenges they faced. We encouraged them to revisit their practices and take them beyond an emergency response level to something more thoughtful and intentional.”

In addition to an elective for the MAET program, CEP 817: Learning Technology by Design is part of the Online Teaching and Learning Graduate Certificate.