McDowell honored for online teaching

Kate McDowell
Kate McDowell, Associate Professor

Associate Professor Kate McDowell is the 2018 recipient of the Excellence in Online & Distance Teaching Award, given annually by the University of Illinois. The award recognizes faculty members and instructors who have demonstrated sustained excellence and innovation in online and/or distance teaching and contributions to student learning through innovative uses of technology. She will receive the award at the University’s Celebration of Teaching Excellence on April 12.

McDowell's online courses at the iSchool include Literature and Resources for Children (IS 303/403); Literature and Resources for Young Adults (IS 304/404); Youth Services Librarianship (IS 406/506); Storytelling (IS 409); Fantasy Literature and Media for Youth (IS 590VV/446); Youth Services Community Engagement (IS 490YS); and Libraries, Information, and Society (IS 502).

According to nominator Linda C. Smith, professor and executive associate dean, McDowell "is unique among our faculty in teaching such a range of courses online, ensuring in particular that our online students interested in youth services have a rich array of high-quality courses from which to choose. She has continually adapted her online instruction, given changes in the technology available."

McDowell has taught online since 1999 as a teaching assistant, adjunct faculty, and tenure-track faculty member. She was one of the first faculty members in the School to pilot a hybrid/dual-mode for a course—Youth Services Community Engagement—with a virtual classroom where online students participate via Blackboard Collaborate and on-campus students participate from a campus classroom.

To encourage interaction between on-campus and online students in her Storytelling course, she created rehearsal groups that meet in online chat rooms outside of the class period. Master’s student Elisabeth Isbell, who took McDowell’s Storytelling class online, called it the best course she has taken so far. She especially appreciated having a rehearsal group to practice public speaking and the opportunity to practice using her microphone and video feed before storytelling in class.

"Professor McDowell's use of breakout rooms helped me engage with and get to know other students, which is not always easy in an online format," explained Isbell. "While it was difficult at first to tell a story to an invisible and silent audience, I always received incredibly useful feedback from Professor McDowell and my fellow classmates that helped me improve my storytelling through the duration of the class."

"Interaction is my pathway to impactful online pedagogy. My goal has always been to teach students online with the same depth of content and quality of interaction as students in a graduate seminar," McDowell said.

McDowell received her master's and doctoral degrees from the iSchool at Illinois and her BA in general studies from New College in Sarasota, Florida. She regularly appears on the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent issued by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus each semester.

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