Celebrating Faculty Choice Award Winners 2022

Red Curtain on a Stage

The Faculty Choice Awards have been given out at every FIU Online Conference since 2014. These awards honor faculty who advance quality design and enhance the student online experience. Faculty self-nominate a fully-online course to be reviewed by a panel of their peers. The committee of faculty judges evaluate each nomination by using the award selection rubrics and a winner is determined.  

After a two year hiatus, awards were introduced again in 2022 for three categories.

  • Best Use of Technology
  • Excellence in Learner Engagement
  • Online Course of the Year

FIU Insider reached out to this year’s faculty winners to learn more about them, their thoughts on course design, and what they are looking forward to. We hope these brief interviews will inspire instructors in their course design and to submit their own exemplary courses for the next Faculty Choice Awards. 


Best Use of Technology: Rodolfo Rego

The category of Best Use of Technology recognizes an instructor whose creative and effective use of an educational technology tool enhances the learning environment for students in the course. This year’s award went to Rodolfo Rego and his instructional designer, Aisha Hamid.

Prof. Rego is an associate teaching professor in the Department of Earth and Environment with an emphasis on STEM online course development and teaching. He is a geologist and an environmental scientist who specializes in the geology of South Florida and groundwater issues associated with petroleum contamination.

What does winning the award mean to you?

This award is a true team effort. That is why this award has special meaning. Working with IDs on this course was an awesome experience! I would like to mention Maikel Alendy and Aisha Hamid specifically. Their hard work and dedication to online learning made this award possible.  

What are your favorite course features?

Instant feedback on problem sets is a popular feature amongst students. I really enjoy working with the discussions since they are based on “real world” experiences.  

This award is a true team effort. Working with IDs on this course was an awesome experience!

– Rodolfo Rego

How has educational technology made your course better?

The H5P tool has made preparing for assessments much more engaging. Students can control how many times they want to review material and learn at their own pace. I would highly recommend H5P for any course. It has so many features and tools to engage students in all different modalities.

What do you want to develop next in an online course?

Next step is to develop an activity based on 360 videos. Almost there; stay tuned!


Excellence in Learner Engagement: Melody Whiddon-Willoughby

The category of Excellence in Learner Engagement recognizes an instructor’s extraordinary commitment, initiative, and dedication in designing and facilitating engagement in their online course. This year’s award went to Dr. Melody Whiddon-Willoughby and her instructional designers, Kieron Williams and Cinthya Rojas. Dr. Whiddon-Willoughby is a professor in the Department of Leadership & Professional Studies. She has won five Faculty Choice Awards since 2017, including Online Course of the Year in 2019.

Lia Prevolis, Dr. Melody Whiddon, Instructional Design Supervisor Cinthya Rojas, Instructional Design Specialist Kieron Williams

What does winning the award mean to you?

Winning this award provides useful data from other highly-skilled professors about the effectiveness of my online course, as it benefits my students. My focus in teaching is always to create a high-quality course to meet the learning needs of my students and learner engagement is a critical component.

Receiving this award equates to receiving feedback that I am effectively engaging students, and provides motivation to continue my efforts to look for new strategies, techniques, tools and resources to further promote engagement. 

What was working with your ID/ID Team like?

Working with my instructional designer, Cinthya, has been a positive experience. She is always quick to answer questions and be a sounding board for my ideas or concerns. She helps translate my ideas into something applicable in the online environment.

What are your favorite course features?

My main focus is on the incorporation of various forms of engagement; student-to-instructor, student-to-content, and student-to-student. In this course, I actively engage with my students. They are presented with a structured course organization that enables them to focus on the course material as opposed to figuring out how and where to access material.

The course includes various types to meet the diverse learning styles. Students participate in a collaborative group wiki assignment, which requires them to apply what they have learned in the class to develop teaching activities, which they act out.

My focus in teaching is always to create a high-quality course to meet the learning needs of my students and learner engagement is a critical component.

– Dr. Whiddon-Willoughby

What are the biggest challenges in engaging learners online?

One of the challenges in engaging learners online is building rapport with students, so they will feel comfortable coming to me with questions or concerns. From the start of the course, I try to present myself as available & “ask-able” and check in often.

Another issue is helping students understand the importance of course work to their learning, so they will feel motivated and invested in completing it. To facilitate this, I explain the point of each assignment, and link it to specific measurable learning objectives.

What are your favorite tools and techniques for engaging online learners?

I utilize email, audio messages, course announcements, and discussion participation to engage with my students directly. To promote student-to-student engagement, I use small group discussions and require students to reply to peers.

Also, I have the group wiki assignment, where students collaborate to create and role play teaching activities using learning theories presented in the course. I strive to maintain a consistent, easy-to-navigate structure and tools that engage students, including H5P, which provides a low-stakes opportunity for students to engage with the content.

Any advice for submitters to the Faculty Choice Awards?

First and foremost, I would advise you to print out the Faculty Choice Awards rubrics and use them as you design or re-design your courses. They will help enhance the quality of your courses, to the benefit of students (which is the ultimate goal).

What do you want to develop next in an online course?

Next, I want to work towards developing Open Educational Resource Courses, so all students have an equitable chance of accessing course material. Also, I want to find ways to further enhance my courses discussions through the use of some of the new Canvas integrations.


Online Course of the Year: Anjana Mishra

The Online Course of the Year recognizes an instructor whose Quality Matters certified course promotes excellent pedagogical design and innovation in online teaching and learning. This year’s award went to Dr. Anjana Mishra and her instructional designer, Randall Beaver. Dr. Mishra teaches in the Department of Politics & International Relations. In 2017, she won the Faculty Choice Award for Innovative Use of Open Content with INR3081, Contemporary International Problems.

Instructional Design Specialist Ena Urbina, Instructional Design Supervisor Randall Beaver, Dr. Anjana Mishra, Lia Prevolis

What does winning the award mean to you?

This award is an acknowledgement of the effort that goes into creating unique and engaging experiences for our online students. It is a collaboration between the instructor, the instructional design team and the Quality Matters team.

Also, this award is a recognition of the fact that the pandemic is behind us, and FIU Online Con is back. I have missed the conference these past two years. I remember attending my first FIU Online conference in 2007. A speaker introduced us to this new device, which was a phone and iPod in one, a smartphone called iPhone.

What was working with your ID/ID Team like?

During emergency remote learning in 2020, I took all the Canvas training workshops that were offered. I have tried to be as self-reliant as possible and only reach out to the instructional designer teams when I cannot figure something out on my own.

This semester I worked with two Instructional Design (ID) teams. For course I’ve been teaching online for sometime, I worked with the team of Randall Beaver, Ena Urbina and Naomi Lopez. Also, for my Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) course I worked with the ID team of Maikel Alendy, Jenille Lopez, and Brian Chico. Together we created a unique course, where our students could communicate, interact, and collaborate with students from a university in India.

What is the value in quality pedagogical design in an online course?

Online education has grown rapidly in the past decade and its importance was reinforced during the pandemic. Quality pedagogical design helps establish consistency across courses. Students receive an equitable experience as they move from course to course, across programs.

I had a student who took all six courses I teach. The reason she gave was that all courses were clearly laid out, had similar design elements, which made it easy for her to navigate.

The effort that goes into creating unique and engaging experiences for our online students is a collaboration between the instructor, the instructional design team, and the Quality Matters team. Together we created a unique course!

-Dr. Mishra

What tips would you offer other faculty in designing their online course?

I would recommend that everyone should try to include a variety of assessments and assignments. Students learn in different ways, so giving them a variety makes the course engaging and fosters learning. Also, I enjoyed using Cidi Labs to create engaging module pages.

What do you want to develop next in an online course?

I will be teaching another COIL course in Fall 2022. So, I want to explore new tools which will make the experience engaging and fun for all students, from FIU and foreign universities.


Congratulations to all of this year’s Faculty Choice Winners. Thank you for sharing your insights on course design and why it matters. Read more about the FIU Online Con 2022.

Charles Roig is an instructional designer with the Learning Design team at FIU Online. His work includes researching new tools and collaborating with faculty to foster engagement in online learning.

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