Denise Comer Wins Innovative Teaching Award


For the past two years, Duke faculty have been recognized for their innovative
teaching practices through the annual Apereo Teaching and Learning Awards (ATLAS). Last year, Jennie De Gagne in the School of Nursing won an Honorable Mention for her innovative use of video and learning circles in her course
Nursing 582: Population Health in a Global Society, featured in a post by CIT last year.

This year, Denise Comer, Associate Professor of the Practice of Writing Studies and Director of First-Year Writing in the Thompson Writing Program, won the ATLAS Award for the design of her online course Composing the Internship Experience: Social Media and Digital Discourse (Writing 270).

Comer’s course design emphasizes student and instructor interactions, creating a more connected community of learners. The course is offered through Sakai and uses the Lessons tool to deliver weekly lessons. These lessons reveal activities in the Forums and Wiki tools designed to encourage student-to-student and instructor-to-student engagement, as well as guided reflections. The course integrates within Sakai links to many forms of media for course content, as well as a variety of other learning platforms such as WordPress, and Instagram. Google Hangouts are used for weekly real-time virtual writing workshops and student-instructor conferences.

The ATLAS award judges were particularly impressed with Comer’s thoughtful, interactive design. When asked about what made Comer’s design so innovative, Salwa Khan of Texas State University, who also teaches an online media course, said, “I like her use of multiple types of media and use of social media to unite a diverse group of students, who are at scattered locations, into a cohesive course experience.” Also recognized was the level of student engagement evident in the course.  Award judge Fawei Geng at the University of Oxford said, “It is evident that students are actively engaged in reflective and collaborative learning. The course is designed to enable student interaction and reflection through a number of carefully selected tools.”

Comer credits Lee Baker, Professor of Cultural Anthropology, African & African American Studies, and Sociology, for providing the idea and encouragement for creating the online course with this design.

Interested in learning more about the ATLAS Award? The application and rubric can be found here. Or, contact your CIT consultant for specific guidance and advice about the award or innovative teaching design.