Clayton State University Assistant Professor of Legal Studies/Paralegal Studies Sheryne Southard was recently selected as one of the 2011 fiscal year recipients of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ SOT (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) Award.
Southard is passionate about developing online courses that possess the same dynamic and engaging learning environment as traditional courses.
“It was a great honor to receive recognition from the Board of Regents for my work in this area,” Southard says. “An award of this magnitude is not often a single-handed achievement. The Clayton State Center for Instructional Development helped bring many of my ideas to fruition. Also, I have collaborated on research projects with Dr. Mara Mooney, Dr. Michael Tidwell, Dr. Christie Burton and Dr. Rodger Bates. Their contributions have been instrumental to this work.”
Southard’s approach to SOT provided evidence on how she "closed the loop" to demonstrate its impact on student learning.
“I view quality online instruction as a continual `work in progress,’” Southard says. “It evolves as new information surfaces, innovative strategies develop, and improved resources emerge. The unifying thread of my ongoing research is measures to create an online learning environment conducive to maximum student performance. Specifically, the research is targeted at web-based pedagogy to improve the virtual learning experience. The evidence provided on how I `close the loop’ to demonstrate its impact on student learning within my classroom and the larger educational community included a winning entry in a national teaching competition, an invited talk at the Board of Regents, academic conference presentations, peer-reviewed and trade publications, contributions to online educational repositories, faculty mentoring, and service on national and university distance education committees.”
Southard admits there were some challenges.
“The most challenging aspect of this research is the implementation phase of employing new instructional methods and processes,” she explains. “At times this process is not seamless, as the theoretical does not always translate into reality. To counter this, I strive to be proactive by trying to anticipate potential issues and maintaining an even stronger online presence during this phase.
“The most rewarding aspect of my work is feedback that students found the online learning environment engaging and interesting, or that they learned a great deal in the course.”
Southard has taught at Clayton State eight years, teaching Legal Issues for Administrators and Managers, Business Organizations, Computers and the Law, Legal Research and Writing, Contracts and Torts, Civil Litigation and Introduction to Law and Ethics. She earned her J.D. from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. In earning the SOT Award she had to submit a portfolio, which was then reviewed by a panel of faculty and administrators from across the University System.