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K-State Today

April 19, 2012

A better way: Professor earns fellowship award from distance education alliance for excellence in teaching online gerontology courses

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Kansas State University's Gayle Doll took a fresh approach to teaching gerontology online, and her peers rewarded her with a Faculty Fellowship Award from the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance.

Doll received the honor, which comes with a monetary award, at the annual meeting of the alliance April 3 in Kansas City, Mo. The alliance's board of directors chose Doll as the sole recipient this year.

An assistant professor in the College of Human Ecology and director of the college's Center on Aging, Doll began teaching in the Great Plains Interactive Distance Alliance's gerontology program seven years ago.

Colleagues cited Doll's achievements in gaining greater visibility for the field of gerontology as a career choice and bringing networking with professionals to online course delivery. They said she improved course assessment, listened to students and revised a course message board to be more effective.

"Gayle's teaching evaluations are consistently high. Students in her courses find great benefit in her instruction," said Virginia Moxley, dean of the university's College of Human Ecology. Moxley nominated Doll for the award.

Kansas State University participates in the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance, also known as the Great Plains IDEA, to offer master's degrees and certificates in seven human sciences programs and to offer graduate certificates, course shares and degrees for students in several agriculture areas.

The alliance has 20 member institutions and two affiliate institutions. Students enroll in one alliance university as a home institution, but then can take online courses from any of the universities in the alliance that offer courses in their program of study.

Laci Cornelison, master's student in gerontology at Kansas State University, said Doll made the university's online gerontology students into kindred K-Staters even though they were scattered across the country.

"Gayle heard feedback from GP-IDEA students that they felt disconnected to the campus and their peers," Cornelison said. "In response, she started a gerontology graduate GP-IDEA newsletter and an online meeting space for students. Following the first newsletter, students' praise of the initiative poured in."

Maurice MacDonald, director of the university's School of Family Studies and Human Services, which is the home of the gerontology program, credits Doll with increasing visibility for gerontology by initiating a name change for the program through the Kansas Board of Regents. What started as the master of science in family studies and human services that offered specialization in gerontology is now the master of science in gerontology.

Doll has a doctorate in life span human development from Kansas State University. Her areas of specialization are culture change in nursing homes, physical functioning in older adults and sexuality in nursing homes. She is principal investigator for the PEAK -- Promoting Excellent Alternatives in Kansas -- Nursing Homes Initiative to coordinate research efforts in Kansas for a nursing home culture change.