School of Information Faculty Members Win National Award for Online Teaching Excellence


Three distinguished faculty members at the San José State University (SJSU) School of Information have been honored with awards from the Web-based Information Science Education (WISE) consortium for outstanding teaching. Leigh Gleason, Nancy MacKay, and Gawain Weaver were named among the 2014 honorees for the national teaching award that recognizes the effort and effectiveness of exceptional online instructors.

WISE presents students at member schools with the opportunity to take online courses from other ALA-accredited schools, which allows students greater access to specialized courses. Debbie Faires, director of online learning at the SJSU School of Information, stated, “Each semester we have four to six iSchool classes that have one or two WISE students enrolled.” SJSU students pursuing a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree take advantage of courses offered by other WISE-consortium schools as well. “We have had between one and five of our students enrolled in WISE classes at other universities each semester in the past two years,” said Faires.

Gleason herself benefited from the WISE opportunity when she was a student at the iSchool. “I did my MLIS at SJSU, and was fortunate to take a University of Pittsburgh course through WISE when I was a student,” said Gleason. “The course was museum archives, which relates directly to my job.  Having benefitted from WISE myself, I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to give back to WISE and SJSU with my own course.”

Gleason is curator of collections at the UCR/California Museum of Photography, and has been teaching Managing Photographic Collections at the SJSU School of Information since spring 2013. The course was offered to WISE students from other schools for the first time last year. “My students were from the Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Illinois,” said Gleason. “It was a great experience having them in the class. Both brought great perspective and insight, and did excellent work alongside their SJSU classmates.”

Last year, MacKay taught WISE students in her course, Oral History, and also appreciated the different perspectives the students brought to the classroom. “The online model (and by extension, the WISE model) is particularly successful because it allows for a geographically diverse classroom,” explained MacKay. “Students from around the world, from rural areas to large cities, from universities to Tribal Nations come together to consider oral history methodology from their unique perspectives, enriching the discussion for us all.”

Weaver teaches Photographic Preservation at the SJSU School of Information, and also received a 2012 Excellence in Online Teaching Award from WISE. In regards to online teaching best practices, he points to using a variety of technological tools. “I utilize video, audio, and lecture slides to their fullest.” Weaver also believes “a variety of exercises in addition to standard reading and writing assignments helps to keep the class more varied and interesting.”

Every semester new WISE courses are offered to iSchool students. “The WISE program offers great opportunities for students to take classes in specific areas,” said Faires. “Students should be sure to check the list of WISE classes each semester when they see the announcement just in case one of the classes is just the right match for their interests.”

WISE announced the 2014 award winners on January 27, 2015, at the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) conference in Chicago.

Related Content: