University News

SUU Professor Honored for Innovative Use of Technology

Published: May 29, 2008 | Category: Academics

Southern Utah University Economics and Finance Professor Joe Baker received the Utah System of Higher Education’s Exemplary Use of Technology Award at its fifth annual awards ceremony on Friday, May 23.

Baker was one of just 18 educators statewide to receive such recognition this year, and is being recognized for his innovative use of new technologies to improve distance education.

According to a press release from the USHE, “Joe Baker provides the best learning experience available to SUU’s distance education students. He elevates the quality of online content by seeking and implementing materials and learning tools that will contribute to student success.”

At the suggestion of Carl Templin, dean of SUU’s School of Business, Baker has been working with SUU graduate Garrett Gunderson to develop a collaborative partnership with Gunderson’s company Freedom Fast Track, an organization that designs learning modules and tools for financial planning. Baker and Freedom Fast Track are working to create an online class in personal financial planning that takes learning beyond the basic reading and testing by engaging students in discussions and seminars through the use of live feeds and video.

Beyond its technology, this class will also be unique in its much more general approach to financial planning that involves individual life assessments beyond the rights and wrongs of financial strategy.

According to Baker, this new online course, which will hopefully be offered through SUU as early as this fall, forces students to think beyond their immediate objectives. States Baker, “by focusing on a student’s long-term goals rather than just on the standard practices within financial strategy, I can then work backwards with each student to look at how such objectives can be met.” Baker is confident the inline tools he’s developed with Freedom Fast Track will be beneficial in personalizing such a learning environment for each student.

Baker’s use of technology is not just limited to online instruction, either. In his on-campus classes, Professor Baker uses a wireless survey system that allows every student in the class to answer every discussion question at once.

According to Baker, “in most large classes, somewhere between five and ten students are called on to answer a question, and over the course of a semester, probably just 25 percent of the class is forced to actively participate in a class discussion. With this survey technology, I am able to engage each student, to hold each student accountable for his or her education, and most importantly, to better gauge the progression of each class and ensure I’m neither moving too fast or too slow for my students’ success.”

Since implementing this technology three years ago, Baker’s students have consistently praised the system and Professor Baker’s ability to make learning fun. In the classroom, Joe’s students know him to be genuinely interested in them as individuals.

Baker is also an advocate among his peers for using technology to extend the institution’s resources to students wherever they may be.

According to USHE Interim Commissioner David L. Buhler, “Today’s students are coming to expect to use the same social media tools for education as they already do for entertainment.” Professor Baker’s efforts prove such tools can do more than merely satisfy an expectation, however, as Baker’s integration of social technology promises to continue to improve the classroom environment and every student’s success.

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