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Justin Wartella

Sport Management Faculty Member Honored For Excellence in Student Learning

August 5, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst for advancements in digital learning. Over the last two years, West Virginia University faculty have developed new and innovative practices to improve the digital learning experience for their students. Justin Wartella, teaching assistant professor, is one of four WVU faculty selected for the 2022 Digital Learning Award.

Justin Wartella, Sport Management faculty member.

To celebrate excellence and innovation in digital learning across the University, the Office of the Provost and West Virginia Public Education Collaborative announced the fourth annual faculty Digital Learning Awards. Recipients will receive a professional development honorarium of $500.

“I am fortunate to earn this award, which to me is not an individual recognition, but one that I received due to the collaborative/team effort,” Wartella said. “I extend my sincere appreciation to Beth Bailey and every member of her instructional design team along with Dr. Sean Bulger for the support they have provided since the first day I became a member of CPASS.”

Wartella adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by making use of Flipgrid, Adobe Spark, Zoom and other digital learning tools to create real-world experiences for his students. He also consciously made use of discussion boards during his online and hybrid classes to encourage interaction and a sense of community in the “classroom” and to learn more about his students.

“Dr. Wartella is extremely deserving of this recognition. He remains focused on using digital technology in his teaching to facilitate higher levels of engagement through increased student-to-instructor, student-to-student and student-to-content interaction,” Sean Bulger, professor and associate dean for graduate and online education, said. “Dr. Wartella is a valuable resource for other instructors in the program in that he is always willing to set time aside to share ideas, answer questions and provide peer feedback.”

The additional recipients include:

Erin Brock Carlson, assistant professor in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences: In addition to helping plan the “Amplifying Appalachia” Wikipedia Edit-a-thon in Spring 2021, which improved the online encyclopedia by heightening the visibility of often overlooked stories, people and events in the region. Carlson integrated the edit-a-thon into her English 303 class to develop students’ editing and writing skills. As a result, students improved the quality of numerous Wikipedia articles and helped diversify its editorship. During the Spring 2022 semester, Carlson incorporated this year's edit-a-thon into both her undergraduate- and graduate-level courses.

Jennifer Murray, extension specialist with WVU Extension: Through a variety of digital platforms, Murray organized efforts among her colleagues to create 46 virtual and hybrid workshops for West Virginia youth throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 800 people in attendance statewide. These programs worked to develop life skills, increase knowledge and improve workforce readiness through 4-H learning experiences.

Thomas Zeni, Ph.D. teaching associate professor in the John Chambers College of Business and Economic: Zeni’s International Labor Relations 522 class usually culminates with a trip abroad to various European countries. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he instead worked with Continuing Education Programs Abroad to build a “virtual travel” experience into the course. The course now includes live synchronous and asynchronous presentations from international collaborators, as well as cultural immersion workshops with speakers from China, Germany, France and others to provide students with international perspectives. Upon completion, students are better prepared to begin their careers as Human Resources professionals.

WVU’s faculty Digital Learning Awards are inspired by national Digital Learning Day, which was established in 2012 by the Alliance for Excellent Education and inspired by a digital learning challenge day at Mountainview Elementary School in Morgantown, WV. Digital Learning Day celebrates instructional practices that effectively use technology to strengthen a student’s learning experience, emphasizing high-quality instruction and access to challenging content to ensure all students reach their full potential to succeed in college and a career.

WVU is the earliest official higher education supporter of Digital Learning Day, an event championed by the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative, which is committed to advancing public schools from early childhood through higher education.

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