June 22, 2024
Two women pose with an award certificate
Melinda Stanley, right, receives her award from IU President Pamela Whitten.

KOKOMO, Ind. — Melinda Stanley knows the impact of online higher education.

“Because of online classes, I was able to finish my doctorate,” she said. “I know the value they brought to me. I’m very thankful for them, and I take them very seriously.”

Stanley, Indiana University Kokomo senior lecturer in healthcare management, recently earned accolades for her work teaching online classes, as she was granted the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Technology. She received the honor at the annual Celebration of Teaching and Service dinner in Bloomington.

“It’s energized me,” she said. “It feels good that all my hard work as been recognized. It makes me want to do more. I’m proud of it.”

Scott Jones, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, congratulated Stanley on the recognition.

“Melinda Stanley exemplifies IU Kokomo’s commitment to breaking new ground in teaching and learning,” he said. “Her innovative use of technology has provided students with a transformative educational experience.”

Stanley teaches in the public administration and health management program of the School of Business, offering in-person, hybrid, and online classes. In the dossier supporting her nomination for the award, she focused on her growth and evolution as an online teacher.

She noted that when she first started teaching as an adjunct faculty member in 2014, two student evaluations said she was disorganized. She took that feedback to heart.

“Since then, organization has been one of the things I have strived to achieve,” she said. “Students want to know what to expect. I build modules that outline what we will do, and for this test we’re going to do this and this. Now I get comments that this is the best organized class they’ve ever taken. Goal achieved.”

Preparing an online class gives her an outlet for creativity, Stanley added.

“I feel like it’s nice to sit down with a computer and start hashing things out, to build the experience ahead of time,” she said. “It’s like I’m writing a book.”

She also builds on her own experience as an online student in creating content for her own classes. She has earned bachelor’s degrees in microbiology and history and had plans to earn a degree in patent law, but life got in the way. After taking time off to adopt her daughter, Stanley returned to work, and earned a Master of Public Management from IU Kokomo – but then felt stuck. Other faculty members encouraged her to start her Ph.D. in an online program.

Her goal is to learn and implement new technology, to keep content fresh.

For example, this summer she’s teaching a class in non-profit management. Rather than having students write a paper, she’s building a fillable PDF that mimics the process of forming a non-profit through the IRS.

In a spring semester class about the legal aspects of healthcare delivery, students could use an AI program to try a current court case in front of an AI judge, taking on roles as prosecutor, defendant, or witnesses. She added that a few students asked if they could do an alternate assignment and interview doctors about the cases.

“Had I not pushed them through taking this across an artificial platform, I don’t think they would have been as eager to do that,” she said.

Stanley said she’s received encouragement and inspiration from several IU Kokomo colleagues, including Chittibabu Govindarajalu, dean of the School of Business; Julie Saam, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs; Tara Kingsley, professor of education, and Chérie Dodd, instructional strategies specialist.

She hopes her award will inspire other faculty members to innovate and seek out opportunities for recognition.

“I like the idea of mentoring and encouraging my peers and colleagues,” she said. “We do a lot of important work at IU Kokomo, and it should be recognized.”

The President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Technology was created to recognize faculty who have made significant contributions to enhancing the classroom experience with new technologies.

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