Columbia Southern University Recognized For Exemplary Course Design

ORANGE BEACH, ALA. – On Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, Blackboard, Inc., a leader in virtual learning environments and course management systems, presented Columbia Southern University instructional designers Jackie Pica and Cheryl Kula and faculty members/course writers John Willey, Ph.D., and Freda Braddock, Ed.D., each with a Blackboard Exemplary Course Program Award.


Pica, who received her first Blackboard Catalyst Award in 2017 for Negotiation/Conflict Resolution, was awarded along with Willey for instructional design excellence in Fundamentals of Speech Communication. Kula and Braddock were awarded for instructional design excellence in Learning Strategies for Success.

“Dr. Willey and I were able to bounce ideas off one another and really provide students with content that we knew would grab their attention and make them want to take this course,” said Pica, who credited Willey with the idea for the course.

As for her consecutive success with designing courses, she said that a secret to creating a great course is making sure to provide engagement and interactivity so that “students feel that they are part of the learning community instead of just individuals.”

The team of Kula and Braddock also worked to involve students in their course and watched them experience it.

“The best part was not only was I able to create this course with Cheryl, but I was able to teach it,” said Braddock, adding that students have shown they are learning how to deal with life and school. “It’s accomplishing what we wanted because if home life, work life and all those other elements are not in alignment, then it’s going to be harder for them to be successful in school.”

This is CSU’s third consecutive year to receive Blackboard Catalyst Awards and the fourth award from Blackboard. Winning back-to-back is rare as is winning more than one award in the same year. Blackboard account executive Carey Smouse noted that only about 25 courses are recognized as exemplary each year.

“This a significant achievement. When people talk about course quality, the Exemplary Award is one of the top that are recognized nationally and this shows that CSU is generating quality content for students,” said Smouse.

The Blackboard Catalyst Awards recognize faculty and course designers from schools, colleges and universities around the world who develop exciting and innovative courses that represent the very best in technology and learning. The Exemplary Course Program category honors courses demonstrating excellence in four areas: assessment, course design, interaction and collaboration, and learner support. Previous award-winners from CSU include Megan Bunnell and Julia Hart, Ph.D., for Liberal Arts Math and Christine Whitaker, Ed.D., for Negotiation/Conflict Resolution.

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