VALDOSTA — Dr. Ransom Gladwin is the recipient of the Valdosta State University Presidential Excellence Award for Online Teaching.
The Presidential Excellence Award for Online Teaching recognizes a faculty member who demonstrates a strong commitment to quality online teaching and learning; employs innovative online teaching practices; and develops rapport with individual learners in and beyond the virtual classroom, university officials said in a statement.
Gladwin, a professor in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, joined the VSU faculty in 2006. He teaches undergraduate-level courses in Spanish as well as graduate-level courses in the English to speakers of other languages and foreign language education programs.
With two-thirds of his teaching load taught online, Gladwin strives every day to “create and maintain a dynamic community fostering student engagement and satisfaction,” university officials said.
“One of the innovative teaching practices my students use and appreciate are the dozens of personal videos I make for my courses,” he said. “I believe they bring a warmth and connection to my online courses, and I have taught workshops on how to produce them to enrich and personalize an online learning environment.
“They take a tremendous amount of time to make, and the videos must be continually re-shot because of new textbooks, new public policy and new video platforms. However, the time invested is worth it, and many students directly praise the videos in their student opinion of instruction evaluations.”
Gladwin’s student evaluations across all his online courses are consistently positive with students describing him as “helpful,” “encouraging” and “responsive.” He said he believes these attributes are what allow him to excel in an online teaching / learning environment.
Gladwin recently had an opportunity to travel to China where he was named an honorary professor of the Business College of Shanxi University. The purpose of his visit was to share his experiences as an online teaching expert.
“The lectures were packed and my sessions extended into questions and answers,” he said. “The interest in online instruction and how we teach languages online was phenomenal, and I truly believe … Shanxi University’s Language Department is one step closer to being able to offer their own online course, or at least a hybrid course.”
Before pursuing his doctorate and joining the world of higher education, Gladwin taught English in Ecuador with World Teach, a non-government organization dedicated to international development and education. Many of his students tell him they dream of living and teaching overseas, too.
“The information available to them is daunting and filled with dubious teaching schools and credentialing,” he said. “Despite these students living at a distance, I routinely meet with them through video conferencing and explain where is currently safest to teach, where one can make money and I recommend specific groups and schools. It brings me a great amount of satisfaction to hear back from these students as they are later teaching overseas, as the experience is often empowering and life changing.”
Gladwin said he enjoys mentoring his colleagues and providing online teaching tips to local teachers who are eager to advance their knowledge and skills. Many of these teachers, he shared, are motivated, like he is, by a sincere desire to help struggling migrant farmworkers and their families and other English learners in their schools.
“I am relentless in making my class practical and impactful for these teachers,” he said. “Their personal emails and student opinion of instruction comments tell me they are making a difference in the real world with the information and skills learned from my class.”
The Presidential Excellence Award for faculty is an annual tradition at VSU, one that recognizes the diverse talents and contributions of the university’s innovative and active faculty. Dr. Richard A. Carvajal, president of VSU, presents the highly coveted awards in five categories — teaching, research, service, online teaching, and scholarship of teaching and learning.