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Courses of Distinction

DATE: Thursday, July 7, 2022

Three HCC faculty members recognized for innovative teaching

Sage Franetovich, Geoffrey Cunningham, Lisa Mahon

Three members of the Holyoke Community College faculty were recently recognized with 2022 Courses of Distinction awards from Massachusetts Colleges Online: Geoffrey Cunningham (music), Sage Franetovich (biology), and Lisa Mahon (English).

MCO is a collaborative of public state higher education institutions involved in the design, delivery, management, and assessment of online, blended, and other technology-mediated learning formats. The Courses of Distinction Awards recognize faculty whose course designs and practices best exemplify online education's potential to enhance teaching and learning.

Franetovich and Mahon received awards in the "online asynchronous" category, Franetovich for General Biology I and Mahon for English Composition II.

"The pandemic pushed me to learn new ways to engage with my students," said Franetovich, who lives in Ashfield. "I used virtual labs and a lab kit that includes a microscope so students could interact with biology in multiple ways. With the funding from the CARES Act, the microscope kits were free for students and they could keep them. This put over 650 microscopes into the hands of our students."

"I had never taught online until the pandemic forced me to," said Mahon, a resident of Easthampton and coordinator of HCC's Service Learning Program. "I discovered that Kaltura videos, especially video quizzes, could allow to me to deliver course material in an engaging way on par with my face-to-face classes.  I also discovered that Google docs could both offer students a way to collaborate in their writing and also – with Google slides – students could create a repository of shared resources to draw from for their essays. " 

Cunningham, of Pittsfield, earned his award in the category of "open education" (incorporating free online textbooks and other material) into his Music Theory I class.

"Like many, for me the pandemic brought a lot of new challenges to my work as a teacher," said Cunningham. "One of the bright sides of it all has been the additional training and experience with technology and distance-learning strategies, as well as the overall intention and effort to expand accessibility wherever and whenever possible. In researching the ever-evolving OER resources, we discovered a music theory textbook that we adopted and integrated into our courses. This results in a zero-materials cost for the four-semester sequence of classes. It means big savings in the end for our music students."

PHOTOS: Sage Franetovich, Geoffrey Cunningham, Lisa Mahon