Ruth V. Small, Laura J. & L. Douglas Meredith Professor at the School of Information Studies (iSchool) has been recognized by the Web-based Information Science Education (WISE) Consortium for her excellence in online education. 

Small was nominated for a WISE 2015 Instructor of the Year Award for her course Motivational Aspects of Information Use.

One of the nomination statements provided in support of Small’s instruction reads, “Dr. Small provided a well organized, highly engaging online class. Her assignments were relevant, challenging, and insightful. This was one of the most enjoyable classes I took during my master’s program.”

Small’s course considers the human side of the information field and addresses the question, ‘why do people do what they do?’

“My students come from a variety of graduate programs, from within the Syracuse iSchool, across the campus, from colleges across the country, and beyond,” said Small. “In fact, one year I had a student in the military who was deployed in Afghanistan and used to communicate with us from inside of a tank. It is this mix of students and the respect that they show for each other’s ideas, opinions and perspectives that, I believe, makes this course so exciting.”

As a passionate advocate of the theories that she teaches, Small strives to incorporate them into every part of her courses.

“I provide my students with opportunities to lead their own learning, assignments and discussions that are personally and professionally relevant, and offer timely feedback on their work with a variety of choices that allow them to work independently or in groups and to determine how they want to focus their learning efforts,” Small explained. “Also, throughout the course I convey my appreciation of their creativity and innovation which allows them to take risks in the way they approach learning.”

Small is no stranger to teaching courses online, and has been doing so at Syracuse since the iSchool launched its first distance learning program over 20 years ago.

“While technology has changed tremendously since I first started teaching online, human beings have not,” noted Small. “They still have the same range of learning needs, abilities, preferences, and attitudes as they have always had but the technology is improving in ways that allow me to better address those needs, abilities, preferences and attitudes.”

Small believes that her expertise in the area of motivation has provided her with a solid theoretical basis to the decisions she make as an instructor, both on-line and in person.

“I am grateful for all of the recognition I have received over the years for my teaching but, when that recognition comes from my students, it is that much more of an honor,” Small said regarding her WISE nomination. “Teaching and learning online is challenging for everyone, so when students take the time to write and acknowledge what a special learning experience they have had with me, I am truly humbled.”

All students who enroll in a course through WISE within a given calendar year are invited to submit nominations for the award. Students provide a statement on the best aspects of the instructor’s teaching style, what they enjoyed most about the course and their interactions with the instructor, along with any other information they wish to share.

The WISE Consortium uses advanced technology as a means to enrich library science education and foster relationships among students, faculty and universities through course sharing and cooperative pedagogical training. The initiative provides a collaborative distance education model that increases quality, access and diversity of online education opportunities in the library and information science discipline.