A Utah State University faculty member’s unique project and student engagement has been recognized as one of six national award recipients.
USU Technical Communication and Rhetoric Associate Professor Jared Colton was nominated for the Instructure Educator of the Year Award as recognition for his innovative way to engage his students.
“I’m feeling excited about it,” Colton said. “I’m really glad they have this kind of award.”
The recipients of the award were judged on three criteria: the educator’s impact on student engagement, the educator’s classroom experience to help improve at-risk populations and how the educator redefines traditional classroom activities to prepare students for careers.
“I was really proud of him,” USU English Department Head Jeannie Thomas said. “He does unusual work and I’m really happy to see it recognized.”
Colton was nominated, unawares, for the award by Christopher Philips, the electronic and information technology accessibility coordinator at the Center for Innovative Design and Instruction because of assignments he created that are meaningful to the students in and outside of the classroom.
“The classroom experience that Jared provides has provided an opportunity for the students to become invested in a real-world experience beyond typical classroom assignments,” Philips wrote on the nomination form. “They were able to recognize that creating content that is accessible also provides a more usable experience for all learners, including those from disadvantaged populations.”
Colton created a project where students learn about coding in HTML to make PDF files more accessible by turning them into web pages available in the school’s learning management systems.
Colton said his work was focused on ethics and technology writing. He wanted to make his students aware of the needs of people with differing disabilities.
“The world is created for a specific type of body,” Colton said. “I really try to show my students and get them to engage with materials that question those kind of assumptions.”
Philips said Colton wanted to give the students a project that would not feel like they were doing meaningless busywork but making a difference in other students’ lives.
According to Philips, Colton ensures everyone is able to participate through the assignments he gives and the way he helps his students.
“He cares about each individual student,” Philips said. “He knows their names. He works with each individual student on their different concerns or challenges they have.”
Thomas said Colton asks thought-provoking questions about social issues.
“Because he’s passionate about it, his enthusiasm and his curiosity is contagious,” Thomas said.
Colton said he wasn’t sure if he would be able to do this work if he was not in the USU English Department, which has an interest in social justice.
“I’m supported and even encouraged to bring in more social context, understanding on how my students’ work makes impacts in the community,” Colton said. “I’ve been able to really take off and experiment.”