October 19, 2017

Dr. Beatriz Potter Honored with Presidential Excellence Award for Online Teaching

President Richard A. Carvajal and Dr. Beatriz Potter

VALDOSTA — Dr. Beatriz Potter is the recipient of Valdosta State University’s 2017 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.

Potter, a senior lecturer in Spanish and English as a Second Language and a curriculum and instructional technologist, was chosen for her pioneering efforts to design and implement online programs in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages.

“Receiving this award gives me a great sense of accomplishment and pride,” Potter said. “My experience teaching online here at VSU has been an incredible journey with many great opportunities. My work would not have been possible without the support of my colleagues, students, and, of course, the university.”

Potter has worked in the fields of higher education and technology for nearly 20 years. At VSU, she advised faculty and staff on the use of advanced technologies for teaching and learning for three years as an eLearning instructional technologist and Vista System administrator before joining the Department of Modern and Classical Languages in 2008 as an online Spanish lecturer.

“In 2008 very few people in the department believed in the effectiveness of online foreign language instruction, and practically no one had the skills to implement it,” said Ofélia Nikolova, interim head of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages. “Voice tools were just entering the online scene, and they were yet to be proven as solid and reliable components for high quality online foreign language teaching. Dr. Potter rose to the occasion and led the department in these unchartered waters.

“From the very start, she was concerned with creating courses of highest quality while also being vigilant about assessing online readiness and making successful changes in the work habits of students to improve online retention rates.”

A few weeks into her first online Spanish course, Potter had what she described as a “wake-up call.”

“Many of my students were dropping the class, and I could not understand why,” Potter said. “I recognized that I needed to go back to the basics and determine student needs and how to promote their success. This is when I started to research possibilities to enhance my courses with meaningful and diverse activities that could motivate students to complete the courses successfully.”

Since then she has created modules to help students determine if they are suited for online classes and to help them navigate and understand online courses.

As a professional in informatics, curriculum, and instruction, Potter incorporates state-of-the-art technologies into her teaching. She uses TalkAbroad, which enables students to access native Spanish speakers in other countries; Blackboard Collaborate, a web conferencing application for virtual meetings; Camtasia, a software used to make video tutorials; VoiceBoards, which offers electronic voice services; and Second Life, a virtual world environment where users can interact via avatars. VSU has a virtual campus within Second Life, which is used for many educational purposes; Potter is one of the founders.

“In the digital age, it is essential to utilize these and other such technologies,” Potter said. “I use and implement them in my courses to improve course delivery, engage and retain students, stimulate interest, and help students achieve academic success. 

In 2013, Potter submitted her Spanish 2002 course to Quality Matters, a faculty-centered peer review process that certifies the quality of online courses. Potter’s course met the eight general standards and 41 specific standards set forth by Quality Matters, making it one of the first Quality Matters-approved courses at VSU.

“Dr. Potter is perhaps the most knowledgeable online professional in the College of Arts and Sciences,” said Dr. Connie Richards, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “She attends to all phases of instruction …. Truly, she is a consummate professional in the area of online learning.”

In addition to teaching online Spanish core classes, Potter has been instrumental in creating and teaching two online certificates: the English as a Second Language Certificate and the Spanish for Professionals Certificate (SFPC), which teaches situational Spanish to workers in the fields of health, business, and criminal justice.

Part of the SFPC is a simulated newsroom that Potter created where students prepare news reports in Spanish and share them via YouTube.

Potter was the co-principal investigator of “An Innovative Project: A collaboration between Nursing and Spanish for Medical Professionals,” a grant funded by The IDEA (Innovative Designs for Enhancing the Academy) Center at VSU. The grant allowed nursing students and healthcare professionals to practice Spanish and develop cultural awareness in a simulated hospital setting.

Potter has helped VSU and other University System of Georgia (USG) institutions to collaborate on online foreign language courses, and she has held numerous workshops to help faculty learn to properly utilize online tools.

“She has proven the extraordinary quality of her work in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, the university, and the state with her dedication to her chosen field of instructional technology and online teaching, the high standards she upholds in her profession, and the constant support and mentoring she provides for her colleagues and her students,” Nikolova said.

Potter has long been committed to addressing accessibility issues in online education for people with disabilities. In November 2016, she was recognized by the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Web Accessibility Group at the USG Accessibility Symposium.

“This recognition for online teaching makes me feel even more committed to providing the best online education to all my students, regardless of their location, age, disability, or point of access,” she said. “The beauty of online education is that it reaches people who otherwise would not be able to get an education. That’s why it’s so important.”

Potter has shared her expertise through more than 40 presentations at national, international, state, and local conferences.

“Throughout my career, I have been committed to helping students and colleagues communicate cross culturally using technologies that facilitate communication and develop cultural awareness,” Potter said. “I grew up in Colombia, where learning English was considered a key to success. This helped me appreciate the importance of being able to understand and use language in its natural cultural setting. As I have advanced, I have also realized the importance of providing opportunities to help others study and accomplish their educational goals. 

“Ultimately, teaching for me is having a passion for what I do and feeling that I may change the life of students positively as I inspire and ignite their lifelong learning. It is my hope that I can contribute to education and to improve the quality of life and social justice for all in the 21st century and beyond.” 

Potter is a member of the VSU IDEA Center Teaching and Technology Group and Writing Group, VSU Second Life for Education Committee, VSU Latin America Students Association, USG Web Accessibility Group, American Association of University Women, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium, and Un-Ki Chapter of the Sigma Delta Pi Honor Society. 

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in business administration from the University of South Florida, a Master of Education in instructional technology from VSU, and a Doctor of Education in curriculum and instruction from VSU.

Each year, VSU continues its tradition of honoring faculty excellence with five awards recognizing the diverse talents and contributions of its innovative and active faculty. Awards are given for excellence in teaching, research, service, online teaching, and scholarship of teaching and learning. The 2017-2018 recipients were publicly recognized at the fall convocation and received a monetary prize of $1000.

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