AU chemistry prof recognized for work creating innovative learning materials
An Athabasca University (AU) professor has accepted a prestigious award for work providing top-quality distance education materials to students.
Dr. Dietmar Kennepohl, who teaches chemistry in AU’s Faculty of Science and Technology, was presented with the Award of Excellence for Open and Distance Education Materials by Professor Asha Kanwar, President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning.
“It is an honour to have my work recognized by the Commonwealth of Learning,” he said. “Not only because the idea of greater access to quality education and training through open, distance and technology-enabled learning aligns with my own aspiration and that of Athabasca University, but also because it is a very tangible acknowledgement of my efforts from peers around the globe.”
The award, presented to Athabasca University at the Pan-Commonwealth Forum held in Edinburgh, Scotland from Sept. 9-12, recognizes the transformative change Kennepohl has brought to undergraduate organic chemistry education.
“It is an open open-access environment where both students and faculty write and rewrite content to result in a customizable, no-fee, high-quality textbook,” he said. “It’s accessible any time, anywhere, by anyone through the Internet.”
Kennepohl said the benefit is more than simply saving students $200 on a textbook—although he acknowledges that can be a significant barrier to education. Rather, because the wiki is constantly being updated and corrected by faculty and students alike, he is most proud that it provides a unique learning opportunity for students that goes well beyond the course material.
He was joined in Edinburgh by several AU colleagues: Neil Fassina, President; Rory McGreal, UNESCO/ICDE Chair in Open Educational Resources; Terry Anderson, Professor Emeritus and former Canada Research Chair in Distance Education; Mohamed Ally, Professor and Commonwealth of Learning Chair; Martha Cleveland-Innes, Professor and Program Director; and Nathaniel Ostashewski, Associate Professor.
Dr. Ken Munyikwa, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Science & Technology, said Kennepohl’s accomplishments reflect the work done across the faculty as a whole to deliver an education to learners in innovative ways.
“Dietmar has disrupted traditional norms of science education through open educational methodologies,” he said. “We in the Faculty of Science and Technology are proud to have Dietmar as a true innovator and champion of advancing student success.”