Finchville woman honored for online course at U of L

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Finchville resident honored on first try

By Scotty McDaniel

When you're good at what you do, it doesn't take long for others to take notice.

Wanda Lott Collins of Finchville is a tenured associate professor at the University of Louisville, where she has for the past six years taught in the Kent School of Social Work.

But it wasn’t until she recently graduated from a course about online development that she took her curriculum out of the classroom and into the virtual world.

Her first attempt at taking her lessons online was a master's level graduate course called "Spirituality and Social Work," and though she is just a novice in the online format, her course didn’t show that.

Her program earned her the statewide Kentucky Virtual Campus Online Excellence Award for 2009.

"I was pretty excited about it. Especially because it was the first time I had taught the course or taught any course online," Collins said.

In a press release, the award's review team said, "Our judges enthusiastically agreed that your course demonstrated all the principles of good practice."

Another judge wrote, "The layout of the assignment/assessments is the clearest that I've ever seen."

The course teaches social workers to study approximately 13 different religious or spiritual doctrines that could be important when helping their clients, Collins said.

"It's a course I developed four years ago. It is a graduate-level course for master’s level social workers," she said. "The reason I developed the course was because when we train social workers, we train them to work with people holistically. Part of how we train people is to look at many factors."

One of those factors is how spirituality fits into a client's life and how a social worker can use an understanding of that spirituality when helping address whatever problem the client is having.

Collins, who has lived for 18 years in Shelby County with her husband, Sonny, and her grown sons, Keith and Michael, has built her spiritual insight while serving as an associate minister at Clay Street Baptist Church in Shelbyville.

"For many individuals, spirituality and religion is a resource. So 'Spirituality and Social Work' is designed to help students to look at the various facets of religion and spirituality and to understand those assets so they can understand people," Collins said.

Winning awards is not new for Collins. In 2006 she won U of L’s Distinguished Teaching Award. “The award is in recognition of teaching excellence across the campus of

U of L,” she said. “That’s a very prestigious award to get.”

And now, buoyed by her new honor, she is trying some new online techniques with a course she is teaching on social gerontology this summer.

The class wasn't originally designed as an online course, but now she's trying a "hybrid" approach in which she can monitor her students' progress on a major class assignments through a virtual online forum, while still maintaining face-to-face classroom time with students.

"The students have been so responsive and so positive. Their comments have been so encouraging about doing it half face-to-face and half online, it's a win-win for everyone," she said.

"It's been awesome. When I go to class they're bubbling with excitement."