WSU Food Science Professor Jeff Culbertson: “I’m wise enough to know that I
don’t know it all.” (Photo by Richard H. Miller)
 
 
PULLMAN – At the Kellogg Company, he helped invent the Nutri-Grain bar. At the University of Idaho, students named him best professor. At Central Michigan University, way back in 1995, he launched the nation’s first online master’s degree in human nutrition.
 
“It just blew people’s minds,” WSU Food Science Professor Jeff Culbertson said of the online program they built from scratch. “We had estimated 30 to 40 enrollments. The first quarter, we had 120. That was my wake-up call.”
 
Culbertson earned a Ph.D. from WSU in 1984. He returned to WSU Pullman last January. Along with teaching, he developed and directs WSU’s online certificate for food science professionals.
Students savvy; materials must be too
 
Given Culbertson’s expertise in online education, why did he find time to earn an Excellence in Teaching Online certificate from WSU’s Center for Distance and Professional Education (CDPE)?
Part of the reason is prudence – “I’m wise enough to know that I don’t know it all” – but a lot is pride.
 
“I want to have good stuff,” Culbertson said. “Students are so technologically astute that they expect the best. If you put out mediocre online materials, they’re disappointed. I don’t want to represent my university with an average performance.”
 
The self-paced online course was created by the CDPE instructional design team. It was piloted last spring and has just been officially launched. The course consists of four modules with exercises and assignments.
“It deserves kudos,” Culbertson said. “It was very well put together and caters to both newbies and experienced online teachers.”
More effective, marketable
 
One newbie is Benjamin Messer, a WSU instructor and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology. He is teaching his first online course, Sociology 101, this semester.
 
“The certificate taught me to be more effective as an online instructor and enhanced my job marketability,” Messer said. “It signifies that I not only have online teaching experience, but I’ve also taken the extra effort to become more effective at teaching online.”
 
The certificate is the icing on the cake, said David Cillay, CDPE executive director: “It merely acknowledges you have completed the program,” he said. “The real benefit comes when you incorporate those tools and strategies into your online courses.”
 
Messer is already applying his new knowledge: “I’m recording and posting video messages for my students, making recommendations to students about other online learning tools, and following many of the teaching tips.”
 
Live chats encourage students
 
Culbertson, who has a long list of teaching awards, shared his own tip. It starts, he said, with this simple principle: “You have to really care about your students and their education.”
 
To bring that sense of caring to the online environment, he uses live chats.
 
“People are stimulated and encouraged through the written word if they get an instantaneous response,” he said. “And that allows any wit and intelligence that I might possibly have to come through.”
 
To earn the Excellence in Teaching Online certificate, please go to the website.