Chris Cooney, a clinical assistant professor in the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, has been selected the winner of the 2018 Oaks Award for his innovative use of the cloud-based storytelling tool Spark. Administered by WSU Academic Outreach and Innovation, the Oaks Award recognizes faculty members whose innovative application of technology transforms teaching and learning in their classroom.

Cooney developed a series of tutorials and revised existing assignments to incorporate the free Adobe software into two courses: COMSTRAT 310, Digital Content Promotion, and COMSTRAT 381, Creative Media Strategies and Techniques. He also taught several faculty members how to use Spark in their classrooms.

The $3,000 award honors WSU Dean Emeritus Muriel Oaks. A pioneer of distance education, Oaks in the mid-1980s helped develop the microwave videoconferencing system WHETS, for Washington Higher Education Telecommunications System, to bring Pullman courses to the new Spokane, Tri-Cities and Vancouver campuses. Oaks retired in 2010 as dean of the Center for Distance and Professional Education, which includes WSU Online.

By incorporating Spark in his instruction, Cooney has answered the call of the WSU UCore Foundational Competencies to teach students to “creatively adapt content and conventions to diverse contexts, audiences, and purposes.” In his award application, he noted that the interface is so intuitive and easy to access that students can focus on their story structure while instructors can provide “meaningful, real-time feedback.”

“After I introduced Adobe Spark into my curriculum, I noticed a significant increase in the quality and level of sophistication of the student work,” Cooney said. “It also increased the frequency and quality of student-faculty interaction in the classroom and changed the nature of peer-to-peer student interaction.”