Egbert wins Oaks Academic Technology Award

Joy Egbert, a faculty member at Washington State University’s College of Education, is the winner of the 2022 Oaks Academic Technology Award. The annual award is sponsored by Academic Outreach & Innovation.

The Oaks award, named in honor of WSU Dean Emeritus Muriel Oaks, recognizes a faculty member’s innovative application of an existing technology to transform teaching and learning in their classroom.

Joy Egbert

Egbert received the award in recognition of her work integrating the Halo Augmented Reality App into the Educational Escape Room (EER) located in the Department of Teaching and Learning.

“It’s nice to be recognized in an area in which I’ve been working so long,” said Egbert. “It’s nice justification, too, for being innovative when others might think it’s just crazy.”

Halo AR is a free multiplatform application that allows users to create and use “halos,” augmented reality overlays, over real-life surfaces or objects. Halos consist of either text, video, graphics, or audio connected to a surface or object—known as the “trigger.” If an object has a halo when a user points a device with the Halo AR app at the haloed object, the user will see the overlay.

Egbert integrated the use of “halos” into the College of Education’s Educational Escape Room located on the WSU Pullman Campus. The EER is an interactive space that employs puzzles and challenges, similar to those found in popular “escape room” attractions, to teach student-centered pedagogical principles in an engaging and innovative manner. 

Egbert’s addition of Halo AR technology was designed to make the EER a more immersive and dynamic learning experience.

“I believe that Joy is visionary in terms of her research and the work she does at the intersection of technology use and learning,” said Tariq Akmal, chair of WSU’s Department of Teaching and Learning. “Her work with technology tools to enhance student engagement is exactly the kind of work that needs to be supported as we think about 21stCentury learning needs.”

According to Egbert, her Halo AR project was not about simply using “cutting edge” technology for its own sake, but to demonstrate how educators can utilize new tools in a way that positively impacts student outcomes. 

“I think the most important aspect for teachers is to learn about and use principles that guide the effective and efficient use of technology. That’s what I focus on in my classes,” said Egbert.

WSU faculty members can nominate themselves or their colleagues for the Oaks award. The winner of the award is selected by a committee of members from each WSU campus, the provost’s office, the faculty senate, and Academic Outreach & Innovation.

“Finding ways to effectively employ new and innovative technology to improve learning outcomes is key to both the future of higher education and the future of WSU. Joy’s work with Halo AR clearly demonstrates that forward-looking focus,” said Jon Manwaring, selection committee member and assistant director of Learning Innovations. “Every other faculty member nominated for the Oaks award also displayed a willingness to innovate and improve their classrooms using new tools as they become available. We want to recognize and reward that initiative.”

Oaks served as a pioneer and visionary for WSU from 1979 to 2010. Best known for her work in distance education, she saw the growing variety of learning technologies as an opportunity to support the land-grant mission, increase access to WSU programs, and improve the quality of the student experience.  Under her leadership, WSU was one of the first universities in the country to deliver video‑based distance education courses. Committed to making quality education available globally, she also oversaw the transition to fully online program offerings.

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