Scott Wallace, an associate professor in the computer science department at Washington State University Vancouver, is winner of the 2023 Oaks Academic Technology Award. The annual award is sponsored by WSU Global Campus.
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 classrooms.
Wallace received the award in recognition of his innovative work using Autolab software to provide formative feedback to his students.
“It’s a real honor to be recognized with this award,” said Wallace. “This project has come a long way over the last few years, and I’m glad to see it get a spotlight.”
Autolab is a free, open-source software tool that uses an innovative algorithm to evaluate students’ computer programming-related assignments. For multiple years, Wallace has been using the program as a valuable tool for helping students improve their work in real time.
“It’s all about improving the student experience and helping them learn more effectively and retain their skills over the long haul,” said Wallace. “I’ve found that Autolab provides a very accessible, user-friendly tool that can provide students on-demand guidance to help them refine their understanding and improve their work.”
Autolab’s primary benefit to students is its ability to provide formative feedback on homework assignments prior to their due date. This enables students to gauge their understanding, ask relevant questions in class, and obtain information about the quality of their solutions and their likely resulting grades — all before an assignment is due.
“Because of Dr. Wallace’s efforts, Autolab has become an important tool for our Computer Science program, supporting hundreds of students each year and helping to greatly improve retention rates of our courses,” said Xinghui Zhao, director of WSU Vancouver’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. “His dedication to teaching excellence and innovative approaches to enhancing student learning are highly appreciated. I am pleased that his years of hard work have finally earned him the recognition he deserves.”
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 the provost’s office, the faculty senate, the WSU Teaching Academy, WSU libraries, and Global Campus, as well as a previous award winner.
“I am deeply impressed with the accessibility, scope, and pedagogical impact of how Autolab is being used,” said one of the judges in the committee’s report. “Not only does this check the boxes for accessible technology, but is rooted in best practices for teaching. It allows students to practice, provides feedback, and clearly enhances student learning outcomes.”
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 education 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.