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2009 R1edu Online Learning Award goes to University of Washington expert in computational linguistics

Emily Bender, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington (UW), has received the 2009 R1edu Award for Distinguished Faculty Contributions to Online Learning. She is recognized for her groundbreaking work in development of the UW online master's degree program in Computational Linguistics. Through use of cutting edge web conferencing technology, students have the option of joining, live online, a classroom-based course held on campus.

Dr. Bender's use of web conferencing technology, employing live video and two-way audio, allows online students to participate in class in real time. Students can "raise their hand" and ask questions or engage in discussion.

"This approach opened the degree program to new audiences who are geographically remote from the classroom or who cannot otherwise attend afternoon courses on campus," said David Szatmary, UW Vice Provost for Educational Outreach. "It also allows increased flexibility for local students, who can choose to be present in the classroom one day and, depending on their work or travel schedule, attend online the next day."

"The online option for the UW master's program in Computational Linguistics is especially beneficial to me, because I would be unable to achieve such a degree locally," said one student. "With a family established in Oklahoma, it is less viable for me to relocate to complete a degree program not offered in my state. This program offers me exactly what I need, and precisely what I cannot obtain here."

A local UW student cited his daily option to attend class on campus or online as essential to successfully completing the program. "I attended class from home on multiple occasions while caring for my son while my wife was at work," he said. "Furthermore, the ability to go back and replay lectures that I attended either in class or from home was a tremendous advantage. I am convinced that I would not have fared as well in the course had these things not been available."

2009 R1edu Award

The R1edu Award has been presented annually since 2001. It acknowledges innovative and stellar work of faculty in online learning at member institutions of R1edu, a consortium of 34 top U.S. research universities that pool their resources and knowledge to provide access to distance learning classes and reference materials.

Previous R1edu Award recipients have come from the University of Florida, the University of Oregon, Iowa State University, and the University of Missouri-Columbia, as well as the University of Washington. Their work models best practices in design and implementation of effective online learning programs:

Dr. Akira Horita, University of Washington (UW) Professor of Pharmacology and Psychiatry, for effective integration of cutting-edge medical research into a highly interactive online certificate program, Advanced Research in Addiction and the Brain. Hallmarks include robust student discussion, interaction with online guest research scientists, and an invitation for feedback to continually enhance the program to meet audience needs.

Dr. Jan Miernowski, Department of French and Italian at University of Wisconsin at Madison, for creation of the course, French and Italian Renaissance Literature Online. Designed to simulate a journey through the region and its time led by a group of faculty guides, the course employs the latest interactive tools to train students in advanced interpretation of artistically complex and ideologically multilayered texts.

Dr. John Wedman, director of the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies in the College of Education at the University of Missouri-Columbia, for creating the university's first fast-track online master's program. The one-year online program in Educational Technology offers condensed courses in an 8-week format.

Dr. Craig Tapley, professor in the Warrington College of Business, for his pioneering role at the University of Florida. By restructuring course content and utilizing WebCT VISTA, he moved his class Web presence from "Web site as filing cabinet" to "Web site as virtual classroom," where context, community, and collaborative learning enhance the student experience.

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About the R1edu consortium

Founded in 1999, R1edu is a consortium of more than 30 top U.S. research universities that pool their resources and knowledge to provide access to distance learning classes and reference materials. The consortium's website at allows students to search classes and programs by subject, type, or institution. Participating institutions are members of the Carnegie Foundation and of the prestigious Association of American Universities. For more information on the R1edu Award for Distinguished Faculty Contributions to Online Learning, please see the Web site at

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About University of Washington (UW) Educational Outreach

UW Educational Outreach is the continuing and professional education division of the University of Washington, the nationally recognized public research institution based in Seattle. Helping the schools, colleges, and departments to administer evening master's degrees, certificate programs, distance and online learning, international outreach and English language programs, and more, UWEO is one of the largest and most highly regarded continuing and professional education programs in the U.S. (more information at (

Available for interview: Dave Szatmary, UW Vice Provost for Educational Outreach and R1edu founder (206) 685-6308 or

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