The Immersive Learning Faculty Awards are given in recognition of demonstrated excellence in the creation, mentoring, and implementation of immersive learning projects. Award nominations for 2024 may be made by students, faculty, staff, or administrators. All immersive learning projects that occurred or were started during the Fall 2022, Spring 2023, or Summer 2023 semesters will eligible for nomination. Projects that fit within existing departmental curriculum (with or without grant funding) are encouraged to apply. Previous Immersive Learning Award-winners are not eligible for the 2023 Awards. Projects nominated for previous awards that meet the above timeline are welcome to be re-nominated. Self-nominations by project mentors are also strongly encouraged. Nominations must be supported by the chair of the department to which the faculty mentor(s) report.

2023 Immersive Learning Faculty Award Winners

Ball State University's Offices of the Provost, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, and Immersive Learning are pleased to announce the 2023 Immersive Learning Faculty Awards.

These awards recognize demonstrated excellence in creating, mentoring, and implementing immersive learning courses. This event celebrates not just our award winners but every individual involved in community-engaged, high-impact activities. We appreciate all that our faculty, students, and staff do to promote immersive learning on our campus and in the community.

This year's immersive learning awards celebrate some of Ball State's most impactful projects taking place in the fall 2021, spring 2023, or summer 2022 semesters.  The Office of Immersive Learning received twelve exceptional nominations this spring, and many of the nominees had to overcome restrictions, uncertainty, and disruptions due to the COVID Pandemic. Despite the many challenges, these instructors produced exceptional results with their students and community partners.

Awardees received an $1,000 honorarium, a trophy, and were honored at the 2022 Immersive Learning Showcase held live in Cardinal Hall on May 2, 2022. We extend a special thank you to past award recipients who served on our review committee: Kathryn Ludwig, Chris Baas, and Tom McConnell.

Learn about immersive learning projects from 2022-2023.

Fine Focus

Fine Focus

Faculty: John McKillip (Biology)

Community Partner: Small World Initiative

A professor in a labcoat (John McKillip) talks in front of students.Students in John's ongoing Immersive Learning course produce a web and print journal cleverly called, Fine Focus, dedicated to showcasing the research of undergraduate students, internationally, in all fields of microbiology. Fine Focus is managed entirely by undergraduate students from production to print. With several community partners around the globe, students in this course work to address two major issues in microbiology: increasing diversity in STEM and the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics. The class is divided into two teams. The Review Team learns firsthand about the process of scientific writing, double-blind peer review in the sciences, and the professional communications that take place among invited reviewers, corresponding authors, and community partners during manuscript management. The Marketing Team is comprised of (usually) non-STEM students who design, market, and promote the journal in creative ways. Fine Focus provides a destination for students and their mentors to possibly become published authors from work performed as undergraduates, while learning about the publishing process at the same time, and; secondly, this work in antibiotic discovery addresses the global crisis of multi-drug-resistant bacterial pathogens for which there are no effective antibiotics to treat these infections. John’s role, for 10 years now, according to his nominator, has been “Speaking with authority and listening with humility, Dr. McKillip equips students to become better informed about the importance of collaborative science and responsible research practices, provides them with the necessary tools to develop competencies needed, and offers them nurturing mentorship that promotes acquisition of skills for professions beyond science.”

Match Point 2.0: The Rise of HBCU Men’s Volleyball

Faculty: Adam Kuban & Jennifer Palilonis (Journalism and Strategic Communication)

Community Partners: First Point Volleyball Foundation, USA Volleyball

Behind the scenes of a video interviewThis project strategically chronicled the development and inaugural season of men’s volleyball programs at 6 HBCUs in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. This sports-centered opportunity involved 10 undergraduates from the School of Journalism & Strategic Communication and the Department of Media and 4 graduate students from the Emerging Media Design & Development program. These cohorts worked in tandem, under the astute guidance of their faculty mentors, where the graduate students organized a comprehensive transmedia campaign around original content primarily produced by the undergraduates, including a 30-minute documentary, 8 podcast episodes, and 10 feature stories for a related blog. The social-media campaign around Match Point has achieved more than 1 million impressions, and the documentary alone has been viewed more than 1,500 times across 3 platforms.

Specifically, this Match Point 2.0 project strategically chronicled the development and inaugural season of men’s volleyball programs at 6 HBCUs in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference: Central State University (Ohio), Fort Valley State University (Georgia), Kentucky State University, Morehouse College (Georgia), Paine College (Georgia), and Benedict College (South Carolina).

The advent of men’s volleyball programs at these HBCUs equated to the most significant growth of the sport in the past 50 years, according to the NCAA.  Funded by USA Volleyball ($400,000) and by FPVF ($600,000), these 6 new athletic programs awarded scholarship opportunities to many players of color, bringing underrepresented communities into a historically white, affluent sport.

Beyond an introduction to and an examination into the importance of HBCUs, those enrolled in this 3credit-hour course had the following SLOs:

  • Identify key terminology and game strategy associated with a specific sport, which are important for aspiring journalists and sports reporters
  • Apply and improve your knowledge and multimedia skills associated with documentary storytelling strategies
  • Define and explain how (transmedia) storytelling campaigns can help (nonprofit) organizations build their brands and contribute to fan motivation and recruitment campaign efforts.

Related to these SLOs, students faced a number of challenges that tested and honed their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, including but not limited to:

  • How to conduct interviews with sensitivity toward the challenges associated with playing a sport as a minority
  • How to determine which story arc(s) comprised the eventual documentary
  • How to present those arc(s) in a way that informed but not overwhelmed the viewers;How to compromise and negotiate with each other re: subjective production elements such as choice of visuals, music selections, presence/absence of narration.

Graduate students involved in the project learned to apply design thinking and user experience design to create a transmedia campaign intended to engage audiences and promote a core story tent pole (the documentary), as well as extend storytelling across multiple platforms.

Promoting Inclusive Excellence Through Urban Design: Case Study Nora Community, Indiana

Faculty: Dorna Eshrati (Architecture)

Community Partner: Nora Alliance

Dorna Eshrati standing outsideThe LA 403: Immersive Learning Urban Design Studio involved fifth-year Landscape Architecture students in hands-on experience in inclusive urban design - including but beyond universal design – by working with the Nora Alliance to propose urban design solutions for Nora, a neighborhood in north Indianapolis, Indiana. In the Fall of 2021, students, faculty, and community partner collaborated to gain an in-depth understanding of factors shaping inclusive urban design. Selected sites within the neighborhood were carefully analyzed to capture existing strengths and barriers to inclusivity and identify potential design alternatives to create multifaceted inclusive urban spaces. The project investigated ways to enhance social and environmental justice by proposing a comprehensive master plan, designing Nora’s urban spaces, and engaging Nora’s community in finding strategies to create an inclusive urban environment.

The project investigated these questions in Nora:

  • What were the physical, social, cultural, and political opportunities and barriers to using the selected site?
  • What were the characteristics of inclusive urban spaces in Nora?
  • What were the design solutions for such inclusive urban spaces?
  • How could we engage the community in the stewardship of the selected case of study and promote social and environmental justice?

The project resulted in the following deliverables:

  • A proposed inclusive master plan for Nora
  • Guidebooks for inclusive urban design that contained best practices in inclusive urban design and specific recommendations for the selected case studies;
  • An in-person community forum with the target community to understand the importance of their role in shaping the future of their urban living environments.

Over the analysis and design process, students were exposed to real-world urban design problems where they could apply their acquired knowledge from the classroom and compose a series of solutions to address the needs of Nora’s urban spaces. By learning to analyze and combine all the interconnected elements such as buildings, streets, public spaces, landscapes, neighborhoods, and all other in-between spaces, LA 403 students were able to holistically approach each project to create a more human-centered design which emphasized the well-being of the users within.

In addition, students learned verbal and visual communication skills to collaborate with community members in a real-world context. The community partner and members provided the students with the necessary information regarding the existing condition of the site and the needs of the community. The community gave students real-world feedback on the design alternatives to select the most feasible ones. Community-oriented design explorations also allowed students to embrace a collaborative spirit, strong work ethic, applied research design, careful attention to detail, service to the community, and best urban design practices toward achieving quality design, economic viability, equitable procedures, and community livability that are necessities in any real-world designs that they will be doing as professional designers.

Sustainability Stories

Faculty: Adam Berland (Geography and Meteorology) & Adam Kuban (Journalism and Strategic Communication)

Community Partners: Muncie Action Plan, Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute, IUPUI Office of Sustainability

Behind the scenes of someone taking a group photoSustainability Stories is an interdisciplinary, immersive learning collaboration across Ball State’s College of Sciences and Humanities and College of Communication, Information, and Media. Students in this course have launched a website with media and mapping to promote awareness and networking of sustainable practices in Indiana among the business, nonprofit, and government sectors. As co-directors of Sustainability Stories, Drs. Berland and Kuban have poured energy and extensive planning across colleges and institutions into making this project successful and spread from a local project to a state-wide initiative. Moreover, the assignments they craft ask students to produce artifacts in the course that they can use in their respective professional portfolios, helping them become stronger job candidates upon graduation.

The site is centered on an interactive map of Indiana that visitors can browse by geography or sustainability topic (e.g., water quality, energy), and then link to multi-platform stories containing original media content about each organization including key takeaways, a feature story, and photo collage. Stories were developed in Fall 2021 and again in Fall 2022 by Dr. Kuban’s students in Advanced Writing and Reporting (JOUR 413). The prototype for the website and interactive map were developed by Dr. Berland’s students in Geographic Information System Design (GEOG 448).

Sustainability Stories began as a partnership with Muncie Action Plan Task Force 5: Managing Community Resources. During the 2021-22 academic year, we broadened our reach beyond Delaware County with the goal of producing a long-term project that would be a statewide resource for practitioners in the sustainability sector, educators, legislators, and the general public. To this end, we developed community partnerships with the Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute and the IUPUI Office of Sustainability. We are leveraging the established statewide community presence of both of these entities to build the project into the future.

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