Jill Stefaniak, associate professor in the department of workforce education and instructional technology within the Mary Frances Early College of Education, has been awarded the 2023 Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award for Online Teaching. Stefaniak is a nationally recognized leader in her field of instructional design and a respected instructor who creates meaningful online learning experiences.
“Dr. Stefaniak’s contributions begin with direct impact on each of her students and extend to colleagues both within and beyond the campuses of UGA,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “She is genuinely invested in creating an engaging online learning environment that results in content mastery through authentic application of the course material. Her efficacy and excellence in online instruction are the reasons she is highly deserving of the Teaching Excellence Award for Online Teaching.”
Stefaniak is known among her colleagues and students for her commitment to quality online teaching. She strategically designs her courses to motivate her students to achieve their goals, and she incorporates service-learning projects, so her students can apply course content to real-world scenarios in their own communities. On top of this, Stefaniak is known for her abilities to engage with her students to encourage communication, collaboration and feedback. In a recent course evaluation, one student wrote that “she promotes an atmosphere, even online, where you just want to jump in and participate.”
“Dr. Stefaniak is known as an excellent teacher,” said Lloyd Rieber, head of the Department of Workforce Education and Instructional Technology. “She strives to create a learner-centered environment in which students set their own learning goals and achieve them. Throughout the process, she supports her students to reflect on their learning, particularly on the uncertainties which are inherent in instructional design practice.”
She is also known as a mentor and advisor who helps any student working on research or projects in instructional design. She happily guides any doctoral students applying for programs in her field, and she also shares her expertise in online instruction with students planning to become educators themselves.
Stefaniak has received numerous accolades for her research that focuses on design practices to improve the professional development of novice instructional designers. Her research has been published in the prestigious journal, Educational Technology Research and Development, and one of her papers was awarded the 2019 Outstanding Design and Development Paper by the Association for Education Communications and Technology. Most recently, Stefaniak was awarded the 2022 Best Paper from the American Education Research Association for her work, “Examination of Systemic Factors that Impact Instructional Designers’ Practices in Higher Education.”
Stefaniak applies her research throughout her instruction, and she teaches her graduate-level students the importance of bridging research and practice. In her online Advanced Instructional Design course, her students learn how to review research articles to consider how different contexts influence the implementation of instructional design.
She effectively uses Quality Matters Higher Education standards and the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to develop her instruction and guide her students. These instructive practices allow Stefaniak to create a learner-centered environment that is interactive, relevant and supportive for her students in their future work as instructional designers.
In the growing virtual world, Stefaniak has worked closely with the Office of Online Learning, and, in 2020, she received a Learning Technologies Grant to develop online resources for incoming university first-year students. Stefaniak was also a member of the 2019-2020 Service-Learning Fellows cohort with the Office of Service-Learning where she developed a course to engage graduate students in providing performance evaluations for non-profit organizations. In 2020, Stefaniak was selected to be a Chancellor’s Learning Scholar by the University System of Georgia, where she supports faculty in designing authentic digital learning experiences for their students.
“I am honored and humbled to be the recipient of this award. While delivering instruction online poses its own set of challenges for instructors and learners, the opportunities to reach a greater audience and learn from students who are geographically dispersed is truly rewarding,” said Stefaniak. “As instructional designers, we are trained to facilitate learning and improve performance. I feel very fortunate that I get to do this on a daily at UGA working with students who will be impacting education across all disciplines and industries.”