Excellence in Online Teaching: J. Mitchell Vaterlaus, Spring Awards of Excellence, Academic Year 2021-22. Portrait of J. Mitchell Vaterlaus

J. Mitchell Vaterlaus

J. Mitchell Vaterlaus, associate professor in the Department of Health and Human Development, has won the Excellence in Online Teaching Award. The award comes with a $2,000 honorarium.

Vaterlaus, who has taught 21 fully online courses during his time at MSU, is known for demonstrating outstanding teaching and mentoring of students in online environments. Students in those courses give him high teaching scores and report that Vaterlaus is organized, engaging, student-focused and responsive. He is also well-regarded for communicating regularly with students in online courses, providing individual feedback and sharing short, recorded lectures that outline key concepts in clear, easy to understand points. In addition, students say the expectations and requirements of his online courses are clear and that the courses are structured to facilitate both collaborative and flexible online learning.

Vaterlaus is also said to exemplify best practices for online education and use innovative approaches. His course content includes engaging assignments aimed at helping students connect theoretical concepts and content to the real world around them. One example includes phone-a-friend assignments aimed at connecting students with one another outside of the online classroom. He also uses a number of online technologies to enhance the online teaching and learning environment.

Vaterlaus generously extends his expertise in the online realm to the MSU community and beyond. He is involved in presentations and panels in the Center for Faculty Excellence and serves on the university’s TEACH committee aimed at providing opportunities for faculty to enhance their teaching. He also provides informal mentorship to faculty looking to create online courses, and he is a sought-after speaker in online education both regionally and nationally.