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COE faculty and alumna receive national research and scholarship award

Charles Hodges, Ph.D.

Each year, the National University Technology Network (NUTN) recognizes the significant contributions of individuals advancing applications of technology to teaching and learning in higher education.

Charles Hodges, Ph.D., an associate professor of instructional technology, and Georgia Southern University College of Education Alumna Rachel Harris (Counselor Education,‘16) were named the 2017 recipients of the NUTN Research and Scholarship Award for their published article, “Using Google Tools for Online Coursework: Student Perceptions.”

The Research and Scholarship Award presented by NUTN is given to an individual or multiple individuals who have engaged in significant new research with implications for the field of distance learning and the use of technology as a delivery mechanism in higher education.

The award-winning article, published in a 2016 edition of IEEE Transactions on Emerging Topics in Computing, was based on Hodges’ teaching experience in a special topics course taught during three consecutive summer semesters. Harris and Hodges evaluated the use of Google Sites and Google+ in place of traditional learning management systems (LMSs) for the online graduate coursework including information presentation and discussion.

Implications included an improved interactivity and positive participant response when using the Google platform. Students also reported easier access to course materials from mobile and tablet devices.

Hodges explained that LMSs can be costly and not all teachers, especially those in K-12 schools have access to those tools. Google tools, however, are available at no cost.

“I believe that it is important to model the use of tools that teachers can access so they can see how they might offer classes, or portions of classes, online when they do not have access to large Learning Management Systems,” he said. “Since this research was finished, Google has been providing Google Classroom, which makes it even easier for teachers to do what I was doing in the classes that were studied for this research.”

Hodges and Harris were presented with a glass memento in recognition of the award.

Harris, now a program coordinator for a grant funded veterans project and clinical counselor in Savannah, said that the research experience she gained while a graduate student at Georgia Southern has assisted in preparing for her career and future research.

“I feel it’s important for graduate students to collaborate with faculty members because it provides growth opportunities to publish outside of traditional program structure (dissertations, etc.) and avenues to grow professionally through qualitative, collaborative feedback,” she explained. “My [assistantship] experience helped me to gain traction in the research community, and I continue to grow in this skill set completing veterans affairs research through the Medical University of South Carolina as well as working toward independent research aimed to improve the counseling profession.”

Hodges and Harris agreed that the recognition serves as motivation in their research efforts.

“My aim always is to produce good work, and getting external recognition and validation for it is a real bonus, especially when the work was done with a student,” Hodges said. “Getting this award from a national organization like the National University Technology Network that is focused on higher education teaching and learning, especially with emerging technologies, is exciting.”

“Being published and winning awards for the work we’ve done helps to further motivate me to continue my efforts toward additional research and publications because I can see that it makes a difference and helps others,” added Harris.

For more information about the National University Technology Network, visit

Georgia Southern University offers graduate degrees in instructional technology programs at both the master’s and specialist levels. For more information about our instructional technology programs, visit


Posted in Alumni Highlights, Faculty Highlights

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