The following is a guest post by Julie Mersiowsky of Germanna Community College. 

According to The Free Dictionary the word win means “to succeed by striving.”  That is certainly what happened to me, but not in the way one might expect.

This year I was lucky enough to be part of two award-winning teams that won Excellence in Education awards. The winners were selected and announced at the 2013 New Horizons conference, and sponsored by the Virginia Community College System office and its colleges. The first team I was part of, the TOTAL project, won the Innovative Use of Technology award. The second team was the LoGo Project which won in the category of Best Practices in Teaching.

Both projects were funded by VCCS CIF grants.  The LoGo Project created an online course for faculty to learn about the use of mobile technology in their online and face-to-face courses.   The Topics in Online Teaching And Learning (TOTAL) project created a set of short faculty workshops, each focusing on a specific a topic, regarding teaching online. The TOTAL project was also funded with a follow-up CIF grant titled TOTAL 2.0 to develop additional workshops and a process for managing, facilitating, and maintaining the workshop throughout the VCCS.

While both teams knew that we created quality faculty development projects that would benefit both faculty and students of the VCCS , neither team was really sure of  how it measured up against the many other nominated projects. There were projects that included a virtual, Facebook-posting pregnant hospital patient, a flipped classroom, creative uses of webinar software to tutor students,  as well as many other very worthy award nominees. How could we compete? Upon seeing a list of our competition, both teams very humbly thought that maybe, just maybe, we had a chance at being a runner-up. Both teams were surprised by our wins.

While the recognition we received by the NH13 awards committee was extremely satisfying,  much more rewarding for us was the reward both teams experienced going through the nomination process. The TOTAL team met a few times (virtually, of course) using Bb Collaborate. Our first meeting was to divvy up the tasks and basically outline what we wished to highlight in the video, presentation, and display for our nomination. We each compared what the team had set out to do, what we thought we had done, and what we had actually accomplished. As NVCC‘s Bob Loser, one of my team members, put it,  “I have to agree with you on all accounts.  Though it was a lot of work, it did cause us all to reflect a bit more than we might have otherwise.”

Sure, all the fame, fortune, and glory were fun and rewarding, along with the certificate for each team member’s wall and the prize money for the college to spend on continuing the project. However, these unexpected rewards that I received were much more valuable to me. The rewards of self-reflecting and team-reflecting were much more meaningful. If you have never nominated a project for one of these prestigious awards, then you will be in for a treat when you decide to push yourself and seek some recognition.

So, while a nicely framed certificate makes me smile, it’s the unexpected rewards that mean the most. Will you stretch your limits, creating something valuable for our students and faculty , and then dare to explore how successfully you have done it?

Details about the awards can be found here:

The winner’s list can be found here: