Prof wins MERLOT Classics Award for Web teaching material

Louise Ripley, a professor of marketing and women’s studies in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, has won a 2009 Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning & Online Teaching (MERLOT) Classics Award. It is an award that celebrates exemplary online materials as well as the author’s contributions to the academic community.

Ripley won the MERLOT Classics Award in the business category for her peer-reviewed online course material – “Introductory Marketing Unit for Principles of Marketing”. There were 13 award winners this year in categories ranging from science & technology, arts and humanities to mathematics and statistics, but Ripley was the only winner in business, the largest of the categories.

“This award means a tremendous amount to me. It represents literally thousands of hours of work, and then there’s the ongoing upkeep. It is nice to have one’s work recognized. Also, it is my creative outlet. I don’t paint or sculpt or anything like that and these pages provide that creative outlet for me,” says Ripley, who started teaching online before Internet teaching was a regular thing at York and before platforms like WebCT or computing support was available. Ripley constructed the site entirely on her own after a lesson in Microsoft FrontPage and equates doing so to making a cake from scratch rather than using a mix.

Left: Louise Ripley

MERLOT is a leading-edge, user-centred searchable collection of peer-reviewed and selected higher education online learning materials, catalogued by registered members, and a set of faculty development support services. Its goal is to be a premiere online community where faculty, staff and students from around the world share their learning materials and pedagogy.

Ripley says her main goal in turning to Internet teaching "is to make easier the life of today’s student, who is usually taking courses, working – even full-time students – to meet the rising cost of university and maybe also raising a family. I constructed the pages with my educational objectives in mind. Students are told my objectives both in general for all my teaching, and specifically for this course. I then try to ensure that everything that goes into my teaching pages aligns with these objectives."

Her site demonstrates a combination of content and creativity. It is easy to navigate and lays everything out clearly so the students know exactly what they need to do to be successful in the course, she says.

“I keep the prose short. I also try to make it fun for the students to work with. Marketing is an exciting discipline and I try to capture that in the Web pages.”

In addition, her Introductory Marketing online course is unique in that it has what Ripley calls waving hand exercises where students check whether they understand the material by discussing it with each other and with her. These discussions are done through an online asynchronous discussion group where Ripley is a full and active participant.

“I use no streamed lectures, no talking heads; these belong to another age,” says Ripley. “Internet teaching is fundamentally different in many ways from in-class teaching and my teaching materials reflect that.”

Ripley teaches marketing and women’s studies, and supervises graduate students in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. Half her load is taught online by choice. Her major research interests include advertising ethics using York philosophy Professor Michael Gilbert’s multi-modal argumentation model, the pressures on women who work outside the home, and the joys and difficulties of online teaching.

Her marketing background is put to good use in designing her Web pages so they are attractive and eye catching as well as packed with information. “You will find a lot of white space, colour, pictures and graphics and links to other Web pages in my materials,” says Ripley.

Ripley has been invited to attend the 2009 MERLOT International Conference in San Jose, California, in August to showcase her materials.