Marlene Preston, associate professor, assistant department head, and director of undergraduate programs, and Brandi Quesenberry, advanced instructor and director of public speaking, both in the Department of Communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, received Virginia Tech’s 2015 XCaliber Award for excellence as a team making outstanding contributions to technology-enriched active learning.

Established in 1996 by the Office of the Provost, the XCaliber Award (shorthand for exceptional, high-caliber work) is presented annually by Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies to recognize individual faculty members or teams of faculty and staff who integrate technology in teaching and learning. The award celebrates innovative, student-centered approaches.

Preston and Quesenberry were recognized for the course they co-designed and co-taught, Virtual Public Speaking. Their course allows students to explore the similarities and differences of speech creation, as well as hone their preparations and delivery techniques in various online speaking situations with live audiences and real-time feedback. The virtual classroom gives students the ability to assess and analyze their presentations and helps them increase competency through a variety of communication modes.

The Virtual Public Speaking course uses WebEx, a Web and video-conferencing program, to offer students real-time audience interaction and give them a rigorous “public” speaking experience. Students progress through a series of scaffolded learning activities, incorporating multimodalities and engaging in peer-to-peer interaction and critique.

As a function of the course design, students demonstrate their achievement of learning outcomes. Pre- and post-instruction surveys reveal significant improvements in speech delivery and development, such as the ability to create a speech thesis, manage pre-speech anxiety, and manage anxiety during a speech.

Preston and Quesenberry upheld the integrity and rigor of a traditional public speaking course by addressing message development for specific audiences, managing and reducing apprehension, and enabling real-time audience interaction. In addition, the use of technology enabled students to learn virtual presentation techniques while improving the skills needed in today’s competitive work environment.

In their award citation, the XCaliber selection committee noted how Preston and Quesenberry took a traditional, highly sought-after course and transformed the teaching and learning environment to meet the National Communication Association’s Speaking and Listening Competencies for College Students and exceed national standards for online delivery, creating an online course that was multimodal, interactive, and engaging.

Preston and Quesenberry have published a case study about their experiences, which can be found in the November 2014 issue of Quarterly Review of Business Disciplines. The study is ongoing, and they continue to seek student feedback.

A member of the Virginia Tech community since 1993, Preston received her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Bowling Green State University and a doctoral degree from Virginia Tech.

A member of the Virginia Tech community since 2003, Quesenberry received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Radford University.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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