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CQUni Professor among Australia’s ‘magnificent seven’ category winners for Teaching Excellence

Published:26 February 2020

Award-winner Professor Kate Ames flanked by Vice-Chancellor Professor Nick Klomp and Provost Professor Helen Huntly.

A commitment to ensuring distance education students are ‘central to the classroom’ has resulted in CQUniversity’s Professor Kate Ames being awarded a prestigious Award for Teaching Excellence.

Professor Ames was among ‘Teaching Excellence’ winners honoured across seven categories in Canberra on 25 February, as part of the Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT). Details of all the winners can be found here.

CQUniversity Provost Professor Helen Huntly OAM said the entire University was proud of Professor Ames' achievement, in the Humanities and Arts category of the national awards.

“Kate has a fantastic track record in fostering student development and engagement in learning in fully online environments,” Professor Huntly says.

“She has recently taken on the role as CQUniversity’s Director for the Learning Design and Innovation Directorate.

“Kate is driven to make education accessible to those who might normally be unable to study for a degree-level program.

“As a leader, she supports others to develop innovative programs that enhance opportunities to access education and knowledge via distance education.

“As a teacher, above average pass rates and student satisfaction, reduced attrition, and industry-standard learning outcomes are recurring themes in her units.

“She has taught more than 7000 students, many from low socioeconomic backgrounds and most studying in isolation via distance education, due to CQUniversity’s reputation as a distance education provider.

“Kate is an award-winning pedagogical innovator who enhances student learning, develops teaching teams by supporting her peers as a proactive leader and mentor, and leads innovative online development that increases opportunity for study at a time of significant change for the tertiary sector in Australia.”

Professor Ames attributed her national recognition to a laser-like focus on fostering student development and engagement in learning in fully online environments.

“I have been teaching distance students since the 1990s. So much has changed, particularly technology which has increased the ability of students to access staff and materials,” she says.

“I remember when the only way we communicated with students was via print-based study materials and teleconferences. Now, my students are engaging with me via social media.

“I have completed most of my study by distance, so I’ve always been conscious to ensure those students who aren’t able to come to class receive the best possible education.

“People often comment that face-to-face is best for communication. Of course it is, but I can’t just accept that premise and give up trying to make things as interesting and engaging as possible for our distance students.

“Trying to explain complex concepts to students in class is one thing. Trying to explain those concepts to students who are distributed around the country and learning in their own time takes things to an entirely different level.”

Professor Ames said she was honoured to be recognised at this level, in the footsteps of previous CQUni winners including Professor Stephen Colbran (Law) and Professor Kerry Reid-Searl (Nursing).

“In honouring me, I think there’s broader recognition that CQUniversity is a leader in distance education.

“There is so much amazing teaching happening here – every day, I meet academics who advocate for their students, and challenge themselves to be the best possible educator to support those students.”