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Writer: Aaron Olsen
Dr. Bruce Kusch, associate academic vice president at Brigham Young University-Idaho, has been awarded this year's Kole-McGuffey Prize, recognizing him as the graduate of Idaho State University's College of Education with the most outstanding dissertation.
Entries are judged on research, theoretical framework, mode of inquiry, execution of study, analysis/results of data, contribution to the field of education, and quality of written materials. Winning entries need to show potential for "significant contribution" to the field of education.
Dr. Kusch's doctoral dissertation researched the social elements of online learning programs, addressing such issues as engagement levels and isolation among matriculated online students. Kusch's research stemmed from his work with online learning at BYU-Idaho. Students enrolled in online sections of Book of Mormon courses in the winter semester of 2011 were the subjects of the study, with more than 500 students participating.
Kusch's research found that when students have positive social experiences connected to online classes, their overall learning improves. Little research had been conducted to determine what social presence and social connectedness means for online students, why these are important in creating a positive learning environment, or how to develop these for online coursework. Kusch's research filled this gap in the literature.
"The award was an honor and a surprise. It's something I never could have imagined when I started my research," said Kusch. Dr. Jane Strickland, chair of the Graduate Studies Committee at ISU and one of Dr. Kusch's professors, noted that his research was "ambitious." She said Dr. Kusch was an excellent student and that she's proud to say he's a colleague now.
Dr. Kusch was one of eight graduates of ISU's College of Education eligible for the prize. He is the first from BYU-Idaho to be given the honor. Kusch earned his Ph.D. in instructional design from ISU last fall.