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Professor wins national teaching award

Posted by | November 7, 2014

School of Food Science professor and environmental chemist Greg Möller received one of the nation’s most exclusive and prestigious teaching awards Sunday, Nov. 2.

Möller won a National USDA Excellence in Teaching Award given by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), one of two awarded this year.

Part of the School of Food Science, operated jointly by Washington State University and the University of Idaho, Möller is the first professor from either school to this award since 1996.

The APLU represents America’s public research universities founded under the Morrill Act of 1862 and 235 institutions overall. Möller is the first faculty member at the University of Idaho to receive the national award.

FY15015_07_5013 (2)A 24-year member of the faculty, Möller teaches classes including Principles of Sustainability, Principles of Environmental Toxicology and Food Toxicology. All are available for viewing online for free, although students must register and complete assignments to receive university credit.

“I recognized early that in digital education, I will rarely, if ever, be in the same time zone as my students,” Möller said. He is among those pioneering doculectures, documentary-style videos that use media techniques to engage students and deliver information.

In an era where online videos are viewed billions of times each day, he said, the quality of online education is especially challenging when teacher and students are on different schedules. What works in a classroom may not effectively translate to the screen.

“This new approach couples the information intensity of a university lecture with the audiovisual warmth and dynamics of a documentary film,” Möller said of doculectures. “Principles of Sustainability leverages our understanding of the cognitive neuroscience of learning and memory using dynamic imagery, sounds and virtual spatial effects. Over 100 filmmakers and scholars across the globe, and numerous students, contributed to this course.”

When a student writes, “I watched the doculecture, and I cried,” about “A Planet in Peril” from his Principles of Sustainability online open course, Möller said, he knows he has connected with his global classroom and opened minds for learning.

The course is his most advanced online education course. His documentary approach to lectures has won Telly awards twice and the 2011 El Capitan Award from the Yosemite International Film Festival. He has partnered with Detroit Public TV and PBS to form the Corps of Discovery, as a case study in media singularity to promote sustainability.

As a researcher, inventor and teacher, Möller often focuses on when things go wrong. He has studied issues ranging from selenium toxicity in the environment to incidents when pine nuts left diners with bad tastes in their mouths, and worse.

Möller mostly focuses on finding ways to make systems work better. His six licensed patents are the basis for innovative water treatment technologies that are improving water quality for more than 2 million people worldwide.

The Association of University Technology Managers cited his team’s water treatment technology as one of “25 Innovations that Changed the World,” alongside the Google search engine and others.