One of New Zealand’s best-selling and most-respected historians, Professor Paul Moon, was acknowledged this week for his contributions as a researcher, academic and teacher. At the AUT Excellence Awards, Moon was awarded the Teaching Innovation award as well as the top accolade – the AUT University Medal – for sustained and exceptional academic achievement.

The awards come as Moon prepares to launch a new online course, focusing on the Holocaust, which will be available next year. The paper is the first of its kind in New Zealand and will be delivered entirely online, enabling people to study from all over the world. There will be lecturer support, tutorials for students to participate in, interactive learning, regular feedback on students’ work, and a comprehensive range of resources.

The online course is an example of Moon’s innovative approach to increasing student engagement.

“A few years ago we made the decision to experiment with a fully online learning platform. There were other templates out there, but we built the whole thing from scratch,” says Moon.

The platform aimed to overcome the “tyranny of distance” as Moon puts it, by making the courses available to people all over the world. In building the platform, they looked first at what people wanted and their situations.

“The initial feedback from educationalists was that it wouldn’t work. In fact, it was quite the opposite. We had immediate uptake.”

One paper soon became three, and now they have five fully online history papers.

Moon says technology has aided teaching and learning of history. Students no longer need to visit the university library to complete their research. Tools like Google Scholar help democratise the subject, by making thousands of academic articles readily accessible to students.

Moon’s focus now is on making the courses more interactive, so that students can produce and share their own content. He gives the example of an oral history course in which students need to record and upload their interviews.

Moon is delighted to receive the AUT accolades.

“The award is recognition of the growing role of history as a discipline at AUT, and of the contribution of all the people involved in teaching the subject,” says Moon.

Photo: (L-R) AUT Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack, Professor Paul Moon, Dean of Te Ara Poutama Professor Pare Keiha.

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