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Purdue University Online instructional designer wins national award for service to the field

Nixon Opondo

 Cooking dinner for a master chef is bound to make a person a tad nervous, unless they happen to be a pretty good cook themselves.

That’s kind of the situation in which Holly Fiock lives. As a senior instructional designer for Purdue University Online, she works primarily with the Learning Design and Technology faculty in the College of Education. In other words, she helps experts who train people in designing courses design courses.

Fortunately, Fiock, recently named the senior instructional design manager for Purdue University Online, is an excellent cook – instructional designer – herself.

Fiock is the 2023 winner of the Outstanding Service in Postsecondary Instructional Design Award from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association. UPCEA is the leading association for professional, continuing, and online education in North America.

The UPCEA award Fiock is receiving recognizes outstanding service to the field of instructional design in areas such as developing and disseminating research, best practices and innovative methods, as well as mentoring others, all for the betterment of the instructional design community.

“Holly is truly a thought leader in the field of instructional design,” Jennifer Richardson, College of Education 150th Anniversary Professor, wrote in support of Fiock’s nomination for the award. “As faculty, we know that Holly’s professionalism, hard work, attention to detail, and just the thorough and exhaustive effort she brings to her work is always there.”

Purdue’s online master’s program in Learning Design and Technology is ranked No. 8 in the country by U.S. News & World Report and its online Curriculum and Instruction master’s ranks No. 14. Fiock is a large part of why the programs have been so successful, Richardson said.

Fiock is widely published and cited in the field and a fixture in conference presentations and other outreach activities. At Purdue, she’s been instrumental, among other things, in creating the Purdue Repository for online Teaching and Learning (PoRTAL) and the CoPILOT: Cohort Program for Innovation and Leadership in Online Teaching, which creates cohorts of faculty to support each other in developing new online courses with assistance from expert instructional design staff.

"She always has an impact on everyone she meets, whether that's through mentorship or through research, community engagement, peer and faculty development,” said Connie Hahn, a Purdue Online instructional design colleague who spearheaded Fiock’s nomination for the UPCEA award. “She's always willing to step in and help out even when it seems like she has no time." 

Fiock said the award is as much a tribute to her colleagues as herself.

“Yes, it might be my name on it, but the credit goes to everyone who worked together to put ourselves in the situation where we can be recognized for our work,” Fiock said. “I think that's pretty special to work for a unit at Purdue that pushes everyone on the team to be their best selves.”

Fiock graduated from Purdue in social studies education but ended up taking an administrative secretarial position in the graduate program of the College of Education. Richardson encouraged her to try instructional design. She earned her master’s degree from Purdue’s program and is now writing her doctoral dissertation.

Asked about the favorite part of her job she highlighted working with faculty and students to create fresh, authentic learning experiences that learners find applicable in their current and future careers.

"One of the great things we're able to do is really leverage our students to see what they want," Fiock said. "We're developing content for them. We want to make sure it's aligned with their expectations."

She said the biggest challenge in her job is having to be creative on demand.

“You don't want to use the same recipe over and over again,” Fiock said. "There are times when it's the middle of the night and I'm like ‘ooh’ and I wake up and write something down because it hits me.”

Spoken like a master chef.

Writer: Greg Kline, Purdue University Online, 765-426-8545,