Urmanbetova Wins Class of 1934 Outstanding Innovative Use of Education Technology Award

Posted May 9, 2022

School of Economics Academic Professional Aselia Urmanbetova is a three-time graduate of Georgia Tech, so it's no surprise that she's an early adopter of technology. However, the way she goes above and beyond to test, adapt, and improve teaching technologies stands out — and earned her the 2022 Class of 1934 Outstanding Innovative Use of Education Technology Award.

"Aselia uses technology in the best possible way – to create more interesting, engaging, diverse, and inclusive learning opportunities – and is richly deserving of this award," wrote Professor and School Chair Laura Taylor in Urmanbetova's nomination letter.

Each year, the honor is bestowed upon a Georgia Tech faculty member who developed and instituted innovative techniques to improve the learning environment and the learning process, something Urmanbetova exemplifies daily in her work. In all of Urmanbetova's efforts to bring tech into the classroom, her commitment to inclusivity shines through.


Inclusivity and accessible learning for all

Urmanbetova uses a variety of platforms such as TopHat, TurningPoint, Piazza, Ed Discussion, and GroupMe in her classroom. "She recognizes that a 'one-size-fits-all' communication and connectivity strategy will leave some students behind," Taylor wrote. "By using multiple platforms, she is able to connect to all her students and help them feel more connected to each other (something that is very hard to do with 300-student sections!)."

Urmanbetova is also keenly aware of financial inclusivity. When she took the lead in deploying MobLab, an interactive online gaming platform, throughout the School of Economics (SOE) curricula, she negotiated a deal with the software company to lower the license fee by 60% for SOE students. When other Schools at Georgia Tech expressed interest in using the software, Urmanbetova organized an effort to secure an Institute-wide license, so MobLab is free to students, saving them an estimated $52,000 annually.

Finally, Urmanbetova is committed to accessible learning. She uses two free and open textbooks in her courses: Openstax and CORE Project. For her Principles of Macroeconomics class, which is taught to around 1,000 students a year, Urmanbetova adopted the 2nd edition of the Openstax Principles of Macroeconomics textbook.

She earned two grants to support the development of open-source materials and used them to transform the textbook into an interactive learning tool with self-check questions, flashcards, and problem/example walk-throughs. She also integrated publicly available videos and other supplemental content from online education platforms and video lessons developed by the regional banks of the U.S. Federal Reserve System. Now, her improvements benefit students' education and their bottom line, since textbooks for the class typically cost around $100.


Local and global impact

"In sum, Aselia harnesses technology to improve all aspects of students' learning and classroom experiences," Taylor wrote. "Not only has she impacted thousands of GT students, but she has also impacted countless students globally through her improvements to the Openstax textbook."

The local and global impact of Urmanbetova's efforts and the thoughtfulness with which she designs materials for the interests and learning styles of students from every background set her apart, even at a technological institute such as Georgia Tech. Congratulations, Aselia, on the well-deserved recognition, and thank you for all you do for the School of Economics!

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