Western Kentucky University announced in the spring of 2018 the recipients of the annual Faculty and University Awards. Among them was Dr. Xiaoxia “Silvie” Huang of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences. The College chose Dr. Huang to receive this award for outstanding work in Research/Creativity.
Dr. Huang expressed her gratitude for receiving the award. “I am honored to receive this award and lucky to have colleagues that believe in my research,” she said. Dr. Huang’s research focuses on designing and evaluating technology-supported learning environments to facilitate student learning and motivation. Dr. Huang has received grants such as QTAG and RCAP awards to support her research. She also served as a faculty mentor for student FUSE grants. With these funds, Dr. Huang has been able to hire students and involve them in her research.
One collaborative study Dr. Huang completed was designed to increase self-efficacy, or self-confidence, in an online statistics learning environment. “In STEM topics, or topics related to math, students tend to have low confidence, so I was thinking how we could use evidence-based research to support the design in an online environment to increase student self-efficacy,” said Dr. Huang. For example, one feature Dr. Huang developed was a virtual character to model how to solve the math problems. Another feature she worked to develop is customized feedback that acknowledges the students’ effort on the work they complete. According to Dr. Huang, these research-based features could increase student learning and confidence within the online learning environment.
Dr. Huang’s interest in developing these types of learning began because of her desire to understand how people learn and how people can use design to facilitate learning. She sees a need for this research in our society as technology advances and the use of distance and online learning increases. Through her research, Dr. Huang hopes to make a widespread impact. “I hope I can continue to work in a team setting and to specifically focus on how to integrate research into real educational settings,” she said.
While Dr. Huang has always been interested in understanding how people learn, it has not always been her primary field of study. Originally from China, Dr. Huang received her Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Culture and her Master’s in Applied Linguistics, and she taught English as a Second Language in China. It wasn’t until a friend introduced her to the field of instructional design that she developed a passion for the field. She went on to attend Florida State University, where she received her PhD.
Dr. Huang not only has a passion for understanding how people learn and the role of design in this process, but she is also passionate about collaborating with her colleagues and her students. She sees this collaboration as essential. Her work involves students in a variety of ways, including help conducting literature reviews, coding some of the data, and presenting at conferences. Dr. Huang welcomes participation from any student interested in designing materials within STEM fields, or non-STEM fields, designing learning environments, or who want to know more about the field of instructional design and technology.