Sokunthearith “T” Makara, recent graduate of the College of Education (COE) Department of Learning Design and Technology (LTEC), is the 2017 Burniske Outstanding Master’s Project Award winner. The award is given annually to an LTEC master’s student whose graduate work best exemplifies what beloved Associate Professor Buddy Burniske valued in his students’ work: innovation, high quality research and writing, and significance to the field.
Makara is among three finalists, including Erika Molyneux and Kristel de Leon, who were recognized at LTEC’s graduation party on May 13, 2017. They each receive a check from UH Foundation for their achievements, and Makara’s name and award year will be added to a plaque on display in the COE.
“As an international student through the East-West Center, T has been exceptional in enriching all of our lives with his dedication to making education open to all learners,” LTEC Chair Curtis Ho said. “He will return to Cambodia and will represent our university well through his continuing efforts in implementing technology to make learning accessible.”
For his master’s project, which addresses the issue of unequal access to quality education among the students in the capital city and provinces in Cambodia, Makara developed an open web-based e-learning platform called “Open School.” The platform is a tool for teachers and students to create and take online courses for free. Built within WordPress, using a number of open-source tools, it was designed to be bilingual (English and Khmer), responsive on different devices, easy to use, and publicly open to Cambodian users. A current prototype of the platform is available.
In an address to LTEC’s graduates, Makara said, “It is such a great honor to have this precious opportunity to be part of Dr. Burniske’s legacy. My master’s project means a lot to me and represents the issues I care so much about. To be given this award means that I am not the only one who believes this work is important and that my efforts have been appreciated. I share this honor with the LTEC faculty, particularly my advisor Dr. Catherine Fulford, and my friends who have provided me with critical feedback throughout my project.”
The COE and Burniske’s mother, Penny Burniske, established the Dr. R.W. “Buddy” Burniske Memorial Graduate Student Award Endowment in 2013, expanding the original 2006 memorial fund.