Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador 2017 – Hudson Valley: Donna Barron
Donna Barron, Ph.D. has been an assistant professor at Hudson Valley Community College since 2005. She teaches analytical chemistry and biochemistry, along with general chemistry courses. Before joining HVCC, Donna spent several years in the local biopharmaceutical industry. She is new to the world of on-line teaching and has learned how to make challenging chemistry courses work for students in the digital age.
I have been teaching chemistry at Hudson Valley Community College since 2005 and have found the interactions with my students to be the most rewarding experience of my professional life. With simple encouragement and high expectations, I have seen students with less than perfect background knowledge come to master, appreciate and even love chemistry. I thought that these interactions with my students could only be achieved in a face-to-face classroom setting. I put up a wall of resistance when my department chair began encouraging me to teach an on-line biochemistry course. I thought it would be impossible to convey the complex concepts in the on-line medium. In 2012, our campus built a new science center with the capability to video live lectures. Soon after, I realized that if we did not begin offering our classes in the on-line format, we would be left in the previous century and our students would leave us behind. With the help of HVCC’s tremendously talented Instructional Designer, I built an entirely on-line biochemistry course. The foundation of the course is minimally edited, recorded lectures with student questions included. The on-line students watch these pre-recorded lectures while answering ‘workbook’ questions. They have a chance to interact and ask questions in discussion boards. And of course, a well-defined schedule, self-assessments and frequent quizzing are essential to keeping students on-task and prepared for the exams. After a few semesters teaching this course, I have been amazed at the depth of learning done by these students. The freedom they feel to pose questions and the work they put into answering their classmates questions has changed my view of on-line teaching. Together with my chemistry colleagues, we are preparing hybrid versions of our general chemistry courses utilizing the pre-recorded live lectures my current on-line students find so useful. For now, laboratory portions of our courses will remain on campus.