Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador 2017 – Ulster: Maureen Nicholson
Maureen Nicholson earned a BA in Humanities/Mathematics from the College of St. Rose, and an MA in Natural Science/Mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She started her career at SUNY Ulster in 1985 as a Math Specialist instituting a math tutoring center. Even then she embraced the online realm by designing and implementing online math tutorials and workshops including Overcoming Math Anxiety. Over time, she advanced to become the Assistant Director of the Learning Center where she developed an online tutoring center along with an online tutor training course. In 2003 she joined the full time Faculty and became an integral member of the STEM department and Math Program Coordinator. She applied for and received a Title III mini grant to enhance student engagement with a tablet pc. Following the success of the grant project, she oversaw the purchase of tablets for math faculty to create personalized, just in time tutorials for both face to face and online students. She implemented numerous online utilities for her face to face classes. She continues to supplement all her courses with many distance learning tools such as links to resources, extra notes, how-to videos, homework, handouts, worksheets and solutions. With this, she creates an additional online toolbox for students fortunate enough to be enrolled in her classes. About one and a half years ago, Maureen began teaching math online with a decidedly student focus. She created an online course for Discrete Mathematics in Spring 2016, then Basic Algebra in Summer 2016. In these courses she engages students by providing VoiceThread lectures that include video of her scribing steps and audibly explaining the mathematical process for various problems. Students respond and improve through her efforts to provide teacher presence. She has her students submit scanned in handwritten homework. She then responds using the Blackboard grading tool providing handwritten feedback. With these lectures and tutorials, as well as in her homework feedback, she creates a definitive teacher presence. As a result, student retention is high for her courses. It is clear through student surveys, even with MyMathLab or other online textbook sites, students prefer the touch of the professor.