Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador 2017 – SUNY Poly: Donna Silsbee
Donna Silsbee, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in Health Information Management at SUNY Poly.
Imagine being able to deliver a live lecture to a class where the students are spread out over an area of several hundred miles and who are all a considerable distance away from you. Also, imagine you can deliver the lecture in real time and record it for students to watch later. And, as you give the lecture, students can raise their hands and ask questions. That is what we can offer through the Collaborate Ultra feature in Blackboard, the learning management system used by Open SUNY. We are essentially doing web conferencing for our classes. Collaborate Ultra is just one feature in Blackboard that makes online learning more like the traditional classroom. As technology continues to advance, the line between online courses and traditional courses is getting blurred. No more are online courses just some text documents or videos put up on the web. Classes don’t need to be totally asynchronous although they can be if that meets the needs of the students. Even class discussions and student presentations can now be live or video recorded. We can also set up sessions to do one-on-one work with our students.
When I was a graduate student, I drove a 180-mile round trip to attend just one class in one course and there were many such courses. Think of it, a 15-week course caused me to drive 2,800 miles! What could I have done with all that time? Or more precisely, what didn’t I get done while I was doing all the driving? Even if the course met just once a week, that commute became tiring and it was expensive. In the winter months, I was often putting my life in danger due to the weather conditions. It also made for a very long day because I was working full-time. It was not the optimum condition for learning. Unfortunately, that was before online learning made its appearance. I would have loved online courses!
Now, my students who are place bound due to work or family obligations can be at home and participate in their course. Since the lectures are recorded, they can watch the videos on their schedule. Even examinations which must be proctored can be done at home using our remote proctoring technology. Online learning removes two important barriers to college education: distance and scheduling conflicts.
Most of my students are working adults who need to further their education to advance in their careers. In many cases, their employers are paying some or all their tuition. Most students now are savvy when it comes to technology. They are so used to using their cell phones, tablets, and laptops, the online courses are quite easy for them to navigate.
I can’t wait to see what comes next with the technology! Each innovation enhances the learning environment and it makes me a better teacher!