Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador 2018 – Brockport: Jie Zhang

Jie Zhang

Jie Zhang is an Associate Professor of Special Education at the College at Brockport, State University of New York (SUNY). She earned her PhD in Exceptional Learning from Tennessee Technological University. She has been teaching blended courses since 2010, online courses since 2015, and Open Educational Resources (OERs) courses since 2016. She is offering a Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) course in Spring 2018. Dr. Zhang has published 20 articles in peer-reviewed journals at international or national levels, and presented 51 papers at international or national conferences since 2008. She received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award in Excellence for Teaching in 2017, and serves as the Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador in 2018.

I believe that a good teacher is student-centered, has a passion for teaching, facilitates student learning, is approachable and available, and is an active learner. Online teaching encourages me to challenge myself to reach these goals.

I teach with passion, and support student learning by using a variety of instructional strategies and materials: scholarly works, videos, modules, case studies, and real life scenarios. Online teaching provides me the platform to present these materials in an organized and systematic way, so that it is easy for students to navigate the course and to locate the materials. I use the backward design model with the learning objectives and student learning outcomes in mind, and routinely revisit course materials to make sure they are up-to-date and accessible to all learners. Different strategies and materials bring the dry academic information to life, and create an inviting learning environment for students.

I support student learning by using a variety of technology tools, and carefully designing and conducting assessments. Student-led online discussions, case studies, online modules, quizzes, authentic projects, self-reflections, and collaborative teamwork via Padlet, google docs, google slides, voice thread, and Blackboard Collaborate are used to assess and support student learning. I scaffold core assignments into pieces with clear guidelines and due dates throughout the semester, so that the students get prompt feedback and guidance along the way. By doing so, the students feel more confident about their final products and usually result in better outcomes. Teaching like this is time-consuming and takes careful preparation, but it emphasizes the process, promotes learning, decreases high-stake risks, and assesses students’ gained knowledge and skills throughout the whole course. Teaching online helps me plan ahead, manage time, monitor progress, and facilitate students to achieve learning goals.

Teaching touches students’ lives through meaningful interactions. As a teacher, I am a continuous resource for students, and online teaching matches perfectly with this role. I support student learning by being approachable, available, flexible, and willing to offer extra help. Without the physical boundaries of a classroom setting, I extend my availability outside of the typical work hours, on weekends, in person, via e-mails, phone calls, and video conferences. Online teaching helps me communicate with students in a timely manner.

Since teaching is my passion, I pursue it with a great deal of energy. I am never afraid of changes. I am always willing to learn and pilot new technology, strategies, and tools. When encountering learning curves, I keep my mind open, collaborate with colleagues, and work closely with students. I have been actively participating in professional development events, such as SUNY Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) programs, Open Educational Resources (OERs) programs, Tools of Engagement Project (TOEP), and online or blended teaching related Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) at the College at Brockport. The collaboration with colleagues and students helps me overcome barriers, benefits my teaching, and enhances student learning. I continue to look for ways to improve teaching. To me, teaching, like learning, is an ongoing process.

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