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SUNY Online Learning Part I

The Open SUNY Center for Online Teaching Excellence (COTE) began 2017 with the goal of identifying, recognizing, and showcasing exemplary online instructors.  Each SUNY campus was asked to select up to two online teaching faculty who are both enthusiastic and effective, and could be strong advocates for online teaching in the SUNY community.  The School of Liberal Studies selected Kenneth Mann and Barbara McMullen for this distinction on the Purchase College campus.  They will be featured on the Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassadors website and sharing their insights with the Open SUNY community of practice throughout the year.

Below, we share Barbara McMullen’s narrative regarding online teaching.  Upon reading it, it should be quite clear why Barbara was selected as an Online Teaching Ambassador.

- Kathy Ceng

Online Learning

barbara-e-mcmullen-2“Online learning is a positive disruption in education, with the Internet enabling creative new teaching methods, tools and environments.  Learners everywhere, both new and continuing, have opportunities not previously open to them.  The importance of preparing faculty to address the unique challenges of teaching online is paramount and I see wonderful examples of this at both SUNY Purchase and Westchester Community College. I teach fully online, in a hybrid classroom, a flipped classroom and on-site.  I work my hardest on the online, hybrid and flipped classes because they are 3 stepping stones to a new way of lifelong learning for my students.

Exploration is also important for online teachers.  As a past academic technology administrator, both at Marist College and Tufts University, responsible for online learning, my team and I experimented with the new World Wide Web, bringing Marist College teachers a new and exciting environment as one of the first 1,000 servers on the Web.  I also experimented with Second Life, an online virtual world for our online educators at Marist and continued this exploration at Monroe College as Dean of Online Learning.  A myriad of online software and hardware tools have passed through my office over the years, as faculty worked to find what best facilitated the learning they wished to impart at a distance from the students they taught.  Now, as an online educator at SUNY Purchase, I look for the best ways to leverage the myriad tools available to me in Moodle to provide an environment of my own design that best enables my students to learn.

I have also been able to apply my understanding of how students use online tools as a consultant to Acrobatiq LLC, a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Courseware Challenge to produce next generation online courseware, and to Learn America, a global learning community providing a blended learning environment for STEM education.

My online classes must constantly change and improve, based on what I observe and learn from my students.  Online education is definitely a two-way street.  The sage on the stage is dead in more ways than one in an online environment.  Facilitating learning, when students have many different learning styles and needs, is a continuous learning curve for the teacher.  My biggest challenge is not to succumb to student suggestions that a simpler, less structured environment, with less content will better suit their needs.  I must always remember that their goals are different from mine.  We are both eager to succeed.  Their success will be demonstrated by a good grade.  My success will be demonstrated by what was learned.  Bringing these goals happily into sync is the ongoing challenge. “

-Barbara McMullen