Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Sue Misner, Purdue University-Calumet School of Nursing
Dr. Sue Misner, Purdue University-Calumet School of Nursing professor has been teaching online for four years and has stood out as a professor who goes the extra mile for her students and strives for excellence while teaching online. We had a chance to interview her to gain some knowledge she has acquired over the years. See below for our interview.
How long have you been teaching online?
I have been teaching online courses for four years through the College of Nursing, Purdue University Calumet. When I started teaching online courses, I’d never taken an online course myself as a student.
What is the biggest obstacle in teaching online?
Technical glitches can occur during online courses. I recall a situation in which a student had posted a discussion comment, and other students had replied to the first student’s comment. Then, though the replies remained at the site for the online discussion, the initial student posting disappeared – into the cyberspace never-never land. Otherwise, creating an educational atmosphere that feels personalized to individual students can be a challenge at times.
What is the biggest advantage to teaching online?
My first impression about the benefits of online courses was the increased access to educational options for students. For example, I noted that students who were multiple role, working mothers or fathers with young children are up at night doing required course activities – which may be difficult, but at the same time may be doable for them, as compared in person class sessions. Another example was a student who lived in a remote, rural region of a southern state, but was able to participate in the online course that I was teaching from Hammond Indiana. Now, some online courses can allow participation internationally.
Besides the advantage of access, online education can be tiered and branched with different levels of conceptual sophistication for students. Course content and activities can be structured so that students may pursue increasingly complex information, at their own pace, based on their background, their time for designated study, and their interests.
What tips do you have to new online instructors?
I learned this tip early in teaching online courses: strive for consistency in all components of the course documents, assignment pages, to do lists, and directions. I found that it is easy for discrepancies to occur, which understandably would be confusing to students – and instructors!
Another lesson learned was to keep course communications brief, concrete, and clear.
Online teaching may require more flexibility. During the first online course I taught, students living in one region of the country had a serious blizzard with power outages. The students living in the area of the blizzard were evacuated from their homes to emergency shelters for several days, while other students in the course were posting their required assignments online as usual.
I personally have enjoyed co-teaching online courses with colleagues from whom I can learn and with whom I can share creative ideas. I think students benefit from experiencing the collaboration of faculty members.
What is the #1 best practice you use in online teaching?
It seems obvious, but the concept is so fundamental as a best practice for online education: students need to be provided adequate orientation to the specific technologies used for distance learning. It is important that the technology becomes a useful tool, and not the barrier for student’s success in meeting their learning objectives.