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“Be present!” Faculty Spotlight: Dolores Huffman, PhD, RN, Purdue University-Calumet

Submitted by on February 18, 2014 – 1:11 pmNo Comment


For this Faculty Spotlight, we interviewed Dolores Huffman, PhD, RN, Associate Professor for Purdue University-Calumet’s RN-BSN program. We have worked with Dolores since the inception of the online program and are honored to feature the excellent work she does!

AP: How long have you been teaching online?

DH: I have been teaching online since the beginning of the RN-BSN online program. I was the original designer of the PUC Nursing Research course. However, prior to working with the AP-supported program, I taught online for Purdue University Calumet, College of Nursing.

What is the biggest obstacle of teaching online?

The biggest obstacle to teaching online is not being able to physically see students’ responses to learning. In the classroom, you can see that perplexed look or the hand that is going up to seek clarification or ask additional questions. You witness students whispering to each other and you can make inquiries as to their level of understanding course content or change your teaching style to accommodate declining interest. At the end of every on-campus class, I ask students what they now know that they did not know at the beginning of the class and receive spontaneous and immediate replies. I have not been able to capture that in the online format.

Do you come across this obstacle as well? If so, you might consider reading: Are They Learning? Formative Feedback.

What is the biggest advantage to teaching online?

Advancing one’s education should have the goal of making a difference in impacting one’s nursing practice and thinking. In online teaching you have the advantage of large classes to foster the attainment of that goal.

What tips do you have to new online instructors?

Respond to e-mails as soon as possible; listen to students’ comments-they have a different perspective. You can learn from them. Remember that sometimes they do not know what is expected in their communication style and you have the opportunity to help them grow. Growth is more than the attainment of course objectives but insight into presenting oneself as a professional through their correspondence and discussion forum remarks.

Great suggestion! To help with responding to e-mails as soon as possible, consider reading: 4 Time-Saving Tips for Managing Email in Your Online Course .

What is the #1 best practice you use in online teaching?

Be present! Let the students know you are there. This could be through e-mails, discussions, announcements and general correspondence that ask them how they are doing with the course material. One strategy I use to demonstrate my presence is to ask during the first week of the class, “What is one question I have about this class?” I then answer their questions sometimes grouping them into similar categories if appropriate. The responding document is lengthy and labor intensive but I have received considerable feedback regarding their appreciation of my responses and being able enhance their learning through reading my responses to their peer’s questions. This strategy also encourages some students to engage in further scholarly dialogue related to research expectations beyond the scope of the class. For me personally, it is a good way to let them know “I am present” and all your questions are important.

For more tips on “being present” in the classroom, check out 9 Strategies to Ensure Successful Course Discussions.

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