Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador 2016 – Albany: Gina Giuliano
“I have been teaching online courses since 2000, on campus classes since 2002, and blended learning classes since 2008. That’s not an error; my first teaching experience was in the online world, two years before I stepped foot in a classroom.
In 1998, suspecting I would be ABD otherwise, I left my job as an administrator at SUNY System Administration to focus on my dissertation, and accepted a GA position at UAlbany. Gradually over the course of my doctoral studies, I developed an interest in working more closely with students than could be provided at the system headquarters. I did not have any teaching experience, so I jumped at the opportunity to develop a new fully online version of an existing undergraduate class, Social Foundations of Education. Since the 1990s, I have been an early adopter of technology, and while I’d never taken a fully online class myself, had completed two experimental distance learning courses as part of the doctoral program. Social Foundations was offered through the SUNY Learning Network, and used Lotus Notes (which I sometimes still miss). The training was extensive, and while I didn’t know quite what to expect, I felt ready when it went live in January 2000.
In 1899, a teacher in Boston wrote, “I can no more forget that first class than a man forgets his first love, or a warrior his first battle. My classroom had 56 desks bolted to the floor…” (Tyack, D., 2007, The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education, Harvard University Press, p. 255). At the dawn of a new century 100 years later, I was teaching for the first time, teaching an online class, defending a dissertation, and figuring out how to live on a GA stipend. The 42 students who were enrolled in Social Foundations that spring semester were not sitting in desks that were bolted to the floor, but I will never forget them. In recent years it is less common to find students enrolling who have never taken an online class before, although of course it still happens. However, even five years ago, I often had students in class who were new to the delivery method. But in the spring of 2000, they really felt like pioneers, and so did I. Since that time, I have taught the class about 40 times, but never again with 42 students. One lesson I took from that memorable first time 16 years ago was that class size matters!
For the past couple years, suspicious that hybrid approaches were better than fully online, but acknowledging that any on campus component disadvantage distance students, about three years ago I introduced web conferencing into my classes. However, the drawback for fully online classes is that web conferencing is a synchronous approach. Fast forward to spring 2016, and I was delighted to be chosen to pilot VoiceThread, an asynchronous multimedia discussion platform for online learning.”