Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador 2016 – FIT: Rena Sussman
Rena Sussman received her B.S. Empire State College, SUNY, Textile Surface Design, A.A.S., Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY, Textile Surface Design & Display and Exhibit Design. For 30 years she has been teaching at the Fashion Institute of Technology holding the rank of Adjunct Associate Professor where she teaches Textile Surface Design Fabric Styling, face-to-face and Internship Studies, face-to-face and online.
She is the online coordinator in Internship Studies.
My major responsibilities are mentoring new online faculty, coordination of new online courses, creating dialogue between faculty teaching online and sharing effective teaching methodologies with faculty to maintain best practices for online courses.
I have been teaching online courses for 11 years and have seen the innovative and exciting evolution of online teaching. The first time teaching online was not by choice but rather because someone was no longer able to teach their class. I was asked to train and take over for the following semester; I was very apprehensive but excited at the opportunity to try a new way of teaching. I have always enjoyed the interaction with my students so in the beginning the opportunities to be interactive with the class were not as (in my opinion) it is today. I always wanted my students to feel as if I was there with them and at time felt a disconnect. All of this has changed because of all of the technology that is available to us. I make announcement videos at least twice a week. I find fun, interesting and informative articles and videos that support the Module/ Unit topic. The students make video assignments that strengthen their written and verbal skills while preparing them to enter the workplace.
My students are in internships and have a lot to share with each other. During the discussions. They are going through an emotional transition preparing to leave college and enter the fashion and fashion related industries. Today students spend so much time on some type of device so for that reason it was frustrating when they were not meeting the requirements that were clearly written in the course information section. This became personal when I went back to to school to earn my B.A. and was taking online classes. I realized that when my professors were engaged and present in the class the class had better discussions we wanted to provide meaningful content (maybe feeling that the professor was always present!) to the discussions and connect with classmates. When we migrated from Blackboard to Angel I had my discussions open for two weeks. My students would make posts and respond to their classmates however they did not participate during the second week as they had during the fist week and without the same commitment. What I found was that they wanted a personal connection, to hear me explain what the discussion was about, what the requirements were, they wanted to see me and know that I was present while making a meaningful connection. When we migrated back to Blackboard, and I must say I was very upset because I had gotten so good on Angel, I decided to reduce the discussion to one week. Now I have animated, interesting and engaging discussions where most students meet the requirements. It makes me happy that they are enjoying their time within the “classroom” and learning from me and from each other. I am mindful of my students needs and willing to adjust the courses while being mindful of all new technologies available.
I am passionate about teaching and the support that I have at F.I.T. from the online director and her team. I am delighted to be part of the SUNY system and Open SUNY COTE.