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Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador 2018 – Clinton: Lee Ann Thomas

Lee Ann Thomas

Lee Ann Thomas is a Professor in Humanities at Clinton Community College. She has committed her professional career as a public school teacher, corporate trainer, and college professor to empowering others to effectively express themselves in multiple contexts using various communication mediums.

Experienced instructors exploring the opportunity to develop and to teach a course fully online are understandably cautious about anticipated sacrifices they perceive will be experienced teaching in this format. I chose teaching as a profession because I desired the dynamic energy and exchange of ideas that occurs from live interaction with students, and I never desired to work in isolation. So, like others new to online teaching, I had my guard up to protect what I valued most about being a teacher. Once I gained confidence in the “bells and whistles” of the technology, my fears of sacrifice were resolved. The online medium is not limiting; it is surprisingly freeing. Quickly, teachers instructing online become part of a community interacting and benefiting from resources around them. Support will come from campus, instructional design resources and from sites like Open SUNY where peer ambassadors are available to assist.

The honor of serving as an ambassador is especially meaningful to me because when I first developed an online course and was feeling overwhelmed, I was directed to Professor John Nash, an experienced teacher living in a different state, that I am unlikely to ever meet in person who demonstrated compassion and effective teaching skills in his online communication with me. I continue to embrace his tips on course design and evaluation. This initial peer experience convinced me that teaching and learning in a technology-based medium could be informative and conducive to building personal connection. Just as learning online is not an effective choice for struggling, unmotivated students, it is, also, not an effective choice for struggling, unmotivated teachers. It will not transform an instructor who hoped this communication delivery platform would allow more distance from students and would require less attention and work then teaching face-to-face. It will, however, enhance and invigorate individuals who seek to expand their teaching effectiveness and communication skills.

I look forward to reinforcing that instructors of online courses are teachers choosing to use a technology-based delivery platform to engage, to empower, and to expand the personal and professional options of their students.

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