By Hattie Bernstein
More than 40 full-time faculty members joined the College of Online and Continuing Education in August, a response to burgeoning enrollments and another example of COCE’s commitment to providing students with a high-quality education.
Most have been teaching online as adjunct instructors. As full-time COCE Faculty, they will assume responsibilities similar to those of full-time faculty on traditional college campuses and have more of a voice regarding COCE’s academic efforts.
“There’s a huge service commitment to this institution. They’ll be teaching courses, working with the deans, other aspects of administration,” said Dr. Gregory Fowler, vice president of Academic Affairs and chief academic officer for COCE. “The big job is being an academic anchor, the voice of academic quality.”
Though they live all over the U.S., the new faculty members will travel to COCE regularly to meet with colleagues and participate in academic committees. They will set goals using SNHU’s student-centered metric: What matters first is identifying struggling students and guiding them to success.
Meet three members of the new full-time cohort.
When marketing and social media instructor Jessica Rogers tells prospective students to “Stop thinking – just do it,” she’s not quoting from a book.
It’s what she did in 2008 after she was laid off from a marketing director job.
Stunned by the loss and plagued by feelings of failure, Rogers reached out to a former professor at Texas A&M University who asked if she would be interested in teaching an introduction to marketing class.
“I started with one class and it was extremely enjoyable,” she said. “That led to another semester and Googling for information about other positions.”
Online teaching became even more appealing after Rogers gave birth to her son a year later. With a laptop on one knee and her baby snuggled close, she could juggle motherhood and teaching without a hitch. Like many of her students, she knows what it’s like to manage family, work and school.
“When someone asks about my teaching philosophy, I always get stumped,” she said. “I don’t think I have one. I take things as they come. Every student is different.
“You have to have some sort of connection with the person. It’s not just me giving information and them receiving it,” she adds. “I want them to engage with me.”
It’s the same when it comes to her students’ successes.
“They’re my customers and I want them to be happy with the education, tell their friends about it,” Rogers said.
Dr. Tom MacCarty
Dr. Tom MacCarty has been a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, a probation and parole officer, a school psychologist, a guidance counselor and an adjunct instructor. In September, he adds another job to his resume: member of the COCE Faculty in the graduate psychology program.
“I could not be happier,” he said.
For MacCarty, the new job is an honor and a responsibility — something he doesn’t take lightly.
“I started out as a drug and alcohol counselor because I had my own issues,” he said. “I told myself, ‘If I ever get my act together, I want to help others.’”
As an adjunct in COCE’s undergraduate psychology program, MacCarty was attentive to students who were struggling. “I’m building that trust,” he said. “Sometimes a student will email me and ask, ‘Can I talk to you, get your feedback?’ I listen, throw some ideas out.”
If he has a teaching philosophy, MacCarty said, it’s that his students come first.
“It boils down to, you put your own personal view on a back burner, teach through the eyes of your students,” he said. “I’m there to serve them and it’s not the other way around.”
But he also wants students to enjoy learning and see the benefits that don’t end when the course is over.
“I want them to come away from each class [feeling they’re] bettering themselves, not just educationally, but personally,” he said. “That they will take this information and use it in their life. I want this time to be valuable.”
Dr. Rich Schultz
Anyone who’s ever wondered if online classes are as effective as those taught face-to-face should talk to Dr. Rich Schultz, COCE Faculty member in the new undergraduate geosciences program.
“I’ve been teaching online since 1997, when you had to write your own code, develop your own website,” said Schultz, a geographic information systems expert who left Elmhurst College in Chicago to take the full-time position at SNHU. “I like online education because students can study when they want.
“In face-to-face discussions, students would get that deer-in-the-headlight look,” he added. “Online, they have time to reflect and compose. They aren’t as nervous. They open up, get into things deeper.”
To improve his teaching skills and his understanding of his students, Schultz, who also is the current National Science Foundation Grant co-principal investigator at the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence, enrolled in an online teaching certificate program.
“Before, it was all about content. You provided it face-to-face, made sure [students] understood,” he said. “Now, it’s not only the application, but you take it one step further. It’s about individual students and how they succeed. You [present] content in different ways.”
To accomplish this, Schultz customizes work to fit each student’s learning style. Most, having grown up viewing screens of various sizes, are visual learners. Some learn better by hearing. And still others need a hands-on approach.
“Now, it’s much more personalized,” Schultz said. “It’s what the individual students in that class need.”
And a student’s success is also the instructor’s.
“There’s a sense of pride when they succeed,” Schultz said. “There’s absolutely nothing more rewarding to me than when, four or five years [later], a student will write, ‘You probably don’t remember me, but I took your class and I went to Hawaii and saw volcanoes, all the things you taught us. I learned something in your class.’”