Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador 2017 – Buffalo: Amy VanScoy
Amy VanScoy is Assistant Professor in the Department of Library & Information Studies in the Graduate School of Education at the University at Buffalo. She has taught online, hybrid, and in-person courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. She holds a PhD in information and library science from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a masters in library and information science from the University of Alabama.
I have been teaching online and hybrid courses for future information professionals for the last five years. I feel that online teaching challenges us to truly put our teaching philosophy into practice. Throwing out the clichés of the classroom and the three-hour lecture forces us to think creatively, to structure our students’ learning experience toward our real goals and objectives, and to think strategically about what will keep a learner motivated through the inevitable challenges of learning.
Students and instructors sometimes approach online learning as a necessity. Students in our program often have full-time jobs and family responsibilities that can prevent them from attending in-person courses and can require them to squeeze their studies into lunch breaks and weekend afternoons. But online learning feels to me like an opportunity. I can cultivate an intimate student-teacher relationship, more akin to mentoring than the one-to-many kind of relationship that occurs in the traditional classroom. Shyness or communication challenges do not prevent students from contributing to group activities. And I have more power to curate the student’s entire learning experience for the course, not the just the three hours per week that I would have in an in-person course.
Beyond these opportunities, I find online teaching invigorating – the possibilities seem endless for exploring new ways of inspiring students and helping them learn. I am always on the lookout for new technologies and new ideas that I can incorporate into my courses. This attitude of experimentation is particularly important to model to my students. As future information professionals, they will need to be creative and nimble in using technology to design information systems and services and to reach clients who may not be able to visit a library or information center in person. By exploiting online instructional technology, I hope not only to facilitate my students’ learning, but also to help them to become critical consumers and creators of online learning.