Open SUNY 2018 Media Intern: Jamie Votraw

Jamie Votraw  was the Open SUNY/SUNY Online Teaching Media Intern from July 2018 to May 2020. Jamie is currently Professor of Communication at Florida SouthWestern State College in Cape Coral, Florida and credits the internship with SUNY Online Teaching as contributing positively to her success in securing that position.

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I joined SUNY Online (formerly Open SUNY) late in the summer of 2018. I was working as an Adjunct Professor and Ph.D. Candidate at the University at Albany when I joined the Online Teaching Unit as a Media Intern. This position felt like a good fit for me – it aligned well with my professional background in communication and it supported my interests in academia and pedagogy. As it turns out, I learned so much more than I had expected and the internship experience became instrumental in guiding my career path.

As a media intern, my official role was to manage, maintain, and optimize the unit’s social media content, as well as provide support to the online teaching community via events, webinars, activities, and other initiatives. Unsurprisingly, in this position I expected to update and contribute to social media content, participate in the online community, and promote our events and resources. However, what I did not anticipate was an opportunity to grow substantially as an educator.

Unlike past interns, my background is in communication, rather than instructional design. So I arrived to assist the unit with their multimedia needs – production, editing, promotion. Yet, as an educator myself, I grew increasingly interested in the pedagogical questions my supervisors posed and was fascinated by the calculated thinking they brought to their course design projects. Though I continued to complete media projects throughout my internship, I was afforded a great opportunity to embrace my passion for instruction in a new way – online.

I spent two years studying best practices for online teaching and learning under two incredible education professionals, Alexandra Pickett and Robert Piorkowski. Pickett and Piorkowski are experts in online pedagogy and instructional design, and in fact, pioneered standards for online teaching and course models early on at SUNY. Being a new faculty member, the opportunity to work alongside this team was invaluable. I attended the SUNY Online Summits, reviewed course designs, observed client consultation meetings, redesigned the course quality rubric, and even piloted new online discussion technology in my own courses.

Then, after almost two years of scholarship and personal growth, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and quite suddenly 64 SUNY schools were faced with an abrupt (and often unwanted) transition to online course delivery. Tens of thousands of faculty, and nearly half a million students were now all fully online. The need for support was unprecedented. A small team of instructional designers, faculty, and staff joined together to provide support to faculty SUNY-wide, offering 100 hours of live support online for weeks. I joined the emergency support team and the lessons Pickett and Piorkowski had taught were put into action. With my experience as an Adjunct Professor, coupled with my time working in the Online Teaching Unit, I was able to help many faculty, new to online teaching, design, build, and execute their own face-to-face courses in the online environment.

I spent the remainder of my time at SUNY Online helping new faculty assimilate to online teaching and sharing best practices for online instruction. The internship experience allowed me to do so much more than use my media skills at an institution of higher education. It made me a member of a community of educators and a skilled online instructor. I would highly recommend this internship to any individual interested in higher education, whether your focus may be media relations or online teaching and learning. This review of my experience should communicate to any prospective applicant the value of the SUNY Online Teaching Internship program, but it should also be considered a thank you to Alexandra Pickett and Robert Piorkowski for the daily support and guidance as a member of your team.

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