This week, I wanted to take some time to introduce one of Wichita State’s online faculty members that operates outside of our Instructional Design and Technology department. So, without further ado, please take the time to get to know Carrie Dickison!
One of the newest additions to the English department, Carrie came to WSU in August of 2015 as the Online English Coordinator. Previously, Carrie completed her MA in English Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she is also currently a Ph.D. candidate. While at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Carrie was the Assistant Director of the Professional Writing Program.
How did you come to Wichita State University?
I have a long-standing interest in online learning, so I was excited when I saw the job ad for an online coordinator in the English Department. It seemed like a great opportunity to keep working with students as an instructor, while also helping to build a larger program.
How long have you been teaching online?
I taught my first online class in the summer of 2010. It was a Business Communication course, and it ended the same week as my wedding. I ended up spending part of my honeymoon grading reports!
What are some of the courses that you teach or have taught online?
So far, I’ve taught Business Communication and College Writing 2.
What is your favorite part of online instruction?
I like the diversity of my online classes. I have students from all walks of life in my courses–many of whom have responsibilities that make it difficult for them to take traditional classes.
What is your least favorite part of online education and how do you overcome that?
The absence of fact-to-face contact can make it difficult to get to know online students. One way I try to overcome this is to ask have students introduce themselves at the beginning of class, through a discussion board, and to take time to respond to each one of their posts. Making that personal connection earlier helps me to see them as unique people rather than names on a roster.
What is your favorite Blackboard feature?
I love playing with new features, but I keep coming back to the discussion forum tool. It’s really versatile. I use it to have students introduce themselves early in the class, ask me questions about assignments, submit and comment on each other’s homework, and workshop early drafts of their work with their classmates. It’s also easy to grade, since Blackboard aggregates each student’s posts and replies for you.
What is your best piece of advice to new Blackboard instructors and students?
I’d tell new instructors to spend time planning ahead. One extra hour of planning, at the front end, can save you several hours of answering questions after the fact. I’d tell new and current online students the same thing. The flexibility of online classes can make it easy to procrastinate. And if you wait to the last minute, you’re much less likely to be able to get help if you need it.
What has been your biggest surprise of online instructing?
I’ve been really surprised by the relationships I’ve been able to build with some students. Even though I don’t physically meet most of my students, I feel like I get to know them through their writing and their interactions with me on Blackboard, and I think many of my students get to know me through my video lectures, my responses to their writing, and my interactions with them through Blackboard.