A guide to online education

Duffy award-winning professor shepherds returning students into digital classroom

English professor Shelley Jones might be the best friend Palmetto College students have.

Recognizing that students returning to college to take classes online differ from more traditional in-classroom students, Jones has developed extracurricular classes that basically teach those returning students how to be students again — and how to avail themselves to all the digital resources.

Her efforts were recognized with a Garnet Apple teaching award last year and with the John J. Duffy Excellence in Teaching Award — available only to those who teach in Palmetto College — this year.

“I made the classes noncredit because I didn’t want students to be charged for these,” Jones says. “They are free and not required.”

The online modules cover research basics, information literacy and an introduction to Palmetto College research opportunities. “The modules also help them practice taking a class online in a no-stakes environment,” she adds. “There’s no pressure. It’s just for practice. They’re not turning in anything for grades.”

She also helps her online students make use of other student resources, including the Career Center, the Writing Center and Study Abroad programs. With the Career Center, for example, students will submit resumes to career counselors, get feedback, add in any internships and get a second review.

“I want to make sure our students have a pathway to use these resources at a distance,” she says. Jones also is always looking for ways to hone the online experience for students.

One key, she says, is making sure students can see everything that they will have to accomplish from the beginning. Much like a classroom professor uses a syllabus, Jones maps out her classes from beginning to end with visual cues for when students have to submit something.

“I do try to honor the medium through which I’m teaching to make sure the promises of Palmetto College are being upheld,” she says. “The online teacher-student interaction is as rich as face-to-face if I am honoring the medium.”

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