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2012 Online College Professor of the Year Contest Information and Nominations

About the Contest

The world of online education has experienced explosive growth within the last few years, uprooting the traditional higher education model and changing the way we learn. According to the Sloan Consortium’s 2011 Survey of Online Learning, nearly one-third of college students are taking at least one online course, and 65% of higher education institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy.

Along with this continuous growth, the definition of what it means to be an outstanding educator is changing as technology plays a bigger role both in and out of the classroom. BestCollegesOnline.com wants to recognize forward-thinking professors who are using new technologies to enhance the learning experience for distance students and prepare them for success in their courses and after graduation. Now is the time to nominate yourself, your colleague, or your professor for the 2012 Online College Professor of the Year!

Who Can Be Nominated:

The contest is open to all educators, regardless of rank or formal position, who have taught online courses at an institution of higher education, whether public, private, or for-profit. The contest is open to U.S. residents only. To be eligible for nomination, candidates must meet the following requirements:

  • Be currently employed as an online/hybrid class instructor at an online or campus-based college or university in the United States
  • Have at least 12 total months of teaching experience as a full-time or part-time educator
  • Have taught an online or hybrid/blended course during the year 2011

Online courses are those where all class activity is conducted over the Internet. Hybrid/blended courses are those where at least 30% of in-class sessions are replaced with online activity. Professors who are nominated for the contest will be contacted by BestCollegesOnline.com to verify eligibility and ensure all requirements are met.

How the Contest Works:

Nominations can be submitted by fellow educators, online students, or the online instructors themselves. Employees associated with BestCollegesOnline.com are not eligible to take part in the 2012 Online College Professor of the Year Competition either as a nominator or nominee. The contest will proceed in the following order.

  1. Online nomination forms will be available at BestCollegesOnline.com for two weeks, beginning on March 21st and ending on April 3rd. Nomination forms must be complete and submitted by 11:59 p.m. CST on April 3rd.
  2. Upon tallying up total number of nominations and verifying eligibility, qualified professors with the highest number of nominations will be sent the 2012 Online College Professor Questionnaire. This simple questionnaire will include questions regarding online teaching experience. Nominees will have one week to return the questionnaire and those who fail to do so within the specified timeframe will forfeit their nomination. The deadline to return the completed questionnaire is April 10th at 11:59 p.m. CST.
  3. Final nominees will be determined first by number of nominations and second by their responses to the 2012 Online College Professor Questionnaire. The 10 nominees who receive the most nominations will advance to the voting round. In the case that one or more nominees receive an equal number of nominations, those who score the highest on the questionnaire will advance to the voting round. Questionnaire responses will be scored and reviewed by our panel of experts, a group of professionals with a diverse background in areas like educational technology, higher education writing, instructional design, and virtual instruction.
  4. Voting will take place on the BestCollegesOnline.com for two weeks, from April 12th to April 25th. Voting is open to everyone, but will be limited to one submission per person. The online professor who receives the highest number of votes during the voting period will be announced the winner of the 2012 Online College Professor of the Year Contest.

What The Winner Gets:

The nominee who receives the highest number of online votes during the voting period will be awarded a check for $1,000 USD and a “2012 Online College Professor of the Year” badge/banner to place on their professional or personal website. The winner will be announced May 1st.


Meet the 2012 Online College Professor of the Year Final Nominees

Ted Cross, M.S.Ed.

Online Full-Time Faculty, Liberal Arts and Business
Grand Canyon University

Ted Cross is an online faculty member at Grand Canyon University who teaches liberal arts and business courses. In addition to his teaching duties, he is a manager of full-time online faculty at GCU, contributes regularly to an online teaching blog for GCU’s Center for Innovation and Research in Teaching, and has published an article on hybrid doctoral learning outcomes in the Journal of Instructional Research. Cross has been described by his colleagues as a strong curriculum developer and enhancer in his online classrooms, as he adds visual and interactive tools in his classes, utilizes creative teachings strategies, and creates resources to help students reach their goals.

One co-worker describes him as “always thinking about how he can adapt and improve his instructional techniques to enhance his students’ learning.” As an online educator, Cross says that it is the interaction with his students that pushes him to learn new things as he strives to engage them and help them love learning. “I try and connect that learning to their lives and show them through my own stories that I too am human, that even teachers still need to learn daily,” Cross said. “It is this constant learning that makes me curiously persistent in finding ways to reach students in the burgeoning world of online education.”

Loretta Mattio-Hamilton, M.S.NH

Associate Professor, Medical Billing and Coding
Herzing University

With nine years of experience in online education, Loretta Mattio-Hamilton is an experienced instructor in the field of medical billing and coding courses. She has served as the department chair for medical billing and coding at Herzing University Online and holds membership in several professional organizations, including the American Health Information Management Association, American Academy of Professional Coders, and American Medical Technologists. Her many professional credentials include Certified Allied Health Instructor, Certified Coding Specialist, Certified Professional Coder, and Certified Medical Assistant.

With a strong passion and commitment to learning, Mattio-Hamilton engages online students through weekly discussion boards, as well as individually over phone meetings and private Web conferencing sessions. But her commitment to her online students goes far beyond the virtual classroom. Even when the teacher/student relationship no longer exists, Mattio-Hamilton doesn’t close the door on her students, according to a former student who was diagnosed with cancer last September. “Today, she continues to be a part of my life in a different way, as a friend and great supporter of me through a journey with cancer,” the student explained. “Her commitment to her students goes far beyond just being a teacher.”

Rose Handon, Ph.D.

Online Adjunct Faculty, Human Services
Post University

An online adjunct faculty member for Post University’s department of human services, Rose Handon teaches graduate-level courses regarding human development, applied research, sociology, and ethics and diversity. She has 25 years of experience as a field instructor for various universities, 31 years of experience in governmental public service, and a self-described continuous need to continue to enhance her own professional development. Handon regularly participates in continuing education, training, and research as she strives to promote academic excellence and help online students grow and learn beyond what they ever imagined.

While her students have described her as an amazing instructor who is tough but fair, it is Handon’s own words that capture her dedication to online education. “As an online instructor, I take my job quite seriously,” she said. “I believe we should provide students with an exemplary education, as they prepare themselves to meet the demands of society, communities, their employers, families, and for themselves. My role as an instructor is to promote academic excellence and to help students to grow and learn beyond what they ever imagined.”

Mike Johnson, M.Ed.

Online Full-Time Faculty, Mathematics
Grand Canyon University

Mike Johnson has worked in education for more than 10 years, tutoring and teaching students in mathematics. He earned his master’s degree in mathematics education where his course load and thesis focused on online technology and dynamic software and how it can be used for mathematics instruction and curriculum. As a mathematics faculty member at Grand Canyon University, he not only teaches online courses, but develops instructional methods for the online mathematics classroom and trains online mathematics faculty.

Johnson has been described by his colleagues as going above and beyond his job requirements to reach out to his online students through tailored instruction, video lectures, and live tutoring sessions. One coworker says it best: “As an online math instructor, Mike often faces an uphill battle with his students. However, his enthusiasm for the subject and desire to help his students converts his students into believers: believers that not only can they do math, but they can do it well online.”

Renee Michelle Salman, M.A.

Adjunct Instructor, English
Kaplan University Online

Renee Michelle Salman has spent the past 13 years using computers to teach students English, both face-to-face and online. As an adjunct instructor for the composition department of Kaplan University, she educates students on different writing styles, strategies, and processes to help them communicate effectively and professionally. Salman believes that being involved with students in the online environment on a daily basis is imperative for their success. She strives to ensure her students do not feel alone in cyberspace and creates a virtual learning community through class Facebook pages, virtual classroom meetings, weekly group discussion boards, and individual meetings over the phone, instant messaging, or Skype.

Perhaps this is why her students have referred to her as an extraordinary teacher, who frequently interacts with her students, provides in-depth responses, and makes online learning easy. One former student describes Salman as a very knowledgeable and dedicated online instructor. “I feel like I have established a very good working relationship with her and frequently just communicate with her to get her feel on other problems I might have with test anxiety and stress,” the student said. “Her online classes are a real challenge, but certainly a positive learning experience and make for better ‘college writers’.”

Heather Zink, MHA

Online Faculty, Health Sciences
Rasmussen College Online

Heather Zink began teaching online health sciences courses in 2008 at Rasmussen College Online. In addition to being an online instructor, Zink serves as the live virtual lecture manager, lead faculty for medical terminology, and has served as a subject matter expert and instructor for a faculty development online course on podcasting. She not only shares her knowledge with her students, but her fellow educators as well and has conducted presentations on topics like online student engagement and learning strategies at the Pearson Learning Summit, International Online Conference, and the Wimba Connect Conference.

Students have described Zink as leading the way with virtual classroom delivery and creating dynamic learning environments through live interactive lectures, podcasts, webinars, and social media. Colleagues say she is committed to her students’ learning, refuses to be hindered by distance, and is an exceptional online instructor. But perhaps Zink says it best herself: “I believe that in order for an individual to be a successful online student, we need to ensure they have the same tools available as on-campus students do — it requires creativity to accomplish this in the asynchronous learning environment. I work hard for my students and I reap the benefits of my students working hard for me.”

Sherrilyn Bernier, Ed.D.

Adjunct Professor Online, Human Services
Post University

While Sherrilyn Bernier has taught in higher education for 10 years, it wasn’t until 2010 that she began teaching online at Post University. And it was a good thing she did. Students describe her as a professor who upholds the highest standards, expects professionalism, and takes the time to provide feedback so future work can be improved. Her strong belief that feedback is an important and vital tool in the virtual classroom might come from her own experience as a student.

A self-described adult learner, Bernier did not return to higher education to complete her bachelor’s degree until her own son went away to college. But she didn’t stop at an undergraduate education, and Bernier earned her master’s degree in 2001 and doctorate in 2006, an experience that truly taught her it’s never too late to earn an education. In addition, it has helped her to understand her students. “I can truly relate to my students who are juggling work, family, and college,” Bernier said. “Through an online education, the student is able to manage all aspects of their busy life. And when my students learn that I too began my educational path later in life and have obtained my doctorate, [and] it gives them encouragement that it is possible to achieve the education they so desire.”

Ritu Sharma McDowell, Ph.D.

Adjunct Instructor, English
Kaplan University

Ritu Sharma McDowell has more than 20 years of experience in higher education, in which she has taught English at both secondary and post-secondary levels. As an adjunct instructor at Kaplan University, McDowell engages her students by incorporating synchronous communication tools, audio/video recording tools, and group collaboration tools. She is described by her students as a remarkable teacher with outstanding delivery skills and an inspiring professor who goes beyond the call of duty.

McDowell makes every effort to reach out and motivate her students through exceptional virtual instruction that makes them feel involved and engaged. “I ignite their intellectual curiosity and quench their thirst for knowledge,” she said. “I offer value added content and take them from known to unknown, darkness to light, and ignorance to knowledge via teaching. It is not my profession but passion, and I strongly believe that my success lies in the success of my students.”

LeAnne Prenovost, MBA/MSN

Full Time Online Faculty, Nursing
Grand Canyon University

With more than 25 years of nursing experience, LeAnne Prenovost has held titles such as charge nurse, nurse manager labor and delivery, and director of maternal/child service line. About five years ago, she also added online educator to her list when she began teaching online courses in nursing, health care, and business. Once an online student herself, Prenovost understands how difficult returning to college as an adult is, especially with the additional challenges of attending college online and learning how to use the computer for learning. “My goal is to use technology to the advantage of my students, but to not overwhelm them,” she said. “I have many students in various levels of competency with technology and it is easy to overwhelm [them] with by too much technology.”

And her students seem to be appreciative, describing her as an excellent professor who truly cares about her students as individuals, goes beyond the minimum, and is passionate about nursing, her job, and student success. The influence she has leaves a permanent impact, according to one student. “LeAnne is a professor who has remained a significant influence in my career. Her course is interactive and she responds to questions with insight and care. You forget that you are participating in an online course,” the student said. “I think the test of a good online teacher is that they have the ability to connect with their students and cultivate a strong relationship within the online community.”

Kay McLennan, Ph.D.

Professor of Practice, Continuing Studies
Tulane University

Kay McLennan has more than 10 years online teaching experience. As a professor of practice at Tulane University, she teaches courses in business, management, marketing, and microeconomics. A leader in online education, McLennan regularly participates in professional development activities and has presented at the GameTech 2012 Conference, Tulane Women Faculty Research Day, and will be presenting at EdMedia 2012 World Conference. Says one of her colleagues, “For the last nine years she has constantly ranked in the top 10% of instructors on the student faculty evaluations and is regarded by her peers as best of class in online education. Kay has had great success and has been a leader in introducing second life to the online student experience.”

One way McLennan enhances the online student experience is by utilizing e-teaching in virtual worlds to engage students and create a learning community. Within these 3-D virtual worlds students can access virtual communication centers to participate in real time and asynchronous discussions as well as complete interactive learning activities. With her ability to not only create a virtual classroom but a virtual world, McLennan is sure to impact higher education’s online community. “I sincerely believe that the type of virtual world learning simulations I am building and virtual world learning activities I am facilitating will play a big role in future online learning,” she said. “Still, with virtual world use in e-learning just beginning to ‘catch on,’ publicizing this type of work will contribute to the pioneering efforts of all of the educators working in this field.”

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