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2013 Online College Professor of the Year Contest Information and Nominees

Meet the 2013 Online College Professor of the Year Final Nominees

Stephen Yoder

Assistant Professor and Honors Program Director
University of Alabama at Birmingham, School of Business

Stephen Yoder teaches both online and hybrid courses in business law and corporate governance at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Business. Holding an A.B. in political science from Duke University and a Juris Doctor from Northwestern University School of Law, he has more than 25 years of experience working in corporate law. He is a member of the National Collegiate Honors Council and Association of Legal Studies in Business, a regular speaker at continuing legal education courses in banking law, and recipient of 2012 Odessa Woolfolk Community Service Award for UAB faculty service to Birmingham community.

A true innovator when it comes to technology in the classroom, Yoder has uniquely combined a variety of technologies and pedagogical methods such as VoiceThread discussion boards, Prezi, and Blackboard Learn to create a face-to-face environment for students taking his courses. These students have described him as a highly interactive, model professor who has exceptional virtual instruction and makes online learning exciting and very beneficial. As one student says, “One of the shortcomings of online instruction is often interaction and other viewpoints are lost because you are not in a classroom with other students. Professor Yoder minimizes this shortcoming and facilitates that interaction and sharing with technology.”

Roman Yampolskiy

Assistant Professor
University of Louisville, Speed School of Engineering

Roman Yampolskiy has been teaching computer science courses at the Speed School of Engineering, University of Louisville since 2008. He holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science combined degree in computer science from Rochester Institute of Technology and earned his Ph.D. from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University at Buffalo. An active computer scientist, he has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and had his research featured by the BBC, MSNBC, ACM, Yahoo, New Scientist, and In his online courses Yampolskiy’s policy is to “use, but not overuse” online tools so to not overwhelm students responsible for learning advanced engineering concepts with having to learn complicated tools just to participate in the course. Maybe this is why he was chosen by students in his department as “Professor of the Year” in 2012 and students university wide as a “top 11 in 2011 and “Faculty Favorite” in 2010.

Obviously a class favorite, he is described by his students as an exemplary teacher who is a driving and inspiring force, always willing to go the extra mile, and sticks to strong academic expectations and standards. But perhaps Yampolskiy says it best himself. “I am a dedicated educator and I believe that online students are not just ID codes on Blackboard, but human beings who are looking for knowledge, camaraderie, excitement and challenge. They are already doing something extraordinary – trying to get their education in a previously non-existent virtual world and they deserve to have the best digital pedagogy practices and tools available to them.”

Deborah Lee Tincher

Online Professor and Core Faculty Member
American College of Education, Office of Academic Excellence

Tincher holds a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from Colorado State University, a Master of Education in Reading from Dallas Baptist University, and a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning, from Capella University. In addition, she has completed graduate studies in management and gifted education at Adams State College and the University of Texas – Arlington. With more than 30 years of experience in K-12 classrooms, she has served in positions as a remedial reading, education service, and gifted programs teacher. Setting her sights on higher education she began teaching online in 2003; since then she has taught and developed online courses at numerous institutions. She now teaches leadership, curriculum and instruction, and reading courses in the online environment at American College of Education where she is also the assistant chair for curriculum and instruction.

Students at ACE call her an outstanding educator who truly cares for all of her students and is extremely motivating, encouraging, and supportive. As one colleague puts it, “Her care, concern, high-quality teaching practices, and energy and enthusiasm for her students’ success nullify the term ‘distance learning.'” According to Tincher, she is just doing what online professors should – engaging students in a dynamic learning environment. “We have the responsibility to establish the environment conducive for learning which often means addressing student concerns, responding in a timely manner, providing specific and intentional feedback to support their professional growth,” she stated. “By being present and attentive, students gain confidence in their own abilities and empowered to invest in ways they might not have imagined. This is an enduring legacy we need to be passing along to the next generation of learners. This is a privilege.”

David Britt

Assistant Professor of Management
Charleston Southern University, College of Adult and Professional Studies

David Britt’s resume boasts 25 years of extensive business experience in the areas of small business ownership, business consulting, and sales and marketing. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Southeast Missouri State University, and a Master of Business Administration from Charleston Southern University. Currently, he is working on a Doctor of Business Administration at Walden University. While an assistant professor of management at CSU, Britt has served as a faculty trainer for online programs and the assistant dean in charge of online program expansion, oversaw the development for more than 50 online courses, and developed and implemented faculty training certification program for online instruction. In addition to his responsibilities at CSU, Britt is a contractor for online course review and development for Pearson Learning Solutions.

As an online instructor, Britt likes to use instructional tools like Screenr Presentations, Skype, and Jing. His efforts to reach out to students through multiple technologies seem to pay off. Says one student, “He encourages you to be a better student, a better employee, and a better person. Lastly, he is not afraid to compliment students on a job well done. He recognizes hard work and lets you know he appreciates it. He exemplifies what a good professor should be.” One colleague describes Britt as an inspiration to her as an online professor, as he knows his subject matter, is a great communicator, and shows genuine concern for his students. She adds that he brings the online classroom to a face-to-face environment whenever he can, while going above and beyond in the online classroom. But Britt describes himself best, “Successful online faculty are those who can transcend the technology and not just use it. My online ‘personality’ is one that provides quick responses, detailed comments, and a mentoring spirit.”

Jude-Marie Alexis-Smalec

Adjunct Faculty Member
Benedictine University, College of Education and Health Services

Jude-Marie Alexis-Smalec has more than 20 years of experience in public health initiatives working with organizations such as UNICEF and PATH. As an adjunct faculty member at Benedictine University, Alexis-Smalec teaches health courses regarding social and behavioral aspects, media technology, and cultural context of health care to students in the Master of Public Health program. She holds Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of the West Indies and went to Tulane University for graduate school earning a Master of Public Health in Nutrition and Doctor of Public Health in International Health. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Alexis-Smalec has developed and presented professional development webinars for Benedictine instructors on facilitating online discussions, and team project facilitation and evaluation in the online environment.

Students call her a wonderful instructor who demonstrates quality leadership and incorporates the use of technology in her classes to make the virtual classroom smaller. But Alexis-Smalec does more than educate those who are enrolled in courses but those who teach them serving as a faculty mentor. Colleagues describe her as an exceptional mentor, who goes above and beyond to ensure they are informed on what is available to them as online professors. Alexis-Smalec sees online teaching skill development as an on-going process that both online instructors and students benefit from and believes that greater satisfaction is obtained with professors who continue to develop their skills as technology rapidly evolves. “I consider my role as not simply providing information and imparting knowledge but rather preparing my students to function professionally and effectively in the real world. I am not merely an instructor. I am a facilitator for my students.”

Ulises Mejias

Assistant Professor
State University of New York at Oswego, Department of Communication Studies

As an assistant professor at the SUNY Oswego’s Department of Communications, Ulises Mejias teaches online and hybrid courses in the areas of social networks and the web, video game theory and analysis, technology and culture, and media economics. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film, Photography and Visual Arts as well as a Master of Science in Organizational Communication, Learning and Design from Ithaca College. In addition, he earned a Doctor of Education in Communication, Computing and Technology in Education from Columbia University. Along with facilitating courses, he is active in research regarding critical Internet studies, network theory and science, philosophy and social studies of technology and political economy of digital media. He has been published in various journals and participated in numerous keynotes and seminars, conference presentations, and interviews and media appearances.

His expertise in his field pays off in the classroom as evident by the praise he receives from his nominators who describe him as an extremely skilled online professor who is always on the cutting edge of technology. As one colleague puts it, “His care and concern in developing classes, interacting with his students, and interacting with his fellow colleagues distinguish him as a superior instructor. To sum up in a few words: knowledge, concern, ability, and a deep commitment towards forever expanding horizons of knowing put a mark of distinction on him.” But for Mejias, it is all about learning. “I believe my efforts to apply technology purposefully in the service of pedagogy are unique in that they prioritize learning, not technology.”

Ronald Cobb

Associate Professor, Pastoral Ministries and Biblical Counseling
Luther Rice University

To say that Cobb has an extensive list of educational achievements is an understatement. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Education from Columbia International University; Master of Administrative Science from The University of Alabama in Huntsville; Master of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Master of Christian Counseling from Luther Rice Seminary; Doctor of Ministry from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition, he is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Northcentral University with an anticipated graduation date of May 2015. He served in pastoral positions for more than 15 years and began teaching as an adjunct professor at Luther Rice University and Seminary in 2000. Since, he has been promoted to associate professor of pastoral ministries and biblical counseling. In this position, he has taught and developed online graduate-level biblical counseling courses, conducted academic advising for graduate-level biblical counseling students, and is the coordinator of the Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling Program.

Students refer to Cobb’s teaching ability as superb saying that he knows his subject, is open with his students, and possesses the ability to communicate at various levels so that the issues can be explored and understood. As one of his current students says, “Ronald Cobb goes above and beyond for his students, not only in providing high quality educational opportunities and training but also through character building and life skills, which are rare these days. He continues to set the example himself as he has a high regard for being a lifetime learner as an individual. He connects with students in a personal way that is rare through online technology.”

Jessica Rogers

Marketing Faculty, Southern New Hampshire University
Adjunct Marketing Instructor, Texas A&M University – Commerce

Jessica Rogers holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Business and Marketing and a Master of Science in Marketing from Texas A&M University – Commerce. Currently, she is working on her Ph.D. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing from North Central University, which she expects to complete in June 2015. As a marketing faculty member at Southern New Hampshire University, Rogers teaches undergraduate and graduate marketing courses in social media marketing strategy, merchandise planning, sales management and promotion, social media campaigns. She is also the author of marketing courses in merchandising, social media, and social media marketing strategy. Furthermore, she serves as a mentor assisting in the oversight and development of adjunct instructors. In addition to her role at SNHU, Rogers also serves as an adjunct marketing instructor at Texas A&M University – Commerce.

Rogers is an active blogger on social media whose posts have been featured on Social Media Today,, and regularly on Windmill Networking. In 2012, Rogers was named among the tip marketing professors on Twitter by Social Media Marketing Magazine. Her zeal for the use of social media in marketing is evident to those around her, most of all her students. As one student says, “Professor Rogers is more passionate about social media and marketing then any other professor I have had at the graduate level. She engages with her students and creates ways for them to not only learn the material, but grow and network even after the class as well.” Another says that while the academics at SNHU are challenging, Rogers hands-on approach creates an environment for self-sustaining education and learning applications, making her an outstanding extemporaneous teacher and mentor. This type of feedback is not unusual for Rogers who exudes confidence in her teaching style. “My students are pretty outspoken on the difference it makes having me as an instructor for an online course. My interaction and desire to teach as opposed to “critique” have been mentioned numerous times.”

Marie Russell

Associate Faculty and Academic Advisor
Post University, Online Education Institute

Marie Russell holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Central Connecticut State University and a Master of Science in Education and Reading from Southern Connecticut State University. She has more then 30 years of experience in the field of education as a classroom teacher, program director, and college instructor. She serves as an associate faculty member at Post University’s Online Education Institute where she is also an academic advisor to online students in the Early Childhood Education and Child Studies undergraduate programs. Along with teaching online courses in areas such as children’s literacy and child studies, she has developed an introductory course for an online associate and bachelor degree programs that has been offered to a few thousand students.

A tech-savvy instructor who continuously strives to go above and beyond her duties to give students the best learning experience possible, Russell possess an extensive knowledge of eLearning and instructional technologies that she incorporates with her knowledge and experience. “As a professional educator with over 30 years in the field, I have a strong appreciation for the fact that the goal of teaching is to assure meaningful learning. To the extent that technology can facilitate learning it should be harnessed; it should not; however be build into a course without expressly being tied to a course objective.”

Monika Kiss

Associate Professor of Mathematics
Saint Leo University, School of Arts and Sciences

Monika Kiss holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematical Sciences from Kean University and a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Mathematical Sciences from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Her career in education began in 1996 as a graduate assistant in mathematics at UH Manoa and in 2003 she came to Saint Leo University as an assistant professor of mathematics. At Saint Leo, Kiss teaches courses in algebra, calculus, trigonometry, discrete mathematics, number theory, and history of mathematics. She has also developed courses in discrete mathematics, advanced calculus, and history of mathematics, as well as taught and redesigned the algebra and functions courses online for the College of Online Learning. In addition to her teaching duties, Kiss serves as an advisor for Saint Leo University mathematics club as well as a mentor to new faculty members.

During her time at Saint Leo she has developed a reputation for receiving excellent student evaluations in which her students recognize her genuineness, encouragement, and dedication. As her colleague explains, “She has a great deal of passion for teaching and deeply cares about her students. In return, students recognize her genuine intentions and express their gratitude openly or in their evaluations.” Kiss says that she prides herself on being an effective communicator and motivator of students both online and in class. “I feel that even though I have high expectations of my students I help them meet those high expectations. Students find me to be approachable, helpful and good at explaining mathematics in a way that students can understand.”

About the Contest

The world of online education has grown significantly over the past few years, changing traditional models of higher education and revolutionizing the way we learn. According to Sloan Consortium’s 2012 Survey of Online Learning , more than 6.7 million students took at least one online course in fall 2011, and 69.1% of chief academic leaders believe that online learning is critical to their long-term strategy. The continuous growth of online learning is changing the definition of what it means to be an outstanding educator as technology plays a bigger role both in and out of the classroom. Best Colleges Online wants to recognize forward-thinking professors who are using technology 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 as the 2013 Online College Professor of the Year!

This is Best Colleges Online’s second annual Online College Professor of the Year Contest, with last year’s top 10 nominees hailing from institutions such as Kaplan University, Herzing University, Post University, Rasmussen College, and Tulane University. After receiving more than 2,000 votes, Grand Canyon University’s LeAnne Prenovost was announced the winner of the 2012 Online College Professor of the Year contest. An online assistant professor teaching courses in nursing and health care, LeAnne donated the $1,000 prize to ovarian cancer research in memory of her sister, Lisa Wilkinson, and has served as a contributing writer to Best Colleges Online’s Edventure Calling blog throughout her tenure.

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 or 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 for-credit course during the year 2012

Online courses are those in which 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 Best Colleges Online to verify eligibility and ensure all requirements are met.

How the Contest Works:

Fellow educators, online students, or online instructors themselves may submit nominations. Employees associated with Best Colleges Online are not eligible to take part in the 2013 Online College Professor of the Year Contest either as a nominator or nominee. The contest will proceed in the following order.

  1. Online nomination forms will be available at Best Colleges Online for two weeks, beginning on March 25th and ending on April 7th. Nomination forms must be complete and submitted by 11:59 p.m. CST on April 7th.
  2. Upon tallying up total number of nominations and verifying eligibility, qualified professors with the highest number of nominations will be sent the 2013 Online Professor Questionnaire on April 8th. This simple questionnaire includes questions regarding the nominee’s online teaching experience. Nominees will have three days 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 2013 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 educational technology, higher education writing, instructional design, and virtual instruction.
  4. Voting will take place on for two weeks, from April 15th to April 28th. Voting is open to everyone, but will be limited to one vote per person. A vote is only valid if it includes the voter’s full first and last name and a valid email address. Repeat or fraudulent votes will not be counted. The online professor who receives the highest number of votes during the voting period will be announced as the winner of the 2013 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 “2013 Online College Professor of the Year” badge/banner to place on their professional or personal website. The winner will be announced on May 6th.

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