On April 3rd, during the Undergraduate Student Government senate meeting, a special guest was invited to talk about the progress of online education on campus. If you only know about Blackboard and SOLAR, you are out of date.
The guest speaker, Wendy Tang, is an associate professor from Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. She is also the faculty director of Undergraduate College of Information and Technology Studies (ITS). Equipped with a solid electrical engineering background, Dr. Tang is an expert in online educational development.
According to Dr. Tang, in support of the continuing evolution of educational excellence for our students and the world, the President and Provost have established the Stony Brook Online Learning Development Initiative (S-BOLD), funded initially for four years at a level of $250,000 per year. The goals of the initiative are to:
- Leverage online channels and technology to enhance and support the educational mission of Stony Brook University
- Improve the quality, flexibility and accessibility of SBU education to better serve the needs of residential, commuter and non-traditional students
- Emerge as a leader in pedagogical innovation to enhance teaching and learning outcomes
- Enhance the brand and global reach of Stony Brook University
At this point of time, Stony Brook University is cooperating with Open SUNY, a program designed to facilitate online learning state-wide, and other SUNY campuses, focusing efforts on online tutoring, proctoring services and centers, and student authentication.
When talking about the challenges of her work, Dr. Tang said that the key words of promoting online education in Stony Brook are diversity and understanding. Since most of the time students are not willing to provide feedback and faculty are not motivated to learn new technology methods, there is a huge gap between the two groups. She said, “My priority, however, is to ensure my office receives inputs and feedback from the university community, including perspectives from faculty, student, staff and academic units. I believe that when perspectives and concerns are addressed, we can create a community and, together, we can go far in the endeavor of online education.”
Asked about her expectations in the future, Dr. Tang answered, “We envision that online education is used on campus to provide support for students in large enrollment courses that are often required and fundamental courses in many majors. Online education can also help to support students in retakes of these courses by providing online resources, materials and practices to students.”
However, she also emphasized that online education is not meant to replace the college experience of young adults. The face-to-face, peer, social and instructor support environment is a valuable and irreplaceable part of the college experience for young adults, she said. “It is our vision that we use online education as a tool, when appropriate, to support and to enhance learning.”