SUNY Online Teaching has recognized Rachel Rigolino, lecturer of English, as a SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador for the 2020-21 academic year. Rigolino, who also coordinates the Composition Program’s Supplemental Writing Workshop, has over two decades of experience teaching online. Her research focuses on educational technology and pedagogical best practices in the area of online writing instruction. She credits her early interest in educational technology to her severely hearing-impaired mother, who always encouraged her to make her teaching materials accessible.
The SUNY Online Teaching community is an organization comprised of online teaching faculty, instructional designers, librarians and administrative staff who support each other in providing SUNY-wide expertise in online course delivery. Each year, the organization recognizes instructors with the honor of the title SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador. The process begins with a candidate’s nomination by their home campus. Rigolino was nominated by Shala Mills, Assistant Vice President of Graduate & Extended Learning, who has been a champion for online learning at SUNY New Paltz. Candidates must be SUNY faculty, instructors, or SUNY Online Fellows and have current experience with teaching online. Criteria for nomination include “Exemplary online SUNY educators, who are enthusiastic and effective in online teaching, and who can be positive and strong advocates for online teaching in our SUNY community.”
During their time as Online Teaching Ambassadors, honorees may participate in a variety of community engagement activities including submission of blog posts to SUNY Online, a proposal for a Fellow Chat, or providing peer support via a Discipline-specific Workplace Group. They also bring their expertise to their home campus by offering workshops for faculty in support of online and remote instruction. The purpose of these activities is to dispel myths and misperceptions about online teaching and learning and to showcase the need for continuous improvement in online course development and delivery. Ambassadors also have an opportunity to share their professional experiences and lessons learned.
Rigolino believes instructor presence and consistent organization of course materials can facilitate remote teaching success. She also recommends that instructors provide students with a touchstone such as a brief instructor-led video overview of the course priorities for the coming week to simulate the face-to-face classroom experience. This allows students to feel more connected in a remote environment.
“Teaching online means taking what you do best and making it accessible to so many more people,” Rigolino said.
As part of her role as SUNY Online Ambassador, Rigolino recently joined colleagues throughout the state at the annual SUNY Online Summit 2021 held for online teaching and learning practitioners. She participated in a session concerning the federal definitions and regulations regarding online education. Rigolino shared this information with the New Paltz campus by hosting a virtual workshop and discussion session entitled “What is ‘substantive interaction in online learning’ and why does it matter?” This workshop clarified the meaning behind the requirement of substantive interaction for remote and online classes and provided faculty with useful tools to support their online pedagogy.
For anyone interested in learning more about remote teaching, Rigolino offers the following recommendations:
- The training modules designed by SUNY New Paltz Office of Instructional Technology designers Kathryn Bohan and Richard McElrath
- The Remote Teaching, Learning and Working portion of the Knowledge Base available on the SUNY New Paltz website, which offers guidance, tools and recorded training webinars to help everyone manage their workload remotely
- SUNY OSCR rubric and related resources
- The online SUNY resources, which are designed for campus administrators, students and faculty to assist with the process of transitioning to remote learning in the COVID-19 pandemic
Rachel also currently serves the New Paltz campus as a Peer Instructional Design Mentor, along with LA&S colleagues Andrew Higgins, associate professor of English, and Blair Proctor, assistant professor of black studies. The Peer Instructional Design Mentor program features mentors from across the university. Rigolino hosts drop-in hours to help faculty with an array of online and hybrid teaching issues.