B. Jean Mandernach, Ph.D. is Research Professor and Director of the Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching at Grand Canyon University. Her research focuses on enhancing student learning through assessment and innovative online instructional strategies. In addition, she has interests in examining the perception of online degrees, the quality of online course offerings and the development of effective faculty evaluation models. Jean received her Bachelor in Science in comprehensive psychology from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, a Master of Science in experimental psychology from Western Illinois University and her Doctor of Philosophy in social psychology from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
How has facilitating online courses at GCU helped you find your purpose?
My overarching purpose at GCU is to foster a culture of critical reflection that promotes innovation in teaching, learning, and research. Through my work in the Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching, I am able to collaborate with faculty to work toward this end.
In my online classroom, I am in the unique position of being able to apply my knowledge of inquiry-based teaching while shaping the next generation of academics. This integration between research, faculty development, teaching and mentoring provides a platform for ongoing questions, challenges and movement towards finding my purpose.
What is one effective teaching strategy you use in your online classes?
One strategy I use to engage my students is the inclusion of a personal video at the end of each week. Not only does the video allow me to quickly and easily summarize the "lessons learned" for the week, but I can reach my students on a personal level that allows them to connect with me in a more meaningful fashion. Students report that in addition to aiding them in understanding the material, the videos also provide a motivational component that helps engage them in the process of online learning.
What is a GCU online student success story you can share?
I have the privilege of teaching one of the introductory courses to the PhD program in psychology. As students' first course in their doctoral program, they are often plagued with anxiety and doubt about their ability to successfully engage in doctoral studies. At the completion of the course, one of my students emailed me the following:
"I am sure that I learned quite a few things throughout this course, but the most important lesson I am taking from this course is one that was not asked about on any of the assignments. I learned that I can do this. That I have the intelligence, time, willpower and persistence to successfully complete my doctoral degree. Thank you for going beyond the content to teach me, inspire me and motivate me. Anyone could have taught me about the library, a literature review and APA style, but you taught me about me."
This type of success - knowing that I have provided a foundation for students to be successful - is my greatest success story.