Why I Do Online…

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Day three of the Instructional Technology Council’s eLearning 2008 conference, and we had a good keynote from Patricial McGee this morning. I did my presentation on Social Bookmarking, and attended a session on applying the Baldrige Quality Award to distance learning. I’ll blog more about those later.

However, it was the Awards Ceremony at lunch that blew me away… unexpectedly.

Let me tell you about it.

Each year, ITC awards faculty and colleges who demonstrate excellence in e-Learning. I was honored to win the faculty award in 2003. ITC awarded Coastline Community College with the program award, Savannah College of Art and Design with the Outstanding Online Course, and Terry Morris of Harper College with Outstanding e-Learning Faculty. It is great to see wonderful programs being recognized!

The show-stopper for all of us was the award to Pamela Himmel as Outstanding e-Learning Student from St. Petersburg College. Her story reinforced the power online learning makes in people’s lives.

Pamela is definitely a non-traditional student. A single mother whose two daughters urged to return to college, she worked nights and attended college during the day. However, when her younger daughter was admitted to the hospital awaiting a heart transplant, she moved to taking online courses. She was urged to do so by her daughter, who was also continuing her courses from University of Florida from the hospital. Mother and daughter would work on their separate courses from that hospital room. Pamela never missed an assignment, never asked for special favors, and finished last spring with top grades in all her classes. She continued her online classes this fall after her daughter had her transplant. However, her daughter developed complications and passed away last November. Pamela, as a tribute to her daughter, finished her fall courses with top grades as well, and continues working on her degree now.

She received a standing ovation when she accepted the award, but her words really moved me when she told us in the audience that it was we who made it possible for people like her to have access to education she would not have had otherwise. Her spring working on her courses while her daughter worked by her side are memories she will always treasure.

This would be a special story on its own merits, but what connected us (and few know this) is that I won the ITC Award the same year I had surgery to combat prostate cancer. While I was home from the college recuperating for a month, I only missed three days in my online classes, and I believe that my online students were part of my support structure that helped me beat cancer. The ability to take courses … or teach courses … when life happens is part of what drives me to advocate for online learning and to celebrate the successes I saw demonstrated here today!

2 thoughts on “Why I Do Online…

  1. Britt,

    it is amazing how dramatical life events from our life have an influence to what we do.
    I remembered myself in a hospital room watching over my daughter after a horrible intestines surgery at 6 months, with laptop on my knees trying to finish my Ph.D. thesis.
    I strongly agree with Pamela: “it was we (THE WONDERFUL ONLINE WORLD OF EDUCATORS FROM ALL OVER) who made it possible for people like her to have access to education she would not have had otherwise.”

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