By MATTHEW BIDDLE and BILL BRUTON
Published February 8, 2023
UB faculty members Stuart D. Inglis and Mickey Sperlich have been recognized as 2023 SUNY Online Teaching Ambassadors.
Inglis and Sperlich were nominated by UB’s Educational Design Collaborative (EDC) in recognition of their enthusiasm for and effectiveness in online teaching, as well as their advocacy for online teaching within the SUNY community, says Cherly Oyer, EDC co-chair and coordinator of online learning in the School of Nursing.
The SUNY Online Teaching Ambassadors will be recognized at the annual SUNY Online Summit, being held March 8-10 in Syracuse.
Inglis, an instructor in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, has long been using a flipped classroom approach for his teaching of gross anatomy. His in-class video sessions are active learning, where students are challenged with clinical questions that they work in groups to solve.
Inglis, who calls his selection as a online ambassador “a pleasant surprise,” has been at the forefront of utilizing online teaching resources.
“I was looking at a way to make the material available beyond just my classroom. I thought it was a real opportunity to be able to reach out beyond the confines of the university and reach a group that was just interested in learning,” he says. “So I started developing open educational resources and open access materials in generating my videos, so that I could open them up on YouTube without concerns about copyright restrictions.
“As a result, I had people from a variety of places around the world who have reached out to ask me questions or just sent their thanks and appreciations.”
Inglis recalls the time that a first-year medical student came up to him on the first day of Gross Human Anatomy, shook his hand and said he was really excited to meet Inglis “because he’d been learning from all my videos.”
“I don’t know whether that was a factor in him choosing to attend the University at Buffalo or not,” he notes, “but it’s quite the honor to, on occasion, have people come up to me and say ‘oh, you’re the guy who does the anatomy videos, and I’m learning a lot from them.’”
Inglis says he enjoys coming up with new ways of learning.
“It’s an honor,” he says of the ambassador designation, “but it’s also an opportunity for me to promote this idea further, to be able to get more interest in the content. Along those lines, because SUNY has a vested interest in open access material and developing educational material for the masses, I think it has really helped to use as an example how other individuals have made their content more accessible,” Inglis says.
“Now, more than ever before, just making quality educational material that’s developed by experts in the field that can be easily accessed — when there’s so many sources of disinformation out there — and having a solid impactful source of information that people can have access to is quite important moving forward.
“By making it available to the general public, there’s a chance for everyone to improve their educational level.”
Sperlich, assistant professor in the School of Social Work, teaches several graduate-level classes fully online or in a hybrid format that offers lectures both virtually and in person simultaneously. Her online offerings include courses focused on trauma and human rights, working with survivors of sexual abuse, and infant mental health.
In addition, she regularly participates as an online faculty facilitator for interprofessional education forums and provides online training as part of her research on perinatal mental health interventions. Sperlich also is collaborating with Patricia Logan-Greene, associate professor in the School of Social Work, on a virtual continuing education course for social workers to help address gun violence among their clients.
“I truly value online teaching, especially the ability it affords us to engage students who live remote from campus or who have accessibility or scheduling needs that might be better met virtually,” Sperlich says.
“It has been a steep learning curve for me to figure out how I can align the online learning environment with my inherently relational teaching philosophy and style,” she continues. “For me, this means creating opportunities to develop meaningful relationships between students and striving to build trust and mutual respect in the teacher-student relationship.”
For Sperlich, teaching online isn’t simply about moving a seated course into a virtual environment — it’s about using technology to provide interactive, immersive experiences for her students. In SW 589, for example, her students create a wiki detailing a therapeutic modality to assist survivors of sexual abuse. In her DSW course, Sperlich’s students use apps that promote mindfulness and movement. They also explore the benefits of virtual reality by donning VR headsets and stepping into a simulated mental health clinic.
“An added advantage of incorporating new technologies in my classes is that it keeps me on my toes and engaged as an instructor,” Sperlich says, acknowledging the support she’s received from her fellow faculty members and Steven Sturman, the school’s instructional designer.
“Being recognized as a SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador is such an honor and signifies that it is indeed possible for me to continue to learn and grow in new ways — which is exactly what I want to model for my students.”