Alice Teall, a professor in the College of Nursing, wakes up each morning at 5:30 a.m., responds to emails, checks Carmen and prepares lesson plans for her graduate-level nurse practitioner courses — which are all online. The rest of her day is peppered with conference and webcam calls as she continues to remain in contact with her students from a distance.
Teall received the 2017 Provost’s Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Lecturer for her work as a clinical instructor of practice and the director of the online Family Nurse Practitioner Program at OSU.
She said that online instructors are overlooked when it comes to awards or recognition, and this award speaks for a slew of instructors in the distance-learning field.
“When folks teach online, there’s some excellence going on in teaching that’s not always recognized,” Teall said. “So for me to be recognized, it gives a lot of legitimacy to the folks that I know who teach online, who do an incredible amount of work, and do it well.”
Teall said she had many teachers and mentors who influenced her and contributed to her success. She said Margaret Clark Graham, an associate professor and the vice dean of the College of Nursing, guided her to succeed as an online instructor. Graham was the former director of the online Family Nurse Practitioner program at OSU and nominated Teall for the Provost’s Award.
“Alice knows that she needs to create a community with her students,” Graham said. “She has structured classes so that students feel very much in community.”
Graham taught Teall as a graduate student, and they later taught together at Wright State University, in Dayton. Graham moved on to OSU and Teall stopped teaching to work as a nurse practitioner, but her hiatus from teaching did not last long.
“I was only out of teaching about a year and a half,” Teall said. “I missed teaching.”
Looking to get back into education, Teall emailed Graham for a recommendation. Two emails prior, Graham received confirmation that the grant to start the online Family Nurse Practitioner Program at OSU was approved by the Health Resources and Services Administration. Teall was an obvious hire to help the program.
“She is so creative in online teaching,” Graham said. “Online teaching is a special challenge and some people can do it well, and she does it in an outstanding way.”
Wanting to get to know her students even though they don’t share a classroom, Teall requires them to upload pictures of themselves so that she — and their fellow classmates — can identify them beyond their online usernames.
“In distance learning, faculty don’t have to be distant from the students,” Teall said.
Gabriella Domka, a graduate student at the College of Nursing, said she’s gotten to know Teall as an instructor extremely well.
“She’s very accessible through phone, text and email, so it feels like I know her better than just through an online program,” Domka said. “I certainly know her the most of all my online instructors because of her personality and how she interacts with students.”
Beyond interacting with her, Teall aims for her students to interact with each other as well. She structures her class so that students begin the class with a large group discussion that later breaks up into a smaller groups for more in-depth dialogues.
“I didn’t grow up wanting to be a nurse,” Teall said. “I grew up wanting to be a teacher.”