How One Rowan Professor’s Digital Office Hours Help the Online Learning Community

Dr. Anna Sun, assistant professor of Educational Services and Leadership, saw the problem in both her teaching and research: how can faculty meet with students outside of class when the course is online? 

Her solution — offering e-office hours for her classes — earned her accolades this fall at Rowan Global Learning & Partnerships’ inaugural Excellence in Online Learning awards

Dr. Sun says she felt a range of emotions upon being recognized for her work.

Dr. Anna Sun stands in front of the James Hall statue“I feel honored, surprised and happy. I’m glad I’m recognized by peers, by students, by Rowan at large and as a community. And I’m surprised because online teaching relatively speaking is still new. 

“I feel that more and more the community recognizes the importance of online teaching, sees it’s another way to meet the students’ needs, and it could provide the quality teaching and instruction in this pioneering format,” she adds. 

The College of Education professor’s research focuses on social justice and school administration leadership in K-12 settings. She also studies how counterparts in other countries approach similar issues, debates and questions in education. 

Dr. Sun joined Rowan six years ago, as her department collaborated with Rowan Global to launch an online teaching program to better meet students’ needs. The online courses are called light hybrid because there are two face-to-face times scheduled between faculty and students each semester. Dr. Sun saw how successful this model was and sought to incorporate an element of this in her office hours for online courses. 

“I wanted to create a online learning community,” she explains. “The challenge or the debate sometimes would be, there’s no face-to-face time. So that’s the time I thought we need to create with this e-office hours, like the face-to-face office hours.”

Dr. Sun designates the second Monday of the month to e-office hours, where students can make appointments and meet with her via phone, email, videoconference or other digital format to ask questions on or talk about the course. 

Dr. Anna Sun meets with a Rowan student inside James HallShe says students have appreciated the courses with e-office hours. “They feel I’m very approachable and I respond to students’ questions right away. They felt that this is exactly what they learned from face-to-face,” Dr. Sun says. “The research [also] shows that in the online setting we should have this instruction presence; I want the students to feel like they can reach me at any time when they have questions.”

Her e-office hours contribution is just one part of a more expansive goal of Dr. Sun’s to prepare future school leaders. 

“In my teaching, we have a lot of discussions about social justice school leadership, transformational leadership,” Dr. Sun says. “And I feel my teaching, my interactions with students provide cutting-edge, effective approaches for them to become the reformers, the leaders, to make big changes in education.

“Our program prepares candidates with social justice approaches to make a big impact in the field. Both my teaching and the research are so important in this regard.”

Dr. Anna Sun stands in front of a bronze statue outside of James Hall

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