Long before the pandemic completely changed the way we work and study, Charles Sturt University lecturer Dr Nicole Sugden was experimenting with how to innovate the online classroom for students.
Based at the university's Orange and Bathurst campuses, Dr Sugden had been teaching psychology to undergraduates both in-person as well as virtually for a number of years - enabling her to have students who were all over the country, and even the world.
So from early on, Dr Sugden recognised the need for the virtual learning environment to offer the same benefits of the physical classroom.
Then when COVID-19 hit and many universities were left scrambling trying to figure out how to take lessons online, the lecturer already had her own virtual tutorials "ready to go".
Within no time, students near and far were tuning in to watch her talk through the dissection of a sheep's brain and the mechanics of a lie detector.
Student feedback soon revealed that because of the amount of effort Dr Sugden was putting into online learning with activities that were fun and interactive, undergrads felt like they had a lecturer who actually cared.
For, as anyone who has ever studied or worked online will you tell, having only a virtual connection can leave individuals feeling quite alone.
Dr Sugden's innovative approach to the challenges presented by online learning saw her nominated by a CSU colleague for the annual Australian Awards for University Teaching.
Last week the teacher discovered she was among the select few to receive a 2020 citation for making an outstanding contribution to student learning.
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