Faculty Spotlight: Zuzana Buzzell, Ph.D.

Zuzana-Buzzell

Dr. Zuzana Buzzell is an adjunct faculty in both the Undergraduate Management program and the Graduate Management program at Granite State College. She has been teaching for Granite State College for the past six years in various undergraduate management courses in class, online and in hybrid format.  She states, “in that time I saw the college grow stronger and go through many positive changes”.  

Dr. Buzzell worked for over nine years in the financial industry where she specialized in derivative securities and worked on an international team.  She has helped to win a contract with NH Banking commission and teach a financial reporting course to their auditing group.  She has carried this interest into her studies, completing her Doctorate from Southern New Hampshire University in International Business with a specialization in Finance.  Her teaching philosophy uses an instructional method combined with exercises and discussion boards that promotes creativity, research and active learning.  Real life and business applications of presented material is very important and will help the students in their future career growth according to Dr. Buzzell.

When asked how teaching online has changed over time she responded, “Online teaching made leaps and bounds forward. Looking back at the first class I taught online and how the same class is created and taught currently is a huge difference. The technology, especially switching from Blackboard to Moodle, allowed for a great versatility in material delivery. The first classes were all static. Material was presented in different types of Microsoft documents, students had to ask questions only in writing and wait for the response in writing. There was no option of ‘live’ meeting. Homework assignment submission was done via drop-box. I typed a lot that term.”

“Today, Moodle allows me to upload videos, have teams working on projects, includes instant messages and great tracking of all the material that was accessed. Live Blackboard Collaborate sessions (voice, video, screen sharing) are a great way for students and myself to meet ‘live’ and discuss any questions, issues and concerns.” Dr. Buzzell has been teaching in the classroom since 2006 and started teaching online shortly after that in 2007.  She was influenced to teach online when approached by Granite State College to create a Financial Management class when the new online program was first introduced.  She agreed immediately. “This presented a great career opportunity and challenge at the same time. I wanted to develop the same quality material and present it clearly in the online setting.” 

Dr. Buzzell has taught many classes online and feels there are specific students that for personal reasons have to or prefer to take online courses.  She feels online education for students comes down to one big important thing – self discipline. “The online environment can be very misleading at the beginning. Students have an entire week or more to complete specific assigned work and can easily misjudge the time allotted for it. Then they are usually struggling to complete and catch up on all the work. The more experienced online learners exhibit good time-management and self-discipline skills.”

 

Student Expectations

Dr. Buzzell feels that students should be aware of what is expected from them in each class. Here are five ways that she communicates her expectations in each of her classes:

  • Syllabus – she recommends printing it out and keeping it handy to check off what is due in each Module.
  • Getting Started – detailed instructions in a word document are listed at the top of the class that go over what is expected in the class overall, how to reply to discussion boards, how to reach her, etc.
  • Short videos – she creates short (less than 5 minutes) videos that go over discussion board requirements, optional Blackboard Collaborate Session requirement and general layout of the class and what to expect in each Module.  Each Module also has a short video of what is in the Module and what is due that week
  • Calendar – her favorite “must have” function in Moodle.  For each class she sets all the deadlines in the calendar. Students simply click on it and preview what is due for the current week, month, or the entire class.  They can print it and it helps them plan better.
  • Every week by Tuesday morning she provides a written update in the heading of class of what is due in that particular Week.

Instructor  Expectations

Dr. Buzzell makes a point to log in every day at least once, but usually she logs in more than that.  She answers all questions within twenty four hours or sooner.  About every three days she posts a small new announcement in the top part of the class and changes the colors or font, so that the students notice it updated.  She states all the assignments in her courses are graded within seven days from the submission deadline, but usually sooner especially in accelerated 6-week courses.  Since she requires discussion board participation, she is active there as well.

Discussion Forum

In the online classes that Dr. Buzzell teaches she uses discussion forums as supplemental information to the material in the textbook. Students are allowed to share their own work experience, do extra research they are interest in on a certain topic and express their opinions. “Since everyone is on the same level playing field, even shy/less outspoken students that are normally quieter in class get to express their opinion without being ‘out-talked’ by the more active students.”

For classes over seventeen students she splits the discussion boards in two teams. Once the student is assigned a team, they are responsible for only the discussion board for their team. This creates a higher quality of posts, because students don’t get overwhelmed by large amount of new posts and can be more creative in their answers. She prefers quality over quantity.

Challenges

When asked what lessons she has learned from teaching online she states, “it is important to be as detailed as possible in the answers you give your students. More information is always better.“  She wants her students to succeed and asks for feedback from them in each module.  She breaks the communication barrier by showing her students that she is there to work with them, help them and makes sure that they know they can contact her if they are struggling with a lesson.  Whether in face to face classes or online she has always supported discussions as a learning tool.  “The learning environment is a two-way street.  Students are learning new material from me that they will be able to apply in their work and I learn from their work experiences. We are able to share the best practical applications of the theoretical knowledge.”

Her advice to other faculty is, “Plan and have patience. Every online class is very different to build and teach. Each class has a different atmosphere and what worked in the previous one, might not work in the current one, even though it is the same subject and the faculty is using the same materials and textbook.  Always approach a class with an open mind that anything unexpected can happen, and have a plan for the unexpected.“

Some of the resources Dr. Buzzell has found useful in developing her courses are:

New Innovations

Dr. Buzzell feels videos are a great tool to show examples in a course. She has created some videos, and would like to create more if possible. She recommends recording a face-to-face class and using it as a lecture for the online class. “There are a lot visual learners and having good, cohesive video support is priceless.”

She is passionate about being a mentor to her students and not only teaching the theory from a textbook.  Helping students along the way with their studies and how to apply themselves in the workplace are equally as important to her.

To contact Zuzana you may send an email to: zpbuzzell@go.granite.edu.