Getting to Know You:
AAU Provost Dr. Bonny Nickle
Name a few things about yourself that wouldn't be found in a traditional bio.
I was born in England; specifically, from Ipswich in Suffolk. And I'm a classically-trained ballet dancer.
What inspired you to get into education?
I was employed at a real estate company and we had a management consultant perform an assessment of the organization and review current processes and systems that could be streamlined and I thought "wow, that is such a cool job. I want to do that!" From there, I had some informational interviews and was told that I needed an MBA if I wanted to be employed as a management consultant.
I was hired at National University as an admissions representative where the benefits included tuition reimbursement. One thing led to another and I found that I really enjoyed working in education and helping students become successful, that after I completed my MBA I found that I didn't want to leave. During my eight years at National I moved from admissions into student services and then into the academic department. I had also enrolled into a doctoral program and decided to make education my career.
You've worked in both online and brick-and-mortar education. How are they different?
In 1994, when I was gathering data for my doctoral dissertation, the surveys that I conducted indicated that online programs were more academically rigorous than the brick and mortar programs. The difference is that in an online modality students are always actively engaged in the learning process, utilizing the discussion board, participating in activities and assignments, and they must be participating in the course. Students who choose an online degree program are motivated, organized and very focused on their success.
Similarly, I learned that online education is the great equalizer. Students in an online setting felt that they were evaluated for their merit and their participation without any predisposed or predetermined notions. In the end, they really liked that and it was very helpful for them.
Is the approach different for a student attending an online school vs. a brick-and-mortar school?
No, not really. For online, what's key for the student's success is for them to be engaged as quickly as possible. For students at Allied American University, the first thing is to make sure that you engage with the discussion board the first week, post your assignments, make sure that you're on task with all of the requirements that need to be met for the course.
The other thing is the unique relationship the student has with their instructor. Online students have a much more personal relationship with their instructor than they would in the on ground classroom, as they are communicating one-on-one with the instructor. There are conversations and emails, as well as discussions through iBoard. Additionally, AAU's online classes, with our ratio of 10 students to 1 teacher in a class, provide personal interaction and open communication with the faculty, which is key to the student's success.
What about the technology? How does that come into play?
There's been so much that has happened in online learning since I first started writing my dissertation in the early 1990s. It's incredible. The type of programs and products we can provide for our students with all of the rich media and the resources on the web and all of the materials developed by the publishers to make sure the students are really engaged in the learning process are just wonderful. I remember when online learning used to be just like reading a textbook on the screen: all words, very boring, little visual appeal and very little interaction with the instructor.
What advice would you give to a busy mother of two who has some reservations about online education but is looking to pursue a bachelor's degree?
The online format for her is absolutely ideal. She can choose the flexibility to determine the time and the place to learn, based on her busy schedule. When children are young and home all day, she has the late evening, early hours of the morning as well as the weekend to complete her coursework. It's an ideal format for her and it is helpful for her with personal and professional enrichment to balance her life. Attending school online allows her to take care of her children, watch them grow as they develop, be available for them, and also meet her own personal and professional goals.
Our students take courses online; they can study from anywhere. It's up to them to find the right study space.
What's your perfect study/work space? What helps you concentrate?
For our students, it is crucial to have the tools and the space to complete their coursework. Many prefer a dedicated study space that is relatively stable, such as a desk or a space at home. Others enjoy the flexibility of working in a library; or wherever their laptop is, there the study space is. For AAU students, their learning style will determine their study space and style.
Depending on what I am studying, I usually like some type of background noise, such as soft music playing or the television turned on and this actually helps me concentrate. If I am taking a test I need absolute quiet and no distractions.
What made you choose a career with AAU? What makes AAU stand out from other universities?
Online degree programs are my passion and I strongly believe that AAU provides an exceptional education experience for our students. I am so happy to be associated with an institution of such high quality and academic integrity.
Any comments on AAU's online learning environment or the diversity of the instructors at AAU?
Our faculty members are located throughout the world and bring their unique experience and expertise to the AAU classroom. We count Fulbright Scholars and academic and industry leaders among our outstanding faculty practitioners.
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