A Sam Houston State University finance professor invested long-term in teaching online, and says the return on his investment has been worth its weight in gold.
Balasundram Maniam, a professor in the College of Business Administration, was at the forefront of online learning for the college when he began teaching online courses in the Fall 2009 semester.
“To prepare for teaching online, I read a lot about what was developing in the field of education, and I saw how technology was changing things; what was available and what could be done in courses,” he says. “I had my reservations, but I soon went from a skeptic to a believer; I’m preaching online learning now.”
In November, Maniam was recognized as a Regents’ Professor by the Board of Regents of the Texas State University System for his “lengthy record of consistently superior student evaluations,” and “commitment to innovation in teaching, as evidenced by his groundbreaking development of online courses in finance.”
Maniam, better known to his students as “Bala,” began teaching FINC 5310, Introduction to Institutions, Investments, and Managerial Finance, as his first online course and has continued to update the materials, presentation, and supplements of the course often through the years.
He says updating the methodology and approach of the course to keep it fresh served as a representation for teaching online in general, as the key to keeping the course relevant to students is adapting to both their personal and professional needs.
“It takes a lot of time and energy to both design and execute a course properly, and making yourself availability to students 24-hours a day, seven days a week, is part of that process,” he says. “But the students see your dedication to their learning experience, and they return your effort through quality responses and questions about assignments.”
Maniam was so confident in the resources and approach of his online course that in the Fall 2013 semester, he invited students enrolled in his face-to-face FINC 5310 course to utilize the resources of his FINC 5310 online course in addition to classroom discussions. He says students gave resounding positive feedback after accessing online course content such as streaming video lectures, notes, and supplemental readings.
“Certain aspects of face-to-face learning only give so much to students, and communication is key to their success,” he says. “Online students have the ability to pause, rewind, and review online lectures, communicate directly with me via email, and control the speed of their learning on their terms.”
-Professor Balasundram Maniam
Looking back, Maniam says the process of learning to teach online, one that he initially met with reluctance, made him a better professor.
“I saw that educators were getting more and more online, and I didn’t want to be on the sidelines; I wanted to jump on the bandwagon, keep up with the technology, and be comfortable moving forward in the future,” he says. “Teaching courses online has made me a better professor, and I really appreciate what online can do; 10 to 15 years ago I wouldn’t have thought so, but the advantages of online learning are undeniable.”