Jennifer Herzog, M.S., M.Phil.
Herkimer County Community College
"The Online/Hybrid Class Guru"
Back in 2002, when Jennifer Herzog
was designing one of the first online scientific lab courses in the country, she
found herself accidentally running a business of sorts: putting together lab kits by hand for the students enrolled in her
There is a note of relief in her
voice today when she
says, "I don't make the kits anymore; a company makes them for me, and the students buy direct from the company.
What made it really difficult was that a third of students would drop out of the course but wouldn't send the kits back.
I would literally drive to students' places of work at times if they were local to get the kits back.
Financial aid paid for it; but they didn't realize that it was rental, not a purchase."
Herzog, an assistant professor at Herkimer County Community College (HCCC) in Herkimer, NY, never expected to be designing online courses for a community college in the first place-much less chasing down missing lab kits.
was on a research career track at the Yale School of Medicine
when, for personal reasons, she
returned to her
home in upstate New York.
While considering her next career move, she says, "I realized I had always taught since I was an undergrad: I was a teaching assistant in graduate school and I taught some lab courses at Quinnipiac College as an adjunct faculty member.
I thought, `Maybe teaching is a career that I'm going to enjoy more than the research.'" She began by teaching one semester as an adjunct faculty member at Utica College, a nearby four-year school and her alma mater.
A position opened up later at HCCC
, which she
discovered on the second-to-last day before the closing date.
"I applied," she
says, "and the next thing I knew, I was offered the position.
It was really one of those things where, 12 years later, I look back and say, 'I would have never in a million years have expected to be here, but I couldn't have found a better fit or a better job.'"
One of the biggest advantages of working at a community college, Herzog
says, is the flexibility of her
teaches 17 credit hours each semester (lecture courses and labs count for three and five credit hours, respectively), and the rest of her
working hours are hers to spend on outreach or service as she
"Most semesters," she
says, "I have one day a week off when I'm not teaching.
is proud of her
college, a small school in a rural part of upstate New York.
"It's a beautiful campus," she
Many of her
on-campus courses have online counterparts, as HCCC
hosts a large Internet academy program, which Herzog
has participated in for over a decade.
"We are world-renowned at the community college level for the diversity of courses that we offer online," says Herzog
explains that with traditional on-campus courses, all her
teaching must be accomplished in a limited span of three hours a week with her
Online formats, on the other hand, allow her
to constantly update material and drop in on discussions.
"It makes the educational experience more enriched," she
"It also takes more time-at least two to three times the amount of time I spend on a regular course.
Students, too, must spend more time working on online courses, and Herzog
notes that the online and hybrid courses are "very self-selective.
You get traditional students in the hybrid and online classes who think this is going to shorten their time because they don't have to be on campus, when it really takes two or three times longer.
I get a huge drop rate.
The rest of the students who stick with it actually raise the average quite high, because they're all focused and dedicated and ready to complete the work assigned."
The other drawback to teaching online, Herzog
says, is that "you're never truly turned off.
Working at HCCC has allowed Herzog to write for college-level microbiology textbooks, to work with the American Society for Microbiology on undergraduate science education, to do local outreach, and still, as she puts it, "know that each day I go to my job and make a difference.
It's extremely rewarding.