A Meaningful Connection
Already a trailblazer for being one of the first graduates of The Ohio State University College of Dentistry’s Dental Hygiene Master’s Program, Amy Molnar is helping put the program on the map. She came to national attention after winning third place in the DENTSPLY/ADHA Graduate Student Clinicians Program at the American Dental Hygienists’ Association’s 92nd Annual Session in June.
Molnar’s research, which explored the effectiveness of online education formats, used the community of inquiry theory to analyze and determine differences between online discussion forums and synchronous tools, like video web conferences. She determined video web conferencing may lead to more cognitive, teaching and social presence in an online course.
“The research opened my eyes to what is valued in online education—and not only the learning outcomes component, but also the other domains of an online class, like the social component,” said Molnar. “A lot of times students in an online class feel socially isolated. An educator can help by making sure he or she appears as an actual person to students by doing things like texting or video conferencing. Those types of actions can make online learning a more personal experience.”
Molnar, who graduated from the college’s Dental Hygiene program in 2012 as a first-generation college student before entering the newly launched Dental Hygiene graduate program, was able to apply her findings immediately. Upon graduation she was asked to become a lecturer at the college. She teaches Ohio State Dental Hygiene graduate students remotely from her home in Marlton, New Jersey, when she’s not working as a part-time clinical hygienist for a private practice.
“Ohio State was one of the best schools I could have imagined going to,” said Molnar. “My undergraduate Dental Hygiene class was 30 students, so it allowed me to have individualized attention. Several of my grad instructors were the same as in undergrad, so I had a lot of connection. That’s what I attempt to do in my online classes—create a personal connection even though I am not physically there.”