Sheridan College Instructor Recognized For Excellence In Distance Education


The Wyoming Distance Education Consortium named Northern Wyoming Community College District faculty member Dr. Rachel Kristiansen as the 2018 NWCCD Master Distance Educator of the Year.

Nominees for the award are drawn annually from each of Wyoming’s seven community colleges and the University of Wyoming. Criteria for the award include inspiring passion and commitment from students, using available technology to enhance varied learning styles, participating in ongoing professional development opportunities, and communicating best practices and pedagogy of online learning.

Kristiansen, a Sheridan native, teaches psychology and social science at Sheridan College. “It’s a great honor to receive this award,” said Kristiansen in a press release. “I always try to find innovative and creative ways to engage students using the latest technology.”

Kristiansen has been instrumental in helping NWCCD migrate away from Blackboard course management software to the Canvas learning management system. According to their website, Canvas uses open, usable, cloud-based technologies to integrate educational content, tools, and services.

Although Blackboard is currently used by more than 100 million learners and educators in 90 countries, there has been a trend among institutions of higher education to adopt newer solutions for the digital education environment and distance learning.

“Rachel set the example for all faculty to follow by leading all faculty in the amount of online training she attended and also recruiting faculty to a regional training in Casper in the spring of 2018,” said Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Estella Castillo-Garrison in the release. “Rachel championed the new system, recruiting faculty to test and manipulate features within the new system and constantly providing feedback.”

Kristiansen holds master’s and doctorate degrees in experimental psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a master’s degree in shelter medicine from the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

During her graduate career, Kristiansen studied various species of cetaceans (dolphins and whales) in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean. Her doctoral dissertation examined personality factors in horses across the globe.

In addition to teaching, Kristiansen serves as the program director at Second Chance Sheridan Cat Rescue.

By Kevin Knapp