Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

Joseph Oduro Appiah, Instructor of Geospatial Concepts, Cal Poly Humboldt        

This site provides examples of instructional resources created in the Humanizing Online STEM Academy, a professional development program funded by the California Education Learning Lab and administered by the Foothill DeAnza Community College District.                                            


Where I was.

Before my participating in the Humanizing STEM Academy, I considered myself a teacher who carries his duties with compassion and a lot of flexibility. Also, before being part of the academy, I had some "Kindness Cues" in my instructional activities, and I will say most of that were extended to students who face family and health emergencies. Were these enough to ensure the success of class participants who face no family and health-related emergencies but face other problems such as low sense of belongingness, homelessness, hunger, lack of personal computers, etc.? Moreover, before being part of the academy, I didn't know anything like a liquid syllabus, and I was more interested in course topics, assignments and exams, due dates without being so conscious about how students could get access to health and wellness services and importantly food pantry available to students. I had a long syllabus with information about health and wellness at the bottom.     

Where I am.

Through this academy and reflections on my online teaching, I have concluded that there is more room for me to improve in several aspects of my work, including information sharing with students, administering quizzes, consistency and fairness in grading, grading feedback, setting up due dates, etc. At this point, I have learned that acts of kindness is very important for student success. I have come to understand that I cannot get the best out of students if I do not take into consideration other aspects of students' lives that are not visible. I embrace the idea of a liquid syllabus which contains all very essential information that sets students up for success right from the beginning of the course. 

Where I am going.

I am staying conscious about aspects of students' lives that are not visible but would largely impact their success in the courses I instruct. I am heading toward a direction where health and wellness, emotional wellbeing, conduciveness of class atmosphere, quality of course contents, assignments due dates, etc. are all treated with equal sense of urgency. To bridge any existing equity gap now and in the near future, I believe that I have to focus on a pedagogy that concerns with a mix of facts, non-verbal communication, emotional tone, avoid conflict and considers relationships as important as students completing tasks in the courses I instruct.  

Liquid Syllabus

The liquid syllabus provides essential toolkit for students, and it provides firsthand information, including a brief description of course content, course goals, success advice/toolkit, class pacts, university-wide support systems, etc. While the liquid syllabus contains essential information for student success, it does not replace the main course syllabus which has detailed information, including topics to be covered in the course. Please access the liquid syllabus here.  

Course Card

In GSP 101, I present writing, images, and activities, to convey the tenets of collaboration and teamwork and emphasize that it is a course in which everyone will be successful if we combine teamwork and collaboration with individual brilliance and diligence. It is also to convey the idea that everyone can be part of the class to form the team.

Course Homepage

Our course homepage presents information about how to get started, instructor details, and how to get in touch with the instructor. Also, the course homepage presents information about student/office hours. All students have the flexibility to set appointment dates that works for them, and they do not have to meet on the stated days and times if those are not workable for them. 

Getting to Know You Survey

As an instructor, my aim is to know more about students in the GSP 101 course to be able to meet their needs. I ask 12 questions. However, I am more in interested in the responses I will get from these three questions. 1. In one word, how are you feeling about being in this online class? 2. What is the one thing that is most likely to interfere with your success in this class? 3. When you use Canvas (our online platform), will you mainly use your phone, a laptop, a computer, or something else? Responses to question 1 sets the tone for me to plan regarding how to motivate students in the class. Responses to question 2 would help me to plan regarding the types of support systems that students would need and how I can help them to overcome various obstacles. Responses to question 3 would help me to understand the need to provide additional resources (e.g., borrowed laptops with the support of the library/IT) to support the completion of lab work.  

Wisdom Wall

On the wisdom wall, my goal as an instructor is to get advice from students who are about to complete GSP 101. Students would follow prompts to share their experiences, including what they wished they know before starting the course, what worked for and what did not work for them, and lastly the challenges they faced and the initiatives they took to overcome those challenges. Future students would be able to learn from the advice provided.  

Bumper Video

In the video, a new module (Module 5) is introduced to the class. Module 5 covers class activities for weeks 10 and 11. The video provides information about the availability and access to lecture videos, quizzes, discussions sessions, and lab activities. Through this video, students have a list of tasks they are expected to complete even before they open to view the content of the module.  


In the first module of GSP 101, we focus on the composition/content of geospatial concepts and data. Data are huge part of our activities in this class. The types of datasets needed is equally important. Thus, in this micro-lecture, I focus on geospatial data types. I use texts and diagrams (real-world examples) to differentiate between raster and vector datasets.