Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

Sara Hanna, Cal Poly Humboldt


Where I was.

I have taught online courses for several years and felt comfortable navigating various Learning Management Systems, graphic design and video producing technology prior to taking this course. I was particularly interested in the fact that this course was specifically designed for online STEM teaching. I have taken a few other online pedagogy courses but there were not specifically focused on STEM and some of the unique challenges when teaching these topic online. I knew it was time to update some of my online course content and the Humanizing Online STEM course seemed like the perfect opportunity. I am always open to learning new techniques and providing a positive, equitable experience for my students and was curious to see what the course would focus on.

Where I am.

The most immediate change I have implemented is making an concerted effort to provide actionable, positive feedback to students in all of my classes. The feedback I received in this course was useful, friendly and made me want to review the comments. I would like to foster the same feeling among my students. Experiencing and interacting with Canvas extensively in a student role has also been very informative. There are several idiosyncrasies that I cam now familiar with and will keep in mind when designing assignments and instructions. I have already implemented several "Bumper" videos into the content for both my face-to-face classes as well as online classes. I am also increasing the number of video software tutorials I hope that this will improve learning and retention as well as allow students to review certain content and tools at their own pace. It was nice to add a few new tools to my existing audio/visual knowledge. Overall the information in the course helped me re-imagine and humanize existing activities and discussions.

Where I am going.

After this class I feel more comfortable in conveying my human side in addition to my professional self. I feel I have always easily conveyed this in my face-to-face classes but struggled to connect the same in an online environment. I am going to continue to take steps to make students feel welcome in the online environment. One thing I will be trying to do is to improve the sense of belonging and let students that it ok to struggle sometimes. I make it a point to share my failures and frustration at times to normalize this as past of the learning process. I am also going to continue to incorporate more video and other media into my courses.  Specifically I will try out video and audio feedback for some assignments. I look forward to sharing this knowledge with others to continue empower instructors and students in online teaching and learning.

Liquid Syllabus

The liquid syllabus will be the first communication students receive from me.  Students will be able to view the liquid syllabus before the course officially begins. They will be greeting with an introduction video telling them a little about myself.  The liquid syllabus also provides a quick over of the format, expectations and software needed for the course. My hope if to engage students with beautiful images of the Earth to excite them about the class.  Students should also feel more comfortable contacting me with questions or concerns about the course and will feel confident that there are resources available to support them.

Course Card

In the past I have used satellite imagery as the Canvas course card for the remote sensing course.  To further humanize the initial contact, I updated the image to include a student tossing an inflatable globe that fades into the satellite imagery.  This adds a human element to the imagery and it's a plus that the student in the photo is a student who I had in my class several years ago and has gone on to complete a Master's degree and intern at NASA. Hopefully this will provide an eyecatching, first introduction to the course, making students excited to learn more.


The homepage provides a welcoming satellite image that shows the beauty of remote sensing.  The short introductory paragraph greets students and tells them what to expect in the course. It has a clear "Start Here" button for students to easily navigate to the orientation module at the beginning of the course. The course page also includes links to frequently used resources and modules for easy navigation.  At the bottom of the page I have included a photo  and biography to promote instructor presence in the course. The page overall is designed to make students feel welcome, comfortable in finding the material  and secure in contacting the instructor.

Getting to Know You Survey

The Getting to Know You Survey will be at the end of the welcome module.  The survey addresses student's backgrounds and individual needs.  Below are two of the questions from the survey:

I plan on using the survey to identify students who might need extra assistance or early intervention. By including a question about the technology I can also better provide assistance to students completing lab assignments. 

Ice Breaker

The Ice Breaker activity serves as an introduction to remote sensing as well as an introduction to fellow students.  The goal is to humanize the initial interaction and make students feel like they belong. Students visit the NASA website Earth Observatory to browse the satellite imagery and maps.  Students are instructed to select an image that resonates with them and then share this image. Students will think about what is particular about the image made them select it.  Students will record video or voice responses using Flip. In the post they will share a little about themselves as well as share the image they selected.

Bumper Video

This video accompanies a worksheet where students work with various equations related electromagnetic radiation. In the worksheet students will work with and convert numbers in scientific notation and various metric unit prefixes.  The video provides a short overview of scientific notation and the role of metric prefixes.  Hopefully the video will provide a quick refresher to allow students to feel more comfortable and confident in completing the worksheet.


This microlecture covers the principals of passive microwave remote sensing.  One of the goals of the course is for students to gain an understanding of the basics and applications of a variety of remote sensing technologies. After watching this video students should be able to understand the principals of passive microwave and best applications for the technology.  This lecture builds on previous content that covers the foundations of blackbody radiation .  The video is relatively short, contains video and text to convey the material. Students can also easily pause the material and replay it as necessary.

This site is by Sara Hanna and is shared with a Creative Commons-Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 license. Creation of this content was made possible with funding from the California Education Learning Lab.