Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

Mary Bennett, Instructional Designer, Fresno State

This site provides examples and 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.

When I began this journey, in my role as an Instructional Designer I had already been teaching my faculty about elements to include in their online course to humanize them by passing along what I had learned in my own professional development. The need for this was put on the fast track due to COVID. Coming back to campus after the pandemic, I noticed right away how many faculty were using the strategies we had implemented in their "pandemic" courses.

This experience sparked my own curiosity to find out more. At first I was a bit hesitant because of the STEM focus thinking that what I would be learning would not apply to the majority of the faculty I serve. I was wrong!

Where I am.

I have come away from this course with a clearer understanding of how to infuse equity in teaching. I have leaned that many of the practices are subtle but so impactful. Who knew that something as simple as a Course Card could be such a powerful way to include kindness cues of social inclusion!

I now what to sit back and digest all of the amazing content that the course developers created. I appreciated how the course was woven together to achieve the course goals. While I found all of the assignments useful, having the opportunity to critically reflect on culturally responsive teaching pedagogy while applying online teaching strategies was the highlight.

Where I am going.

I now have renewed energy for course design and am looking forward to sharing what I have learned with my faculty. This is something that I truly needed, taking into account the last few years. I now have a heightened sense of awareness for knowing your cultural values and how these play into course design. I am planning on having faculty I work with look at their courses through the lens of cultural values. This will be interesting to see how it guides practice - we shall see.

I came away from this course with so much to consider. Having the opportunity to participate as an online student is something that every faculty and Instructional Designer should do. As an online student, I have learned the power of grace and empathy from my facilitators and will share the importance of this with the faculty I serve. I have to say that this has been one of the best learning experiences I have taken. Everything that I learned can be applied across disciplines. Thank you and I look forward to continuing on the path of the power of a Humanized course!

Liquid Syllabus

For years, I have wanted to create a Liquid Syllabus and was excited to finally take the time to do this. This site makes it possible for my students to have important course information before they are even able to log in to Canvas. My intent was to create a warm, welcoming space where they could "meet" me before the course started and have the support and resources needed to be successful. The fact that Google Sites is mobile friendly makes this site even more user-friendly.

Science for the Elementary Classroom Course Card with a girl  with goggles on her head engaging in a science activity with beakers.

Course Card

I chose this picture for the Course Card for several reasons. The image is of a young girl of color who is clearly excited about the experiment she is conducting. The image conveys that science is fun and sparks curiosity hopefully inviting students to click on the card to join the fun! I also chose this image to combat false stereotypes about STEM and show that anyone can be a scientist.


The kindness cues on my homepage include a banner that depicts a diverse group of students happily engaged in a science activity, the topic of the course. I also included a carefully selected quote to connect students to the content and also motivate them. My image was intentionally included to show me in a casual, non-academic setting, in an effort to make students feel comfortable and humanize myself. This image also was chosen as a subtle connection to the course content. Finally, students will be able to connect with me in a variety of ways, including text.

Getting to Know You Survey

The Getting to Know you Survey included the basic questions often asked at the beginning of and two questions in particular were asked to help create a warm and inclusive class environment and also guide my teaching. I ask students to provide me with any pronunciation tips for saying their name. They are encouraged to record either and audio or video of the correct pronunciation in Canvas. Making sure that I pronounce names correctly shows respect and promotes a diverse and accepting class culture.

The second question asks students to share how they are feeling about this class in one word. I take these words and create a word cloud to use as a catalyst for discussion in the introductions discussion. I have found that this let's students know that they are feeling the same way as their peers when they discover they have many of the same feelings creating a which helps to deepen personalization from the beginning of the term.

Do you have any pronunciation tips for saying your name? If so, I encourage you to record and audio or video of the correct pronunciation of your name.

In one word, describe how you are feeling about this class.

Ice Breaker

This was my favorite activity to create! For this icebreaker the students are asked to scroll through their phones and pick a photo that brings them JOY. They then share this photo as their background in Flip and share the reasons why the photo brings them Joy. This goal of this icebreaker is to create a community and bring students together in a way that truly means something to each of them.

Wisdom Wall

In this Wisdom Wall activity, students reflect back on their course experience using Flip. I adapted the design thinking activity Rose-Thorn-Bud where students are asked to think back on the positives, the pain points, and the potential for learning more about the course topics. I will be using the Flip mixtape feature to grow a repository of useful advice for incoming students.

Bumper Video

In this short video, students are introduced to the topic for the first course module. The video provides them with a brief background to the Next Generation Science Standards. Students will be using these standards throughout the course and I identify in this video the specific standards we will cover.


In this microlecture, I introduce students to the Next Generation Science Standards website which builds off the Bumper Video. This video demonstrates how to use the Quick Search feature. They will be using this site throughout the course as they align the content to these standards. The Quick Search is the most basic search tool and knowing how to use this will optimize the time spent searching the site.