Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

Becca Leonardo, Part-Time Biology Faculty, Saddleback College


Where I was.

I once taught an online course that had been recently redesigned in a way that I felt I had been cut out of the course. My fears were confirmed when, at the end of the semester, a student referred to me as a "he" in their review (aka, they had no idea who I was.) Since then I have been trying various ways to improve my presence in online courses, with this course being the most focused and comprehensive undertaking yet.

Where I am.

I am filled with excitement at all the tools I have learned about through Humanizing Online STEM! Working on the Liquid Syllabus throughout the course, I feel like I have that one crucial piece ready to go for my next course. I also have learned some very exciting approaches to presenting content that I will be using frequently in the future! I also feel much more confident about presenting myself as *me* to my students. Lastly, I have learned so many approaches that help me focus on my students and their needs. 

Where I am going.

While I have a lot of work to do implementing the tools that we have already learned, I will be able to get them in my courses in the next few months. I also feel empowered to seek out more tools to humanize and connect in my courses. I know that I'm capable of learning and applying these new things and that it will only benefit my students! 

Liquid Syllabus

The liquid syllabus is a great opportunity to connect with students before they even begin the course. My syllabus features first, a welcome paragraph and video from me. By sharing with students about me, I am helping them feel connected with me as a real person- which will hopefully lead to them being more comfortable sharing about themselves! There are then various sections to introduce the students to the course, how I will participate, and what is expected of them. All these help to help each student feel informed and ready as they begin the class.

Humanizing STEM course card, showing two students doing some science!

Course Card

This will be the course card image for my class. After leaving the liquid syllabus, this is the first thing the students will see! I chose a cartoon to have a playful feel. There are students of multiple types represented, again to build connection! The course name is also prominently displayed to make navigation easier from the dashboard page.


The Homepage of the course is important because students will see it each time they log in! There is a warm and welcoming banner at the top. With clear language, students are directed where to start the first time they log in. There is easily accessible contact information for me, and clear buttons linking to each week's module. All of these things make the course feel approachable and manageable right off the bat.

Getting to Know You Survey

This survey will be available upon completion of the Orientation materials. That way, students will be filling it out early in the first week. Questions include, "how do you like to spend your time?" (so I can start to get to know them personally) and "what is your biggest concern regarding this class?" (so they know it's ok to have concerns and to share those with me.) Student responses allow me to do things like tailor shared examples to their interests, preemptively target their concerns, and be more prepared to help with students' individual challenges.

Ice Breaker 

In this Icebreaker assignment, students will choose some form of media that has helped them feel connected to the natural world. One of the ways that this assignment validates the students as individuals is by letting them choose their preferred form of media (i.e. they don't have to choose from only books), and also asks them to share a personal experience they had. They get the opportunity to share how they have connected with something that is unique to them, and students can bond with one another by finding shared interests.

Bumper Video

This bumper video is an introduction to a discussion board assignment. When they open the assignment, it will be right at the top of the instructions, right after a brief intro. Students have, in the past, not completely understood this assignment; I think this video will really help! It provides a short but clear overview of what they're expected to accomplish, which adds clarity to the detailed text instructions below it. 


This microlecture will be one of many available for students, which they will encounter as they work through the week's materials. This particular topic is about cell division, and is focused on the learning objective, "describe the purposes of cell division." Having a lecture video that only covers one topic will allow my students to more easily find what they are looking for, and also be more aware of what they need to know to meet learning objectives.