Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

Bita Nosratieh, Mathematics Instructor at Foothill College

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.

Once in person teaching was haulted in March 2020, I found myself scrambling to learn about Canvas and Zoom so I could continue teaching the only way I knew how to teach. Teaching synchronous  live classes on Zoom was my preferred method. I thought I had to literraly see my students on camera to know for sure that they were learning and my teachings were effective.  I also struggled to find a balance with my teaching and personal chaos having my young kids at home Zoom schooling in the same period. The only way I knew how to manage it all was to create boundaries and strict routines for my students and my family. However after an exhausting two years, my kids were back in school in person and I realized that if I choose to teach remotely online, there has to be a better way. There must be tools that I can put into use to change how I teach.  But also to educate myself on how online students learn. 

Where I am.

I am inspired and eager to use some of the tools I learned about in the Humanizing Academy to modify and enhance my online class on Canvas. Since I happened to have started a new term at my school already, I decided to use my liquid syllabus and survey to get to know my students and I already feel a major shift in me. Maybe I should have anticipated this but I had no idea how much I would personally benefit from everything the Humanizing Online STEM Academy has taught me. When I was an in person instructor,  I was fueled by the connections my students made with each other and with me. I had been missing that for the past few years. Now I know how to make the connections in new ways!

Where I am going.

Online teaching and learning is here to stay and  the time has come for me to stop being reactive and be intentional and proactive in my role as an online math instructor. I know I need to experiment with the different tools I can adopt to deliver my content and engage with students. Since some methods may fit my style and personality better than others. But one thing I am certain about is that online students often have busy and challenging lives and I can be more supportive and relatable. 

Liquid Syllabus

My liquid syllabus will be shared with students enrolled in my online class a few days before the first day of the quarter. I know many students feel nervous and axinous right before a new term starts becuase online classes even in the same subject vary in structure and format. So before diving in to the details of the course and syllabus, I share a brief personal history with images of my kids included to help calm their nerves. Knowing there is a real person with experiences in life that may or may not be the same as theirs puts a human image in their mind as they read the content on the screen.

Sharing my intentions and making a commitment to stay actively engaged in their learning,  along with my teaching philosophies and tips for success paints a picture of what it's like to be part of this class and community.

Image of Spring Math 1C course card

Course Card

Since Foothill College is a quarter school system, I like to use seasons and nature in general as a theme in my courses. I find in particlar this image to be positive and welcoming.


In the homepage for the first week I include a brief video welcoming students and showing them how to navigate the course. I include a link to the orientation module where they can read through the details of the course. I encourage them to start with the getting to know you survey and share more about themselves with me. I also point out the Introductions Discussion assingment where they can meet each other and interact. At the bottom of the page, I include a link to the questions and answers forum for students to use anytime. I emphasize that anyone enrolled in the class has the ability to respond and engage.

Getting to Know You Survey

This survey is placed in the orientation module of my course, which is published on the first day of class. There are nine questions. Two quetions that I find very insightful are  the followng:

The word they use to describe how they are feeling will help me personalize my response to them as we establish our individual connections. The charactersic of a great online class often includes communication and timely repsonses between instructore and student which I can again be reassuring about that in my replies. 

Wisdom Wall

I created the Wisdom Wall to give the opportunity to my current students to make a connection with the future group.  I also believe this provides them the chance to reflect back and see how far they have come. But also for them to know their  voice and point of view matters.

Bumper Video

This video will be placed in module 6 which is about mid point in our course. The topics in Math 1C are from two very different branches of calculus making the transition from inifnite series to multivariable calculus is very abrupt. It really is like a brand new course starts in this module. So this short video helps make the introduction of multivariable calculus more welcoming.


This lecture will be part of the first series of videos introducting multivariable calculus. It is aligned with the third learning objective in our course that includes knowing how to model lines and planes in space. I think since all the knowledge in math, students have gained thus far has been in two dimentions, by spliting this topic into it's own video will show students how to build on their knowledge and create the foundation they need for the rest of their calculus studies.