Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

Ashley Choate, Professor, Bakersfield 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.

When I began the Humanizing Online STEM course 6 weeks ago, I had a few humanizing workshops under my belt but I knew I still had a long way to go. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I had zero experience with the online classroom. The course I taught in person adhered to tight timelines, strict requirements for passing, and extremely high standards due to it being a primary course for students pursuing degrees in allied health fields (the majority being nursing degrees). When we first transitioned to online, I was clinging to the structure of the face-to-face class for a few reasons. The first reason was that it was the only thing I knew, as I was still relatively new to teaching in general. Being thrown into that environment was a shock and we were all just trying to get by. The second and more important reason, was my concern that if I went too "soft" I would not be preparing the students well enough for the courses and programs that follow my class in their educational pathway.

Where I am.

This course covered so many valuable topics. However, when reflecting upon "where I was" I would say the biggest message I am taking away is that empathy is not a weakness and you will not let your students down for having a warm and inviting online classroom. The standards and rigors of my courses can stay exactly where they are, while I simultaneously meet my students where they are at. For students who take my class in person, I would say that my personality reflects my warmth in our encounters throughout the week. However, I am realizing that there are more efficient ways to reach out to my online students and show them a little bit of who I really am. I know now that establishing relationships is as valuable in the online classroom as it is in the traditional classroom and, to a certain extent, it is more crucial for the success of the student. 

Where I am going.

I look forward to continue to integrate the "warm demander" pedagogy into my online classroom. Even though I am not teaching online this semester, I have already incorporated some of the "warm demander" techniques and community building concepts that we have discussed in this course and my students are recieveing it really well. I am really excited to start implementing bumper videos with Adobe Express and overhauling my more traditional online lectures into the more easily consumable "microlectures". All these changes are going to take some time, but I am eager to continue developing this new skill set. 

Choate liquid syllabus homepage screenshot

Liquid Syllabus

This liquid syllabus provides a touch point with students before the semester begins. It outlines my course expectations, shares tips for setting them up for success and provides a video of myself so they can get to know me a little better. With the use of warm language, a fun image/video of myself I am trying to create a space that the students immediately feel safe in. I want them to know that they can contact me for anything they might need, even if the course hasn't started yet! I will also be using this website to provide them with other important information that pertains to the course, however those additional site pages will not be available until after the course has begun. This way, they can come back and get all the information they need for the course without having to download or print the actual course syllabus. 

course card screenshot

Course Card

I have created a bunch of fun cartoons of anatomical structures using an AI art creation server called Midjourney in Discord. I think they are fun little reminders that, even though this is a tough course, I am still a real person who likes to laugh and it's alright not to be so serious all the time. I would like to think an image like this takes the edge of (what can be) a stressful introduction into Anatomy and Physiology.


My homepage uses bright colors and fun images of myself and anatomical cartoons to give the immediate impression that this course is designed to be fun! The class itself has a reputation for being notoriously difficult, so students come in a little scared. I am aiming to take away that fear as soon as possible and show them that they can do it! I think the first step in being confident in an online class if feeling like you are capable of navigating the online environment so keeping the homepage streamlined and simple will give them a boost of confidence out of the gate.

Getting to Know You Survey

The survey will be taken within the first week of beginning the course in the "Start here" module. A couple important questions in the survey that will provide me valuable feedback are listed below:

The first question helps me assess if I need to do an additional scheduling activity. This is where I provide the students with a blank downloadable calendar and have them schedule out their typical week without this class, then have them add in the times they plan to dedicate to the modules and then to studying. If there isn't enough time in the week, it is ideal that they reassess their outside commitments or come back and take this class at another time. 

The second question reminds them that self care is as important as their education and other commitments. If they don't have time for it, they are more likely to burn out mid-semester. 

Ice Breaker 

This ice breaker activity is designed to create a sense of belonging and connection. I will be replying to each student and relating to their stories and sharing a bit about myself in that reply. This lets them know I care and value them outside of just their performance in the classroom. Additionally, they must reply to two peers in this activity and comment on something their peer shared that they can relate to, or that they have in common with that person. This allows for the students to make direct connections with each other at the start of the class and, ideally, sets the tone for a welcoming and warm environment in the online space.

Bumper Video

This video describes how the extra credit assignment works in my course. This assignment can typically cause a little bit of confusion because it is an ongoing assignment with submission dates throughout the semester. Especially in the online environment, students can feel overwhelmed with navigating Canvas (especially if this is their first time). Hopefully, a brief video such as this, makes the assignment seem less daunting and gives the students the tools they need to complete it successfully. Through the use of screenshots, I show them exactly where they can find the assignment and provide more information on how to submit it in a .pdf file using an app on their phone.


Learning objective: Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the contribution of tissues, organs, and organ systems to the maintenance of homeostasis and identify causes and effects of selected homeostatic imbalances. 

This microlecture covers the firing of an Action Potential (electrical signal) inside a cell. This topic is important to my course because there are several cell types that do this in the nervous and muscular systems. Throughout this lecture, I discuss homeostatic relationships, organ systems and cell types. This specific topic is heavy on the physiology side of things, and students tend to struggle to see the "big picture" when processes such as this happen at the molecular level. Even though I am not teaching online this semester, I plan to share this video with my current students as a review tool for a challenging topic!