Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

Dr. Denise Jackson, Porterville College

Principles of Biology BIOL P110

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. 

Image of Denise


Where I was.

I had no idea if I was going to do well teaching completely online. I am constantly learning about new technology and new ways to teach students about biology, but I was limited in my knowledge of the tools available to help with online instruction. I was a bit intimidated to learn how to use them. I pride myself in finding ways to approach science equitably, and to incorporate a variety of learning styles, assignments, and activities in my courses. However, I struggle with bringing hands-on scientific learning into an online environment.

Where I am.

After completing the Online Humanizing STEM Academy, I had a lot to reflect on. The most important piece of knowledge I have gained from this experience is thinking about how each individual student feels when they are in our course. Do they feel welcomed? Will they feel accepted? How can I do my part to create an environment where everyone feels appreciated, welcomed, and accepted and what does that look like? I have always feared recording myself in videos. Mostly due to the sound of my voice, but I now realize that it makes me who I am, and showing my students who I am is the start of creating a welcoming environment. 

The tools I learned about in this academy are extremely helpful, especially for recording videos. I went from "no way", to "this is amazing" in just a matter of weeks. I can't wait to incorporate all I have learned into my courses. 

Where I am going.

I am excited to build online courses and incorporate the new tools I have learned to use. From a warm, welcoming introductory video, to a liquid syllabus. I will be forever editing, creating, and finding new ways to make online science equitable, accessable, and available to students while maintaining an adequate level of learning. I look forward to growing and developing my courses centered around a "Humanizing" effort. This will stay with me for all of my courses, whether in person, or online.  

Liquid Syllabus

Before the semester starts, I will email the liquid syllabus to students. I want them to know who I am, and that I am there for them. I want to build trust with them, and I let them know that this is their course, and we will work together as a team. The liquid syllabus provides a lot of what they will need to start the course, and includes a lot of supportive material. It also gives them access to my contact information, and encourages them to contact me if they have any questions. This sets the stage before class begins, and hopefully provides some comfort to students who are coming to learn about Biology. 

Course Card

For the course card image I wanted to feature the diversity of the subject material within biology. Biology is the study of life, from cells, to molecules, to larger plants and animals. I chose more friendly pictures to illustrate this, so that the course, upon entering, is inviting. 


I wanted this course to seem fun, exciting, and not intimidating. I hoped to accomplish that with the homepage. My goal was for it to be kind and welcoming, and include some essentials to get our course started. I also wanted students to see my fun side and to know a few things about me. 

Getting to Know You Survey

Students will take this survey at the beginning of the course to allow me to get to know them. Some of the questions include: 

These questions are designed to let me know as an instructor, what I can do to help support each student as an individual. They also give me an idea of what type of assignments may need more focus, or how I can update the curriculum to address the different learning styles of each student. They also help me understand how the students are feeling about the course, so that I can reply and offer some comforting words. 

Welcoming and Self-affirming Ice Breaker

It is important to me that students know who I am as a person. I want them to know that I am like them, a person- real, with a family, and that I have things in my life that are meaningful to me. I also want to know about them, and for them to get to know a little about their peers. This icebreaker allows students in the course to share a few values about their lives. They also get to learn about other students, and find connections among their peers. This brings a sense of community inside our course, and allows students a chance to become familiar with one another. 

Bumper Video

Sometimes students struggle with bigger picture concepts in Biology. For example, understanding how the heart works as a whole, and how it delivers oxygen the cells our body. This short video allows students a quick tour of the heart, while highlighting the important features. This quick lesson may help students remember the path oxygen travels once it enters our body. It also provides the overall theme regarding Cellular Respiration, the main learning component of the lecture. 


This microlecture aligns with the learning objective to describe fundamental concepts in biology, including the chemical nature of life, by explaining how enzymes work. Since the video is shorter than our regular lecture, and each slide has its own recording, the students can move through the material at their own pace and listen to certain parts as many times as they need. I expect this to improve student learning by being available if and when students need it, and it will allow them to focus on the areas they need to, while also pausing to write down questions if they have any.