Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

Dr. Doug Franklin, Instructor, Ventura 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.

I was using the discussion board but students were only typing their posts and responses. Discussions board assignments were posted to the whole class as a group. The first discussion was an introduction post and I would post a few sentences about myself there for the students to read. I occasionally created videos and once I did, I re-used them over and over. Or sometimes I found an existing video on YouTube and shared it. My syllabus was very dry, full of facts and rules and sticks but no carrots to promote positive outcomes.

Where I am.

I have learned to use Flip, Adobe Express, and YouTube. I had never heard of Flip and Adobe Express before. And I used YouTube to find existing videos previously but now I know how to upload my own creations to YouTube and use YouTube to add captioning. I have especially enjoyed getting to know Adobe Express. I haven't "played" with all the bells and whistles yet to see the full functionality but I see a lot of potential there. I also see the benefit of putting more of an emphasis on relationship=building and promoting good behavior instead of just marking students down when they fall short.

Where I am going.

Now I need to find a good balance, especially in general education courses, of helping students learn what is expected of them in a non-confrontational way while still upholding expectations. I also want to further develop my skills in the creation of instructional videos. Using Flip, I want to build more engaging discussions in my courses too.

Screenshot of liquid syllabus

Liquid Syllabus

My liquid syllabus is a way for students to make a connection with me. They will get to see and hear me as I introduce myself and give them some personal information about myself. That way they can relate to me as a person and not just a sterile/distant instructor. Also, the liquid syllabus contains items such as "how to succeed" and "how to reach me." So instead of just a list of rules, procedures, and penalties, students will see that I want them to succeed and that I am providing them with tools to help them succeed.

Image of Canvas Course Card

Canvas Course Card

I choose this image for my course card because it depicts individuals from a variety of demographics who are engaged in science. Students might have a stereotypical view that scientists are usually white or Asian or male or old. This image shows scientists who are young, female, and/or black. Hopefully students will see this and either concisously or otherwise begin to associate science with broader demographics, including their own.

Course Homepage

My homepage within Canvas acts as a "kindness cue" because instead of opening with the syllabus or instructions to "read chapter 1" right away, I instead provide a introductory page with welcoming language and with a video that allows the students to start to become familiar with me first before they start getting into the introduction to the class work.

Getting to Know You Survey

One of the questions I ask in my "Getting to Know You" survey is "Do you have any pronunciation tips for saying your name?" This one seems kind of trivial at first glance but I've been in this position where, after getting through over half of an online course without having an actual conversation with a student, I've had to sheepishly ask them how to pronounce their name the first time we do talk. So in the student's mind, we've "worked together" for several weeks but I don't even know his/her name. Talk about geeling disconnected!

A second question I included is "What are your long-term goals and how will this class help you achieve them?" I teach mostly general education students, many of whom don't want to be in the class but have to take it for their degree. So even if I can't convince them that the material is going to be relevant to their lives at some point, I can help them maintain motivation by talking about how this course is one step they will need to complete to get to those long-term goals.

Tour of Course Ice Breaker

In my previous "post an introduction" discussion board assignments I've often asked students to talk about why they took the course or what their interest in physics/astronomy is. I know that, and many students reply, that they are in the course because they have to take a science course. There are a few with a genuine interest, and always one or two try too hard to kiss up by over-emphasizing a "love" for the subject that doesn't bear out. But with this icebreaker, students get a chance to talk about themselves and are mucn more inclined to be honest and to take a real interest in completing the activity because they can be authentic. I would use this in the first week and before they begin the subject matter of the first module.

Tour of Wisdom Wall

In the Wisdom Wall assignment, students are asked to reflect back on their thoughts and feelings as they began the course, and how those changed as they experienced the course. Then they are asked to leave a piece of advice for the students who will come after them. In other words, "what I wish I knew when I started the course." Hopefully the students have learned something about themselves over the course of the semester and what worked best for them in terms of learning the material, managing their time, completing the assignments, and/or engaging with the instructor and their peers via the various distance-learning tools such as Zoom, Flip, Canvas, etc. They may have not given much thought to their progression as it happened, now they are asked to reflect back and articulate something about their experience.

Bumper Video

My Bumper video is used to kick off the module on elastic and inelastic collisions. Students will have already leared how to use the conservation of momentum and conservation of energy to solve some problems but how we apply these two conservation laws to a problem with a collision depends on whether it is an elastic collision or inelastic collision. I don't like memorization, I try to always focus on concepts and applications, but in order to know which laws apply and how, you have to know the difference between inelastic and elastic. This bumper video introduces the two concepts and attempts to give the students a cue that they can use to distinguish one from the other, the bit about "in" discussed in the video. In other words, I don't want students to constantly have to remind themselves of which one is which and constantly have to refer back to the book or notes.


This video is designed to help students achieve the learning objective of being able to convert measurements from one measurement system (such as the English system) to another system (such as the S.I. system). It starts by introducing students to the foundation of multiplying by one and shows students how we use that foundation to setup our conversion factors. Then it walks students through some examples that build upon the previous steps. Finally, students are given a practice opportunity and provided with the answer so they can check their work. Students have the ability to pause the video at any time and to repeat all or portions of the video as needed. Of course they may still have questions so they can contact me, post in the discussion board, talk with me via zoom, or seek tutoring assistance for additional guidance.

Creation of this content was made possible with funding from the California Education Learning Lab