Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

Dave Stephens, Instructional Technology Specialist | Butte 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.

In my role at my own institution, I have worked with hundreds of instructors to help them navigate the use of educational technologies used for teaching and learning. Up until about three years ago, the solutions I was providing were mainly technical in nature and neither accounted for or addressed equity deficiencies. I was under the impression that most of the professional development that was offered in that vein was for those doing the actual teaching and interacting with students, which I do not do. I can see now that I was very late in understanding my own needs, in that I could have been helping my faculty with both technical and humanizing their courses for some time. I almost feel a little guilty in admitting this.

Where I am.

I feel like I am on better footing to continue embracing humanizing techniques to better advise and guide my faculty clientele. I know there is much more to learn and now that I have a solid foundation, I feel much more comfortable seeking opportunities to delve into sustaining my professional and personal aspirations to become a better resource for my colleagues. I think the concepts of empathy and storytelling were the most valuable to me as they had an immediate impact on my ability to incorporate them into my work and my personal relationships. I was not expecting the academy material to help me grow into a better listener, but here I am! I feel much more confident in pushing past my own impersonal professionalism, and I have already used storytelling to help clients better understand and connect with concepts related to course design.

Where I am going.

I am looking forward to continuing my own journey to further understand the connections between how we can better principles of humanizing our online education methods. I am hoping to collaboratively refine existing training we provide for faculty to focus more on the techniques presented in this academy experience. I am also hoping to build something similar for administrators, as I think there is great value in ensuring that all areas of our instructional operation are aware of the potential to improve both the quality of our offerings and the persistence of our students. I definitely plan on staying connected to the humanizing movement and adopting it as my own wherever possible moving forward.

Liquid Syllabus

My liquid syllabus will be used conceptually as an example during faculty trainings. I hope to encourage instructors to take the time and effort to create their own to help their students and them achieve deeper trust, reduce any anxiety and allow for a more productive academic community.

I also hope to set a more personal tone for how faculty can proactively demonstrate their willingness to be accessible and approachable "beyond the inbox".

Introduction to Forestry - FSR 11 #7821 (SP23)

Course Card

The two images chosen for this course card were based on showing the two principal elements of the course; students and trees. I purposely looked for an image of students from diverse backgrounds to demonstrate the potential spectrum of cultures and backgrounds that can succeed in the course. I continue to look for images that can communicate this even better.


My homepage contains a warm textual banner, as well as a rotating carousel of images that show students performing various tasks related to forestry and ecological conservation. I also appear on the video's thumbnail image waving hello. There is a focus on ensuring how students can contact me and expectations for response time. I also provide a prominent link to a self-paced Canvas orientation course that is available to all students.

Getting to Know You Survey

My Getting to Know You survey is located in my Week One - Orientation module and contains a clear message that student submissions are kept confidential and are not used in grading. Several questions are aimed at ensuring I am aware of important things such as knowing if they are okay with receiving audio/video feedback, what life aspirations they may have and how to pronounce their name. I am considering adding others as well.

Ice Breaker

My icebreaking activity, Cross-Section of Me, will hopefully help students become more aware of their strengths and vulnerabilities and thus better prepare themselves to take on their academic challenges by becoming self-directed learners. Giving students an opportunity to share personal details about themselves also gives our learning community a sense of cohesion and promotes deeper ownership of their learning. I'm excited to promote this concept!

Wisdom Wall

My wisdom wall activity, Advice for the Future, utilizes the Flip app again to help students reflect on their experiences in the course and to pass on a successful tip or strategy that helped them in the course. They may also share something that did not help them in the course, in the hope of helping their peers avoid a pitfall, etc. This activity helps foster a more inclusive learning environment and helps students acknowledge their own values. This especially helps those with collectivist backgrounds.

Bumper Video

This narrated tour of a seed orchard facility serves as an example of a project based assignment where students are asked to provide a brief tour of a physical or online resource that provides or promotes conservation in our national forests or other ecologically sensitive area. The project aligns with one of the student learning outcomes of the course; demonstration of technical reporting. The project allows students to understand the importance that such reporting plays in forestry.


This brief lecture helps students understand the scope and scale of fuel management practices in forestry. The lecture provides students with an opportunity to understand a principal complex interaction between humans and forested ecological systems. The focus of the lecture is designed to provide a backdrop for students to draw on prior to moving into a subsequent unit that asks students to research a specific fuel reduction practice or methodology.