Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

 S. Sumangala Rao, Course Instructor, San Diego Mesa 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.

Before joining the Humanizing Online STEM Academy, I had acquired knowledge of effective online teaching practices and designing accessible courses on Canvas by completing the Synchronous Online Learning Instructional Design Program offered by Southwestern College, Include Training by San Diego Mesa College and Flexible Course Design Summer Institute by SDSU. However, I was unaware of concepts like Culturally Responsive Teaching, embedding kindness cues into the course, liquid syllabus, bumper video and integrating  new tools like Flip, Adobe Spark to humanize my course.

Where I am.

I have learned how to make my course more inviting and inclusive for my students by creating a liquid syllabus with relevant information that students need to know before the course begins as well as a "Know about your Instructor" video to add a human element to the course.  I feel quite comfortable creating ice breaker activities using Flip, including a warm course card on Canvas, creating bumper videos to introduce and go over assignments/ challenging concepts and also to conduct student surveys to get to know my students better at the beginning of the course.

Where I am going.

I look forward to implementing the new strategies and tools that I have learnt in this academy into my future face to face as well as online courses. I think by embedding the various humanizing elements into my courses, will make it more accessible, inclusive, equitable and engaging for my STEM students.

Liquid Syllabus

A Liquid Syllabus is an excellent way to establish warm contact with online students before the course begins. It can  give student's first impression of the instructor as well as the course and can be used to set course expectations. A Liquid Syllabus positions diversity as an asset and demystifies how to be successful in week one. It contains essential information that students need to know before they log-in to the online course and contains additional information like resources and tips for students to succeed that can be used throughout the course.

One Man looking through a telescope and two Woman looking at planets

 Course Card

The free image that I have selected for my Astronomy lecture course shows a man and two women looking at planets and stars in the sky. This picture sends out a warm message that this course is open and accessible to everyone, irrespective of their gender. 


I have created a course homepage that is warm, welcoming  and organized. The homepage sends out a clear message that I am there to support and help out students by providing links to access student resources and the Q & A Discussion Forum.

I have also provided my contact information and My Zoom Meeting Room link to ensure accessibility.

Getting to Know You Survey

I have included the "Student Information Survey" in Day 1: Getting Started Module on Canvas mainly to understand my student's needs and to provide support.

Here are some of the questions that I have included in my survey to know about student preferences and to see if they have the resources to access the online course:

a) When you use Canvas (our online platform), will you mainly use your phone, a laptop, a computer, or something else?

b) Sometimes if I provide feedback using video, would this be okay, or would you prefer written feedback every time? 

Ice Breaker 

I created a Self-Affirming Ice Breaker Activity on Canvas and Flip. In this activity, students are given a list of core values to choose from and then reflect on how these values influenced their lives. 

These reflections will be followed by a audio/video that a student will record using Flip using the instructions given on Canvas. Students will then be required to respond to one other student's recording. 

This activity helps in fostering a sense of belonging by connecting students with each other's life experiences.

Bumper Video

I made a Course Bumper Video to go over an Assignment Set for my course on Canvas. I have tried to clearly communicate what students are expected to accomplish in each of the exercises. I have discussed some tips/tricks to help students in completing the assignment.


The main learning objectives in my Microlecture where to define an Exoplanet and describe methods of Exoplanet Detection.

Students have difficulty understanding the textbook readings and appreciating the differences between Exoplanet Detection Methods. So, I have used simulations and images to explain these challenging topics. 

This site is by S. Sumangala Rao and is shared with a Creative Commons-Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 license. Creation of this content was made possible with funding from the California Education Learning Lab.