Humanizing Online STEM Showcase 

Ali Olson-Pacheco | Instructional Technologist & Designer 

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  

As an instructional technologist/designer at a CCC, I had participated in a fair amount of humanizing and equity-based professional learning before the Humanizing STEM Academy. None were as rigorous or motivating as this course, and they rarely included specific guidance for STEM-related fields.   

When taking the prior workshops or courses, it was not in a cohort model and felt very Lonewolf-like. This made it difficult to imagine implementing some of the ideas at scale—buy-in at my institution is extremely important. The pandemic plus years of contract negotiations have made “adding more to faculty plates” a very unpopular topic.     

Luckily, momentum is growing at my college as we recently received an HSI STEM grant and have had more funds to incentivize faculty professional development. We also have a very equity-minded group of science faculty leading the charge on addressing equity gaps and striving for high-quality online science courses.   

The timing of this project was perfect. The institution’s grant investment and the growing support by STEM faculty have reached a critical mass to make a significant impact on our school. Like students, faculty, and staff taking the plunge into humanizing STEM courses need belongingness too. With the increased interest and support from my peers, my commitment to equity has been reinvigorated!   

Where I am 

As the Humanizing Academy closes, I am ready to lean into warm demander pedagogy and dig deeper into providing warm, wise feedback. I enjoyed the detailed and friendly feedback I received in the course and couldn’t wait to review it after submitting an assignment. I would love to create that sense of excitement with my students and the faculty I collaborate with.   

One shift this course helped me make is to see that I need to create more videos, and I need to make sure I insert myself more into them. I tend to hesitate in “putting myself out there,” but I now realize I must in order to establish relationships with my learners.     

Also, it was very "meta" taking the course as a faculty support person. As I completed the materials and activities, I focused on how to give institution-specific support to future faculty taking the course. Every institution is unique in its culture and resources, and every faculty member is at a different level of familiarity with the practices and technology covered in the course. We practice “meet them where they are at,” and I know there will be faculty needing more support with creating captioned videos, custom images, and a liquid syllabus. They will undoubtedly need help with Flip, especially since our institution will be disabling the ability for instructors to install apps from the EduApp store in Canvas. We are developing a streamlined process for instructors to request and integrate Flip into their courses, including institution-specific templates.    

Where I am going 

After the Humanizing Academy, I will need to practice the high-impact strategies from the course and assist other STEM faculty in successfully implementing them. First, we will need to develop an active community of practice that is supportive and inspiring. We are off to a good start with the cohort of 10 faculty taking the Humanizing Academy this October. The long-term plan is to institutionalize the academy and facilitate our own version. There are many ways the practices from this course can be adapted for the work under the HSI STEM grant we were recently awarded, and I am excited to contribute to the efforts.   

I also plan to integrate the ideas beyond STEM. For example, since I manage the DE course templates used for our institution, I can easily add a simple getting-to-know-you survey to our templates. Since I am one of the facilitators for the VCCCD Online Teaching Certification, I have requested to add the getting-to-know-you survey as an equity practice covered in the training course. To me, this should be standard practice for all courses and is crucial to establishing a deeper connection between instructors and students.    

While I already consider myself an equity-minded practitioner, this course helped me add more tangible and tactical strategies to my toolkit. I look forward to working more with STEM faculty on these practices.   


Online Teacher Training Course Homepage

Liquid Syllabus

During the pandemic, there were a lot of VC faculty interested in a liquid syllabus but didn't have the capacity to learn another new tool (Google Sites). 

As a step toward creating a student-centered, mobile-friendly, web-based public syllabus, I created a template and a workshop that leveraged the ethos of a liquid syllabus within Canvas using the public syllabus feature. 

Many of our science and English faculty use it, and I took the opportunity to refresh it based on the principles of this course. I also created a liquid syllabus for the VCCCD online teacher certification course as an example to share with faculty. 

Stem Faculty Internship Course Card

Course Card

The new image includes a background image specific to STEM and a group of adults from diverse cultural backgrounds working together. I think it sends a warm and welcoming cue because it has a "join us at our table" feel. 

Since the course is for a faculty internship program that hopes to attract more diverse applicants to teach at our college, and it may be effective to  weave in more "you belong here" imagery like this.  


I am working with a faculty member to design a 5-week Internship training course for future STEM faculty at our college as part of a recent HSI grant project. This home page includes visual elements such as a humanized welcome banner that continues the "join us at our table" theme and a friendly photo of the instructor

Text is minimal and includes the essential information that learners need to get started. Learners can also see there is a warm and caring person facilitating the course who can be contacted in multiple ways, including live meetings.   

Stack of post-it notes with "You are important!" on top.

Getting-to-Know-You Survey

This survey will appear in the course introduction and will be one of the first activities participants will submit. I want new faculty to know I care about them and that I am there to support their success. Here are two sample questions from this survey: 

I plan to use this survey to take key notes about each participant, identify those who are high opportunity so I can provide extra support, and reference what I learn from the survey to build relationships.  

Melting ice caps to represent the warming of chilly classroom climate.

Icebreaker Activity

I have used Flip for many years, but had cooled off on recommending it due to the number of student and faculty support issues we received during the pandemic. The interface has changed a lot and I think it still is a good tool for encouraging belonging and course community, especially early on in the semester. 

For this activity, I adapted the Self-Affirming Icebreaker template and created a template for our college. 

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.

Wisdom Wall Activity

This wisdom wall asks STEM faculty interns who have completed a 5-week introductory course on teaching at our institution to reflect on where they are now and share words of wisdom to future participants. It prompts them to evaluate their own learning process and will help them identify strategies for overcoming the challenges they may have faced. 

This reflective practice will foster their growth mindset and help build connections with future participants.  Future participants will benefit from hearing advice from others who have succeeded.  

Ideas for Community Building Assessments Video Thumbnail

Bumper Video

In the faculty internship training course, I found a page that was very text heavy. It had a lot of great ideas introduced on it that I thought might be better displayed as a bumper video to help stimulate more interest than a long list of activities.

Participants are asked to watch the video and take notes on any idea that sparks their interest. They will develop the idea further in upcoming activities.

Customize a template homepage video thumbnail.


This is an example 3-minute microlecture designed to help instructors create a home page using a template. There are many sequential steps to editing and setting up a home page, and this video walks faculty through it. 

While it helps to build my instructor presence in the course, I also always provide the steps in text with screenshots for quick reference. Students can choose which format they prefer to learn from. This supports learner autonomy