Humanizing STEM Showcase

Liz Bianchini, Associate Faculty at Butte Community 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 this course I considered myself to be pretty up on all the aspects of culturally-responsive teaching because I try my best to stay on top of these types of things just for my own personal education. I felt like I was pretty good at "being human" in my courses, both in-person and online, just because I have a hard time faking it and pretending to be this super professional person. My guidance for how to run my classes was based on a combination of things that I enjoyed during my undergraduate education and maybe more importantly things that DIDN'T work in my undergrad courses that I wanted to avoid like the plague.

When we transitioned online at the beginning of the pandemic, I remember trying so many things to help keep the students connected to each other - Facebook groups, Discord, discussion forums through the LMS, etc. Nothing every seemed to work, the students never seemed to use them at all and I never understood why. I had the advantage of being pretty tech savvy, but that only really seemed to go so far in helping engagement.

Where I am.

As I worked through this course, I realized that I do in fact have a lot of humanized elements in my courses now, but I learned so much more and they why behind different strategies. Looking back, I realize that maybe the reason all my attempts at increasing student engagement failed was because I didn't set an example - I just made the group or discussion and said "here, use this" when I should have provided examples and made my own posts.

I now understand why certain undergrad courses were miserable for me - they weren't humanized! I have so much more knowledge about what it means to be humanized and how to accomplish that in my courses after completing this course. I learned how to improve what I'm already doing and so many new ways of increasing engagement and creating a community in my class that will benefit all of my future students.

Where I am going.

It can only get better from here. I think the knowledge I gained from this course is going to be especially helpful over the next couple years as we transition out of pandemic mode. I'm already noticing a dramatic gap between student and instructor expectations as we enter our new normal. Students are still expecting the same level of "hand-holding" and leniency they got while we were in the early stages of the pandemic and instructors are expecting a sudden return to the same rigor we expected from students pre-pandemic - it's a messy situation. I think humanizing courses will benefit everyone - including the human element in our courses will enable instructors to demand high quality work from students without the students feeling like they are alone and that they CAN accomplish the level of work we're asking them to.

I can't wait to share my knowledge with all my colleagues and work with them to develop new ideas and strategies to increase student success in STEM courses!

Liquid Syllabus

I really love this concept although I'm planning to call it my course preview rather than a liquid syllabus. I already do something similar to this but through email and much less humanized, so I'll probably be replacing my normal pre-semester email with a link to the course preview website. I think students would appreciate a link they can keep open on a browser window on their phone more than an email they have to either screenshot or go back and look for.

I know I'll continue making changes to fit me and my classes over time, but it's so nice to have the framework down already.

The Humanizing Anatomy course card shows a diverse group of students gathered around a fake cadaver while the instructor points out a specific structure.

Course Card

Wow! It was hard to find a good image for a course card for anatomy. Honestly, I still don't love this, but I think it conveys the message I want - diversity is welcomed in my class. Hopefully students will find someone relatable in this image that will give them a boost of confidence going into my course and throughout the semester each time they access the course.


Well, I definitely still feel like my homepage is a work in progress - a lot more than I'd like it to be. That being said, I think I've got a good base to continue improving in preparation for next semester.

I hope that the images and specific guidance through the course intro is welcoming and helpful to students and provides a good first experience for them.

Getting to Know You Survey

I am so excited to give this survey next semester! I was already doing a pre-semester survey before taking this course, but I got so many wonderful question ideas from this course that I'm looking forward to using.

Asking early on about things like "what is most likely to affect your success in this course" will really help me get a feel for potential pitfalls that I need to be on the lookout for as the semester progresses.

Ice Breaker

So I snagged one of the sample prompts we were given because I really liked the idea of having them share an item that represents core values in their life. I think this will offer them a great chance to bond with similar people before the semester really gets underway and help them feel more secure in the class.

Sharing my own core value and items I think really helps establish a community early on that will continue through the entire semester.

Wisdom Wall

I LOVE this idea. Tips to future students was something I was already asking students to provide in a end-of-the-semester survey, but I like this idea with Flipgrid even more. I worry sometimes (maybe needlessly) that students might think I made up the tips from past students that I provide so I think having things in video or even just voice format will remove that and really show new students that these are things I'm not making up myself - it really is info from past students.

This also provides current students with a way to reflect on the work they did and recognize areas they could improve on and things that worked well for them - both valuable pieces of knowledge they can carry with them into future classes and their careers.

Bumper Video

My bumper video focuses on a new type of activity I'm asking them to complete in roughly the middle of the semester. By that point they're expecting a lot of "plug & play" - they know what to do for every assignment. Since this assignment is different, I thought a bumper video would be a great thing to elaborate on the new activity and how to go about completing it.


This lecture ties into the lymphatic/immune system topic we cover. In order to give them a real-world application of why knowing how the immune system works, I tie it into vaccines. My focus for this video is explaining how vaccines help our immune system create long-term protection from a particular pathogen. I want them to be able to explain how vaccines work to another person in simple terms that you don't need a strong science background to understand.