Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

Mithia Mukutmoni PhD, Principles of Nutrition , Sierra 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 came into this course already having a few tools in my "humanizing" arsenal, Even though I had used many tools, prior to this course, I still avoided those that were more challenging to learn. For example, I could never get Flip to work...I would get hundreds of messages from students who were having issues with it. I ended up resorting to the Canvas video recording feature. Feeling inundated with such a variety and often redundant tools overwhelmed me. Therefore, I enjoyed taking this focused course, where not only did we learn the mechanics of how the tool worked, but also how to incorporate into our new and improved humanized course. I came away with the idea that not all tools need to be used to create a warm, welcoming, and inclusive course. That becoming very proficient in a few that have the strongest "bang for their buck" can be effective and accomplish my goals.

Where I am.

I am so much more comfortable with the technology and "productive struggle" I think taking an online course (not necessarily a training) online course should be encouraged of professors, who teach online. Being on the "other" side is vital to understanding what our students go through when a course is cold and impersonal. Also being on the student side gives you an idea of what "best practices" looks like. For example, having the course be easy to navigate, having a few video introductions for new Modules, etc. I took 5 online courses during COVID and to be honest, they were pretty dismal. I think taking them has given me further desire to keep improving, keep connecting, and keep learning.

Where I am going.

I think I will incorporate many of these tools in my online courses. I think the microl ecture was a good idea as was the getting to know you survey. I think I would use that survey in all of my course, not just in online ones. I found Flip to be confusing, but I thought finally having the push to create a liquid syllabus was great! I will definitely be using this tool.

Liquid Syllabus

I had learned about the liquid syllabus from one the Equity and Inclusion Certificate Series offered at Sierra College. I think sending this out a week before classes start is a great way to introduce the course and ge the students to know me. It would be great if this link could even be included in the online course schedule, when students are signing up for classes.

I think it will be very important to have the "real" syllabus" echo everything this one says. Go back to my standard syllabus, I will make sure to scour every single word so that there is no misunderstanding

My goal is to streamline it a bit and work on the formatting. I have gotten some amazing ideas from my colleagues about what to include, how to make it more engaging, how to say things in a less abrupt way,

Asian woman eating  using chopsticks

Course Card

I liked this course card because it was whimsical and engaging. It also highlighted how, even though the course deals more with the scientific aspect of Nutrition, it is also about a healthy diet, and food.

I chose this image to expand the traditional image of people sitting around a table and eating. Also, the fact she is from a different culture brings to light how food and eating are universal. I think many students who have never traveled, might not have thought much about other cultures and what role nutrition might play in the lives of people worldwide


I think a warm homepage, with images, and an introduction video shows a student that you really care about the course and want them to feel welcome.

It is a kindness cue because, by including all of the ways to contact me it makes us seem approachable and always willing to help.

Getting to Know You Survey

I really like the question about a students' other life stressors and what they feel could impact their success in the course. I make sure they know all the details of the course right away. Things such pace of instruction, the numbers of assignments...this is vital information for students to make prior to taking the the class.

This question further highlights the importance of a well-written, thorough syllabus. Having a weekly schedule, including dates assignments are due, when exams will take place is absolutely vital. Of course, I also let them know that there is some built in flexibility and that I am ALWAYS available to discuss any barriers that may be preventing students from completing their assignments.

Another question I would use is the question about how well they learn using different sensory modalities. I have used the VARK inventory in my courses before and, because students always like to learn more about themselves, they really liked it. I try to incorporate some varied modalities, such as kinesthetic learning, visual and auditory learning and more. Because this is a lecture based course, and now that we have Canvas where we can post our recorded lectures, we have the time in class to do many activities. I suppose you would call this a "flipped" classroom.

Ice Breaker

My assignment introduces a concept that is highlighted in Chapter 1. Essentially, the motivations people have for eating what they do. Convenience? Advertising, Economical reasons? I have student choose 3 from a list of 10 and then describe how those motivations come into play in their food choices. I also ask them to provide examples.

I think students will connect with each other easily. Many of the motivators are particularly relevant such as social pressure and availability. As the students relay their stories, they become relatable to other students and common ground can be found. I think a sense of community can be built quickly and easily. Of course, sharing my story is important so that the students can get to know me and see how much we really do have in common.

Wisdom Wall

The wisdom wall provides great closure to a course for students. Thinking back to where they were, and how they have (or haven't) changed, will allow them to "think about thinking". I think many students will find kinship with each other and realize that they were not alone and this realization will give them confidence to succeed in the future courses they take.

Spoken reflections are great as the tone, inflections, and facial expressions (for video) will allow students to see their classmates as "real".

Bumper Video

I would use this video within the first 2 weeks of school. I do not talk about a subject area topic in the video, since all that will be coming soon enough! My video is describing how to plan and organize the things that need to get done in a particular week. This concept may seem obvious, but I don't think students take a breath and look at all of the things they have to get done in a week. Adding college courses on top of a busy schedule can be overwhelming and I think that is when students start to miss doing assignments.

Many of us take for granted the knowledge of how to organize and plan our week. Students straight from high school may never have had to do this.

The combination of having a large desktop calendar (where you see the entire week) and going through the Canvas module to see the assignments, writing them in, what has to be done early in the week and what how this can related to their "things to do" in Canvas...will help them feel like they have more control over their week and increase their ability to get the assignments turned in on time. Also, the Calendar will include the other responsbilities they have which will allow them to know where to carve out some time to study.

I think the Student Success workshop we offer students at our college, on study skills, textbook reading, note taking are so important for new college students. From that foundation, they can build their subject matter regardless of the course.


This microlecture introduces the concept of the Calorie and I would discuss this in Chapter 1. An SLO in our course is for students to identify the 6 classes of nutrients and analyze how they are different from each other. To assess their mastery of this outcome has historically been an exam with a sprinkle of in-class discussion and practice.

Many times, I have put students into groups and given everyone different gram amounts of the macronutrients and would have them calculate the total Calories of energy they produced. I often give this task a competitive element, giving the group who calculates the answer the quickest and correctly, gets extra credit points. This gets everyone riled up!

What is unique about this microlecture is that all the macronutrients are presented at once; highlighting that regardless of the macronutrient, the Calories are always stored in the chemical bonds between the carbon atoms. I think the concept of a "Calorie" is still a mystery to many students. I like to distill down to the fundamentals when it comes to this concept. Namely, how are Calories measured? When exactly is the heat energy released? How do excess Calories lead to excess weight gain?