Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

Nemie Capacia, Math Professor, Grossmont 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 have taught both asynchronous and synchronous online courses but felt that something was missing from my courses especially my asynchronous online courses. A typical asynchronous online course was broken into 16 Modules. Each week consisted of a series of recorded lectures based on each section of the book followed by a series of assignments housed in an online homework platform that are due on Sundays at 11:59 pm. Aside from the lecture notes, I also include videos that I either created or curated from the Internet that explains topics that students often have difficulty with just so they have another source of information. I give an open-ended quiz midweek that students download from Canvas and submit as a pdf file on Canvas, and online chapter exams every 4 weeks and a final exam at the end of the semester using the same online platform as my HW assignments. I also have graded weekly discussion boards on Canvas. Prompts include discussing specific math topics or some affective domain topics like growth mindset, math anxiety, or studying for an exam. I also have them fill out a Get to Know You Survey, Study Skills Survey, Learning Survey, and Are You Ready for an Online Class Survey at the beginning of the class and a discussion board assignment where they introduce themselves and comment on other students’ posts.

Much of the interaction in my asynchronous class happen on the Discussion Boards, through emails between students, and during my online Zoom office hours. Since the Zoom hours were optional, only a handful of students attend. I really felt that there was not much communication going on amongst my students unless I assign a group project. I wanted to engage them more and create a better learning community for my students. I also felt that my Canvas course, although organized and easy to follow, was a bit monotonous. I wanted to add “color” in my class!

Where I am.

Completing the 8 humanized online teaching elements (liquid syllabus, humanized course card and homepage, voice/video feedback, getting to know you survey, ice breaker, wisdom wall, bumper video, and microlectures) has given me the tools to add that “color” in my class. I am now familiar with new tools such as Flip, Google Sites, You Tube, and Adobe Express that will help me create more effective resources and more engaging activities for my students. I also learned about equity minded practices in the class such as recognizing both collectivist/high context and individualistic/low context cultures, developing cognition and metacognition in our students, and using kindness cues and empathy to foster inclusion in the class.

Where I am going.

I am excited to implement all the pedagogical techniques/ideas that I learned in this academy. I will replace the long welcome email that I send my students a week prior to the start of the semester with a Liquid Syllabus. I will replace my homepage with a more welcoming homepage that includes a welcome video. I will be updating this homepage every week to outline the week’s goals, assignments and due dates including a new video from me to increase my presence in class. I will replace my pdf Getting to Know You Survey with an online Canvas Survey and assign a Flip Introduce Yourself assignment instead of using the Discussion Board. I will also create Flip assignments in lieue of the weekly Discussion Board to foster student-student relationships and metacognition.

As for my lectures, I will rerecord them using microlectures to chunk out sections in the book so students will not get overloaded with too much information in one lecture. I also plan to create bumper videos to clarify topics that many students have difficulty and even use them for review problems or to explain commonly missed problems on exams (an idea I got from one of the students in this academy). All these will help me create an equity minded classroom and a better learning community for my students.

Liquid Syllabus

I usually send out the liquid syllabus a week before the semester starts to personally welcome them to the class. This will give them a brief overview of what the class entails - the learning objectives, the structure of the class, what is expected of them, and the materials/technology needed especially for the first week of class.

Including a short introduction of myself and sharing my teaching philosophy, my contact information, office hours, and what they can expect from me will establish that trust and the message that I am here for them throughout the semester. Adding the sections on Advice for Success and Student Support Services will demonstrate that I care about their learning and success from start to finish.

Finally, the images throughout the liquid syllabus will convey that we welcome diversity and collaboration and that we will establish a true learning community for all.

This is a photo of my course card showing a group of 3 students working together.

Course Card

The course card is the very first image that my students see when they enter my online class on Canvas. I chose this course card to send the message that

  • We welcome diversity in the class.

  • We foster collaboration in class.

  • We create a learning community in the class.

This course card is very much in line with my teaching philosophy. The photo of the students working together conveys that math is best learned by doing. The photo also sends the message that they will learn to support each other and respect the diversity that each one brings in learning and understanding the mathematical concepts in this class.


The homepage is the very first page my students see on their Canvas course so I want it to be welcoming and informative. During Week 1, the homepage will contain a Welcome message and a Welcome video. The message and the video will stay on the homepage for 2 weeks as I welcome more new students. The homepage also contains my contact information, office hours, and a list of websites to frequently asked services like counseling and tutoring. These information will remain on the homepage throughout the whole semester as a quick reference. The button on the bottom of the page will link them directly to each week's module.

The homepage will change every week and will contain a short video reviewing what we learned in the past week and what lies ahead for the week - a brief intro of the topics to be covered and what assignments will be due. The weekly video messages will help humanize the class since it will give them a sense of their instructor's presence throughout the semester. It also employs the warm demander pedagogy since I will be reminding them of what is expected of them every week and the due dates for each assignment.

Getting to Know You Survey

I assign this survey during Week 1 of the class not just to get to know my students but to use the information I gather to help them succeed.

The first section of the survey contains questions about their math background like "What was your last math class?" and "When did you take this class?" This is to help me understand what kind of prerequisite skills they have coming into the class. Knowing when they last took the class will help me identify students who might have forgotten some of the prerequisite skill since it may have been quite some time since they had a math class. This will help me adjust my pacing and come up with additional review of prerequisite materials needed in the class.

I also try to get a feel for their experience in taking an online class by asking "Have you taken an online class before? If you have, what did you like best about the online class that you took and what did you like the least? ". This will help me gauge those who might need extra help with the online structure of the class (e.g, submitting assignments on Canvas, familiarity with using Flip, etc.) and any technical or computer issues that may arise.

Ice Breaker

I assign this Ice Breaker activity to my students during Week 1 of my class as a way for them to get to know each other. For this ice breaker, I ask my students to think of a goal that they have achieved in the last year (no matter how small). In a video response, I ask them to introduce themselves to their peers and to share their accomplishment. I also ask them the following questions.

  • How did you feel when you achieved your goal?

  • What skills do you think were important in achieving the goal?

  • Who helped you or what inspired you to achieve your goal.

I then ask the students to respond and give feedback to 2 of their peers' postings. This communication exchange will not only help us get to know each other but to jump start the community building that we want to have in the class. It will also give them initial practice on improving cognition and metacognition as they listen and reflect on what others have to say.

Wisdom Wall

I assign the Wisdom Wall activity immediately after the first exam. The students will reflect on what they did to prepare for the first exam. This includes sharing something they did that helped them prepare or sharing something they did that did not help help. The intent is for the students to share so others can learn from them. The students will also provide comment to another person's post by giving feedback to what they heard. Responses might include discussing a similar experience, describing what they learned from their peer's experience, or giving any additional tips on preparing for an exam.

Incorporating a Wisdom Wall activity supports the metacognitive aspects of my students' learning. They are able to reflect what worked and what worked for them in preparing for their first exam. It also fosters their growth mindset - that they can do better on their next exams by trying some other techniques that they may have overlooked or trying those techniques that worked for others. Lastly, hearing similar testimonials from their peers will help increase their sense of belonging in the classroom - that they are not alone in their struggles and successes.

Bumper Video

This bumper video will be embedded on a page under the Week 11 Module. It will be available after we cover the section on solving systems of equations using matrices. Since there are two different ways to reduce a matrix, my students sometimes get confused which one to use. This bumper video will explain the difference between the two and hopefully eliminate the confusion and to clarify what I want them to use in class and during their quizzes and exam.

Bumper videos, being short and concise, helps students learn smaller chunks of information , This helps them focus on one topic, thus avoiding information overload. The best part is they are short enough to be replayed easily if needed.


This microlecture describes and explains the process of Long Division of Polynomials. This will be embedded on a page under the Week 6 Module. It will be available after we cover long division and synthetic division of polynomials. This will help review the material just covered. The graphics used in this narrated PowerPoint slides will especially help visual and auditory learners since they can see and hear the step by step process. Just like a bumper video, the students can replay this as many times as they want to learn or review the concept.