Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

Melody Schmid, Biology Instructor, Butte 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.

I completed the Humanizing STEM Academy during the Fall 2022 semester. The course can be found in Canvas Commons and includes step-by-step instructions on how to complete the humanizing components below. While my co-learners in the academy were other online STEM instructors, the tools we learned how to use are applicable in any discipline and modality.

Liquid Syllabus

I've used a liquid syllabus for over a year now and it continues to change over time. I've received feedback from students at the start of the semester, and at the end of the semester, about how the welcoming message of the liquid syllabus reduced anxieties about taking our science course and helped them feel like they were in the right place and were going to have support.

I'm not sure if I want my liquid syllabus to be more of a "course introduction" for students to explore before the semester, or more of a full syllabus that they can easily access throughout the semester.

Course Card

screenshot of course card with monarch butterfly

I chose this monarch to represent the beauty of migration, mutualism, and the diversity of life. We explore the diversity of life, including insects and flowering plants, in BIOL 1, and we learn about interactions between species, like pollination. Pollination is an example of a mutualism, which means both individuals benefit, and I think that is another great symbol from my course in which I learn as much from my students as they learn from me. I wanted my course card to include a beautiful image of the natural world, and also send the message that everyone is welcome, and their experiences will be valued, in our course.


My humanized homepage is a lot simpler than the homepage I had been using. I think it will be easier for students to get started in my course without seeing paragraph after paragraph of information to read through.

Instead of having my contact information at the bottom of the page, on this humanized homepage my contact information is closer to the top. I continued the monarch theme, and added an image from our campus wildlife refuge to create a sense of place.

Getting to Know You Survey

This Getting to Know You Survey will be in the orientation module of my course. Besides the logistics of learning my students names, pronouns, contact information, and how they would like to receive feedback, this survey allows me to learn a little bit about their goals, challenges, and feeling toward our course. These responses allow me to check in with each student, individually and personally, about any concerns they have about the course. It is one thing to ask these questions, but I think it is the action of following up and responding specifically to their answers that starts to build trust and demonstrate that I am here to support them, as they are.

Ice Breaker

One of our modules in Introduction to Biology is on the diversity of plants. I hope that by learning about the biology and diversity of plants, students will start to notice the plants around them. I know that my first plant biology class changed the way I look at the world.

This icebreaker activity is a chance for students to share tree stories or reflections. I hope this gives them the opportunity to see that what we will be studying in our course does connect to their lived experiences. I also think we will learn a lot about each other by hearing each others' tree stories.

We learned how to use Flip for video discussions in the Humanizing Academy, but I plan to use the media options in Canvas discussions in my courses.

Wisdom Wall

I have two goals with this activity - one goal is for my current students to think about how learning was centered in our course. I want my students to leave our course knowing that they have the skills to be life-long learners.

I also want to use my students' reflections to help build trust with my students at the start of a new semester. Having flexible due dates and unlimited revisions puts a lot more responsibility on each student to set their own schedule and get their work done. I think hearing about the importance of staying on schedule, even though there aren't any late penalties, will help my new students start the semester strong and be responsible with their scheduling and balancing of our course with their other priorities.

I want my students to know that I trust them, and with great trust comes great responsibility!

Bumper Video

I made this video "just in time". I see it has already been viewed 44 times, Wow! I do hear from my students that they like the videos in which I demonstrate how to do something. Last semester I had a screenshot with 3 numbered steps and arrows, and then written instructions, but several students still shared links to unpublished sites.

Just like in my written instructions, I found it hard to keep this short. I thought it was just going to be a 1 minute "how-to" video and then it turned into 3 minutes.


One of my course learning objectives is to "describe examples of gymnosperms in Butte County". While I can find lots of great educational videos on general plant biology and plant diversity, they are not local. I chose this learning objective for a microlecture because I could make it local and relevant.

My goal was to show my students examples of gymnosperms on our beautiful campus while introducing gymnosperms and how they are different from other plant groups. My online students are asked to go on a plant scavenger hunt around their home or in their local community to take photos or videos of plants in different groups, so I wanted to include a microlecture that would help them notice the gymnosperms around them, as well as some short examples of how they could video themselves with plants, while pointing out their defining features, to complete their plant scavenger hunt lab activity.

I hope this also introduces students to our campus creek and nature walk if they don't already know about it.

Online Student Voices

One of the tools I really enjoyed learning how to use during the Humanizing Academy was Adobe Express. This Online Student Voices video was my first video made with Adobe Express and it was quick and easy. You record the audio for each "slide" separately so it is easy to revise if needed, and all the icons and images in the video are from the Adobe Express search function. Adobe Express then adds all the attributions for the icons and images to a slide at the end of the video. I plan to use Adobe Express to introduce course activities.

I learned a lot talking to my former students about their experience in online courses. Adobe Express was an easy way for me to share what I learned with my co-learners in the Humanizing Academy.