Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

Shannon Spears, Agriculture Instructor, Sierra College


Where I was

I was truly uncertain about how to complete a liquid syllabus. I had heard about them and have seen a few. I had a great template that I shared with others, but I could not, for the life of me figure out how to do much with it-especially publish. When I learned that this course would provide the opportunity to revisit that liquid syllabus, I was extremely excited!

Where I am

In this very moment, I am excited about what I have completed throughout this course. It was an incredible learning opportunity that really stretched me out of my comfort zones. I am looking  forward to implementing ALL of the tools, tips, and tricks I learned in this course right away-I LOVE using what I have learned to help improve my students' experiences! 

Where I am going 

Next steps for me include going through my courses to improve the syllabus in each online and hybrid course, and also my online lectures/micro lectures. I look forward to putting my voice and increasing my presence into my courses.

Liquid Syllabus introduction page

Liquid Syllabus

Creating a syllabus that is both interactive and easy to navigate will help build student trust in the course as well as with the instructor. If the very first thing a student sees/experiences is the syllabus and it is easy to use, provides important information, AND introduces the instructor. That is going to help student's feel welcome and continue to build the confidence of students who may not have extensive online learning experience.

Hands holding soil with a plant

Course Card

Soil and the life within it is incredibly fragile, yet incredibly durable. With every microorganism hanging in a delicate balance that directly contributes to soil health and the ecosystem beneath our feet. The cupped hands symbolize the strength and the fragility of soil and all of the concepts within. 

Home Page

It is my greatest hope that students will find my home page to be a comfortable place for them to land. There are a few items I would like to add to this page to make it more user friendly, such as an updated video for the current semester. This home page will be the second thig they see at the beginning or even prior to the course starting. The goal to make this page welcoming is to really provide my presence as an instructor as their course navigator.

Getting to Know You Survey

The getting to know you survey is in the welcome module of the course.  Students will be able to access this survey along with a Wisdom Wall or Ice Breaker the week prior to working through the course so I can get to know them and interact with them in the best way possible. 

Two of the questions I included in this survey are: 

The answer to this question can really tell me quite a bit about how students are feeling about being in this online course. Students who have taken multiple online courses seem to be much more comfortable in their coursework and understanding what the instructor is asking of them, whereas a student who has minimal to no online course experience may have doubts and concerns-even to the point where they have already started to come up with a dropout plan.

I have found this question to be empathetically insightful. If I know what a student is up against, it helps me work with them on a plan to complete coursework, should they need extra time due to illness, work conflict, family needs, etc.. It has been my experience that students will work harder to complete the work if they have an instructor willing to listen and really address their concerns.  

Ice Breaker/Wisdom Wall

This is the one assignment I had the greatest trouble completing. I think my brain simply overthought the assignment, which is funny, because of all of the tools and assignments we used in this academy, this one is easily one of the most student centered and fun!!

I feel like this is a bit rough and I will definitely improve it before I roll out the course for future semesters. I really liked both assignments and would have like to do both. Because of this, I went back and forth a few times before landing on the Wisdom Wall.  The Wisdom Wall feels like it is the most helpful, as it provides great insight and encouragement from former students to the incoming ones. 

Bumper Video

This video is instrumental with the explanation of how to use the Soil Textural Triangle. It is an excellent tool for students to go back and review if or when they get stuck on how to read the triangle. I will use this bumper video as a way to scaffold student learning. Students will be able to see it, read it, listen to it, and actually follow along with the textural triangle.


This micro-lecture objective is for students to understand the two types of germination. This video does not directly meet the needs of the soil science course, it does meet one of the learning objectives in the Plant Science Course I teach. My Soil Science course is up for an accessibility review at this time and I was afraid to change anything in the course-I do not want to fail the accessibility check.

This micro-lecture helps students with the objective: Understanding the two types of seed germination and also includes a review of the seed vocabulary, tapping into prior knowledge at the same time addressing the specific objective prior to attending the in-person lab.

This site is by Shannon Spears and is shared with a Creative Commons-Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 license. Creation of this content was made possible with funding from the California Education Learning Lab.