Can you describe what you do to build community in your classes?
I start each semester with a discussion thread that each student posts to. They share what brought them to the School of Information, current focus, current
employment, family, pets, hobbies and anything else they'd like to provide. I also
ask them to post pictures and most students do. It helps put faces to the names at
the very beginning of the semester. I also have a discussion thread set up to share ideas, work and anything else related to their professional life.
At our first Collaborate session (we are 100% online so these are important get togethers) I have them turn on their video for a moment and say hello.
A great many of my classes focus on youth services in school and public library environments.
Students have to present in groups or as individuals depending on the assignment as
well as videotaping themselves (storyhour performances). These class sessions allow students to hear and see each other and that develops a connection that is absolutely essential in an online environment.
Can you describe what you do to create a respectful and caring learning environment?
I start out every semester with an optional Collaborate session where I describe the
course. It is of great importance to me to relate to my students what my professional philosophy
is and that I am here to create a positive and creative learning environment. I stress to students that they need to address each other with respect and to treat
each other as colleagues. I provide the model with how I speak to students during synchronous sessions and during one-on-one sessions
where a student needs to speak with me. I provide instruction on how to work as a group and in that document and in my introductory lecture I stress that mutual respect
is a key element to successful group work.
Instructor’s Instructional Philosophy (from my Greensheets): I want each student in the course to succeed and will do everything to help students
do so but it is a partnership. Please make sure that communication and your engagement
in class activities stays a top priority for you during the semester. Ask questions
when you have them, seek clarifications when you need them, take responsibility for
understanding all expectations, content and assignments for the course.
Can you describe an instance where you had to step in because something happened or
someone said or did something in class that violated these principles of inclusiveness
and respect? What happened? What did you do? And what happened next?
Above I described how students use video to complete assignments in my children's
classes. During one class a male student had indicated to a female student that her
body language was just perfect for the story. The female student took this as a bit
"off" and let me know that. I spoke with the male student who contacted the female
student by email (copying me) apologizing for anything that he did that would have
created that impression. They had several exchanges and everything smoothed out. It was a total misunderstanding but made both of them aware how important open communication
Can you describe how, if at all, you address the range of special needs, learning
styles and academic experience and preparation of the students in your classes?
If a student comes to me and says they have a special need I usually refer them back
to the disability center just because I'd like some validation to what they are telling
me. As to the difference in learning styles I try very hard to provide several ways
to access course information as well as offering a couple of ways of completing assignments.
I use audio, video (and both) to record lectures. I provide written transcripts of
everything. Students can submit their assignments in written form (electronically)
or create blogs, wikis or Google Sites. I tweet reminders about assignments and use
Blackboard IM frequently.
As to academic experience. This is the hard one since many students are returning
to Master's work several years after their undergraduate work. I ask students to share
that with me so I am aware of it. I put all of the resource links on my Canvas sites
to the writing center, etc. and I also tell students about my open communication policy
and that is to just let me know what is going on. Do they want to do a draft so I
can see if they are headed in the right director? Do they need extra explanation or
clarification? Can I find another student with more experience to be a "mentor"? I
look for creative ways to make the lack of experience resolvable.
Would you like to share any insights you have gleaned, teaching at SJSU, about how
best to help our students thrive?
I think that one of the most important thing to think about in our program is that almost all these students work full-time, have families and that compassion and open
communication have to be my guiding principles. I am fair but not a push over. I expect great things of students but I also want them to succeed so how can I foster
a learning environment where they are excited to do just that. Since I teach on a graduate level most students understand that the bar is set a
bit higher for them but at the same time I have to keep in mind that many haven't
been back in school for quite a while OR their life changed dramatically from when
they were undergraduates living on campus to now taking a 100% online program and
having a completely different lifestyle. I expect hard work and at the same time I try my best to create a class environment
that encourages them to participate fully. As a lecturer I make extra efforts to stay connected to my students and I think
that has proven out over the last 8 years of my teaching at SJSU by their comments
and academic achievements.