Curriculum design and course instruction are Dr. Henley’s primary responsibilities in her position with the MSU Neuroscience Program. She teaches neuroscience to a broad range of students, from freshmen to graduate students to adult learners. She utilizes evidence-based practices to provide students with the most effective environment for learning. She wants students to be capable of applying their knowledge and skills gained in the classroom to solve future problems. Active engagement with the material through the use of course activities completed with formal cooperative learning groups is incorporated into each course, whether in person or online.
Along with instruction, Dr. Henley is creating two new, one-year, fully-online transcriptable graduate certificate programs: Medical Neuroscience and Neuroscience and the Law. Each program will consist of 12 credits and be designed to meet the needs of adult learners with responsibilities outside of the classroom.
I spent the morning at the 33rd Annual MSU College of Education Technology Conference. The theme of this year’s conference was equity in STEM, Computer Science, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The first talk I attended was presented by Nate Stevenson from Kent State on designing accessible learning with UDL. We discussed the principles of UDL and about how to think about if content creates barriers to learning for your students. For example, for some students get overwhelmed by the simple length of an assignment. This hit close to home because I tend to combine multiple assignments into one in my online classes. I am now going to reevaluate this decision. He also mentioned the book Design and Deliver by Loui Lord Nelson, which is a book I’d like to check out.
In our most recent Colleges Online Workgroup, we examined standard 2 of the Quality Matters rubric – learning objectives. One of the discussion we had was the use of jargon in a learning objective – is it appropriate or not? Some feel jargon can confuse a student and may lead to misinterpretation of the objective, while others feel that using jargon in the right context is a necessary step toward becoming an expert in a field, and so by using it in a learning objective, we are modeling appropriate and effective use for students. QM suggests not using jargon, but I have come across some instances where jargon is the best word for a situation.
I have been a member of the Colleges Online Workgroup (or COW as we lovingly call it) for a couple years now. It’s a small group of faculty that meet once a month to discuss topics relevant to online teaching. This year, we are focusing on the Quality Matters rubric, teasing apart one standard per meeting. The group started off with faculty from the College of Natural Science and the College of Arts and Letters (the two facilitators’ colleges), but has grown to encompass a broader range of fields. The different backgrounds and viewpoints, combined with the collective interest in online teaching, makes for a fun and helpful group.
Michigan State provides a type of professional development for faculty and academic staff called Faculty Learning Communities (FLC). These are small groups that meet monthly and focus on specific topics like academic integrity or enriching the international student experience. Last spring, I joined the FLC on accessibility through creative innovation. We are dedicated to creating and revising accessible materials for the online learning environment. By examining and implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) standards, we focus on not only how to improve our own courses, but also how to help other faculty wrestling with these same issues.