Eliminating Equity Gaps in Online STEM Gateway Courses through Humanized Instruction

Region Bay Area, Central Valley, North Coast, Orange County
Discipline Interdisciplinary
Grant Amount Up to $1,300,000
Institutions Foothill-De Anza Community College District, Modesto Junior College, Humboldt State University, UC Irvine
Co-Principal Investigators Michelle Pacansky-Brock (FHDA), Sarah Williams (FHDA), Michael Smedshammer (Modesto JC), Brent Wedge (Modesto JC), Kim Vincent-Layton (Humboldt State), Jeffrey White (Humboldt State), Di Xu (UC Irvine)

Humanizing Academy Pilot and Showcase

Humanizing Showcase

Publications and Research


Online STEM gateway courses hold significant potential to improve access to STEM education among nontraditional students and students from underrepresented groups in California. Currently, however, the performance gaps between online and face-to-face learning seem to be particularly large among underrepresented minority students. As a result, online learning, without fundamental improvement in instructional effectiveness and student supports, may exacerbate the STEM academic pathway leak for URM students. “Eliminating Equity Gaps in Online STEM Gateway Courses through Humanized Instruction” proposes a 3-year plan to initiate a systemic shift in the culture of online and hybrid STEM instruction across California public higher education institutions.

Guided by the psychological theories about distance learning and social presence, the project team will implement a large-scale, collaborative online professional development program, the Humanizing Academy, to address a crucial challenge to successful learning in an online environment: greater difficulties in enabling effective human interaction. Specifically, this proposal will test whether “Humanizing” a course—defined as efforts to help instructors to develop empathy, presence, and awareness, as well as pedagogies to improve instructor-student relationships and build classroom community—can help improve instructor-student and student-student interactions in online STEM courses, strengthen students’ sense of belonging and engagement, and increase learning outcomes in gateway online and hybrid STEM courses, particularly for URM students. Faculty, in partnership with instructional designers, will learn how to use free to low-cost digital tools and effectively apply them to the design and facilitation of their courses to foster instructor-student relationships.

The technology-enhanced pedagogical practices that are found to improve engagement and success for URM students will be scaled across the CCCs, CSUs, and UCs through the Humanizing Academy, which will be followed by a supportive course redesign period. Evidence-based practices will be shared publicly in the form of a “Humanizing Online STEM Courses” Practitioner Toolkit.

Co-Principal Investigators

Foothill-De Anza Community College District

Michelle Pacansky-Brock
Michelle Pacansky-Brock Faculty Development
Sarah Williams
Sarah Williams Math

Modesto Junior College

Mike Smedshammer
Mike Smedshammer Faculty Development
Brent Wedge
Brent Wedge Computer Science

Humboldt State University

Kim Vincent-Layton
Kim Vincent-Layton Faculty Development
Jeffrey White
Jeffrey White Biology

UC Irvine

Di Xu
Di Xu Education Research