Online learning for equity

Sara Schoen, ’14, used her capstone project as a springboard to a career after graduation

A year and half before Sara Schoen completed her master’s degree, she received funding from her department to attend a conference on distance teaching and learning.

The conference solidified her capstone project concept: to build a professional development course syllabus for new or experienced instructors of online courses using Moodle, the University’s online learning platform.

Schoen had embarked on the M.A. program in multicultural college teaching and learning after experiences as a high school teacher and a corporate learning and development consultant. She found the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning through a friend, Tabitha Grier-Reed, who is an associate professor in the department.

While pursuing her master’s degree, Schoen also worked as a University training coordinator.

As her capstone project progressed, it expanded. By the end, Schoen had designed a full online course ambitiously titled Supporting Online Learning with Equity Pedagogy and Chickering and Gamson’s 7 Principles of Good Practice for Undergraduate School Teaching.

The course is framed by Arthur Chickering and Zelda Gamson’s seven principles and James and Cherry McGee Banks’s multicultural equity pedagogy. Schoen created it with three objectives. First, she wanted to get faculty more engaged and confident about their online teaching. She also aimed to increase student retention through explicit equity pedagogical practices. And she wanted to increase student success through the blending of the principles and equity pedagogy applied to specific content.

By bridging pedagogical best practices within a multicultural context, then integrating them within a distance-learning platform, the project examines ways to apply equity pedagogy across various content disciplines while maximizing technology as an effective teaching tool.

Schoen’s capstone project utilized her past experiences while setting the stage for her career after graduation. It helped her secure a position with the University’s Academic Technology Support Services as an instructional designer.

“I’ve already used elements of my capstone project to support faculty with development of online courses,” Schoen says. Her new role includes serving as a consultant and information resource for instructors seeking to effectively transfer course content to online and hybrid learning platforms.

This year Schoen returned to the conference to present her capstone project in the same environment where it was first formulated.

“Last year, I remember thinking ‘there are so many things I need to learn,’” Schoen reflects. “This year I realized I’d come a long way, thanks to the education and support I received from the PsTL program.”

Learn more about the graduate programs in multicultural college teaching and learning and the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning.

From a story by Wendy Robson | February 2015