Alisha Williams is an awardee of the Faculty/Staff Innovator Award at Centralia College. She is in her third quarter teaching English composition as an adjunct instructor for Centralia College. For her first English 102 course, she said she “really wanted something fun that also provided a context for writing.” So, she “decided to use a Star Trek theme and show [her] students that [she’s] not afraid of looking ridiculous if it means increased student engagement.”
Here’s what she did:
My Canvas home page was designed, with the help of Erin in eLearning, to look like a Star Trek command center. “Officer’s Log” leads to announcements, and “Submit Report” leads to discussions. At the beginning of the quarter, students receive a “cadet training folder” with a form they have to sign saying they accept their mission (which includes class expectations). I also recorded lectures (on logical fallacies) as a Vulcan. We watch one a week to maintain a Trekkie flavor and to lighten up a class which can be very intimidating for students.
In order to accomplish the course design, Alisha implemented some html Canvas-hacking she learned by attending Washington Annual Canvas Conference at Tacoma Community College during her spring break. In addition, she made Star Trek-themed videos of herself using green screen technology.
Alisha not only flavored her course for engagement, she also started using an engagement technique that’s called ‘nudging.’ This is an engagement technique that can include anything that ‘nudges’ students, whether that’s reminders about assignments or a personalized note because someone hasn’t shown up to class for a few days. Here’s what Alisha did to ‘nudge’:
Another new thing I did this quarter was giving students the option of sharing their cell phone information. If someone is absent for more than two days without contacting me, I text them and encourage them to come the next day. It does create a bit more work, but attendance and grades are better than ever before.
When asked how her innovations have affected students, the campus, and her own thinking, here’s what Alisha had to say:
I was so excited when I heard that my students were sharing the lecture videos with their friends who weren’t enrolled in my class. Someone even asked to join a group discussion for a day because their friend had told them about the topic. For every topic and controversy, students are asked to come to a consensus on how they would want things in their new colony on a new planet. It’s my hope that students carry those same skills and critical thinking to real life political processes and community involvement—Vulcan ears optional!
I sure hope Alisha and her students are having a fun time nerding out while they’re doing all that learning. We’re so excited to have such an asset (and fellow nerd) as Alisha. Congratulations and, as Captain Jean Luc Picard would say, remember to “Engage.”