This is part of a series of articles written by UAF faculty who are interested in sharing their experience and expertise with other faculty.
Megan is a recent M.S. graduate of the UAF Environmental Chemistry program and also holds an M.S. in Engineering and Technology Management from Louisiana Tech University. She has 3 years of teaching experience and recently completed an Instructional Design Fellowship at UAF eCampus.M.S., UAF Chemistry
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Connecting Science, Design, and Education
My experience as an Instructional Design Fellow
The nexus of science, design, and education development is where I found myself over the summer. Being chosen as an Instructional Design Fellow was a welcomed change from several years of intense scientific research where I became a Master of Science graduate from the Environmental Chemistry program at UAF, one that is rigorous and firmly based in hard science and analytical chemistry. I remember first starting college in the path of becoming a photographer where I was enthralled in my art and design courses. My path has somewhat twisted from my original career intent but I have found this experience has drawn me closer to where I started and kind of feels like coming home.
The Fellowship experience allowed me to think creatively about science education and to learn about different pedagogical tools that I was previously unaware of. As part of the fellowship, I became a part of the design team and saw how designers interacted with one another on projects, gained insight into online course development, and gained respect for their line of work. The people here were delightful and quite a few are awesome artists that inspired me.
I had a few years of experience teaching as a teaching assistant (TA), but not a firm grasp on my teaching style or capabilities. I was open to learning anything new about current educational technologies, pedagogies, and strategies. I soaked up information about new and innovative teaching tools from PlayPosit to Gradescope and researched topics ranging from flipped classrooms to utilizing open educational resources. A new passion was lit when I learned about open educational resources (OER) and this was where I wanted to incorporate and showcase these innovative educational tools that are readily available to enhance teaching and learning in my project.
My fellowship project was aimed at supporting general chemistry student learning through the use of learning modules that include concept explanation, interactive simulations, video resources, and comprehension checks. I started this project with a weakly framed idea for the learning modules, not really knowing how I was going to accomplish something that I didn’t have experience with developing. I gained a lot of momentum once I discovered several high quality chemistry OER. I learned how to create a WordPress site, develop science content, communicate openly about creative ideas, and was provided valuable insight on structuring/creating my site.
I never thought of myself as an innovative person but after this experience I think I might be slightly innovative. As a TA for introductory chemistry lab courses, I was required to hold office hours so that I was available for students questions about homework and coursework. I found that students under utilized this resource due to time conflicts or class schedules. The idea of missed connections got my wheels turning on how to overcome this barrier and make communication more readily available. This idea became more focused after discussions with the design team. I was introduced to Airtable and managing submissions from online forms. I thought of a framework of how this would be run with TAs during their required office hours. I also added discussion components to the website to create a space for students to ask other students questions about homework and course content. Everything kind of came together after that point and my website became multifaceted. It would serve as a learning resource and communication platform between students and TAs.
I am not sure which direction I will go from here but feel that design and education will be a part of it. The experience has strengthened my confidence in designing educational material and utilizing open educational resources. Designing is a practice that will never get old and can allow people to see things in a new perspective.
Check out my project, a General Chemistry Resource Site, here.