Humanizing Your Online Course

Saturday, July 2, 2022 No comments

Let's take a few minutes and talk about humanizing your online course. ​Online learning environments can sometimes feel like a cookie-cutter experience where students get the "everyone is the same" experience or you feel like you are just a number and have no face, but it doesn't have to be like that. There are so many ways to ensure that you create a course that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive for all students. One way to do that is to humanize your course. You want to make sure to connect with your students, have them connect with their peers, and guide them to connect with the course content. Humanizing a course should be intentional and not an afterthought. It should be about building human relationships so that all students feel like they are part of a community of learning.

I wanted to take the time today to share a resource I stumbled across today while continuing my studies of UDL (Universal Design for Learning) and DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion).

In many learning activities, we tend to neglect the human connection. ​In this resource, an understanding of the importance of human relations between the instructor and student is not only explained but examples of how these principles are implemented are also provided. Take a look at the infographic below as well as discover additional ideas on humanizing an online course. Learn more about how can humanize your course.

Would you like to view a different version of this infographic? Choose an option below.

This infographic was created by Michelle Pacansky-Brock and is shared with a CC-BY-NC license. 

Your Turn
Comment below and let me know how you humanize your online course.

Learning Experience Designer

Wednesday, June 22, 2022 No comments

Hi everyone! I often get the question, "What do you do for a living?"

My response is one that always gets me the strangest look..."I am a senior learning experience designer."

9 out of 10 times they want to know more! If you have 3 minutes, take a look and learn about what I do each day. #lovewhatyoudo

Workforce Skills Development

Thursday, May 26, 2022 No comments
As a learning experience designer there are many things that I am passionate about when it comes to designing courses. One of those passions is incorporating workforce skills into course design. I recently started an unofficial pilot with a subject matter expert (SME) to ensure that we were purposeful in developing workforce skills throughout her course. The course that was chosen for this pilot is a construction management course that focuses on strategic planning within the construction industry. I worked with the SME to incorporate opportunities for students to build the skills needed to be successful not only in the course but also in their future career in Construction Management. The opportunities we built, included, or repurposed are videos, interactive activities, and researched information.

The activities and resources provide both workforce hard and soft skills. In terms of hard skills, these are the knowledge and abilities that an employee needs to perform his or her job duties effectively. Soft skills, on the other hand, are the personal qualities that help employees to thrive at work. It was important that we included both hard and soft skills in order to fully grow the students in the course.


The first step in the process was to convince the SME that this would be a great idea. I made sure I did my research and spoke to how this could benefit students in the present and future. I discussed with her that this wouldn't take a whole lot of time as she was already doing many of these things in the course. The idea was to put the skills in front of the students and develop the skills at a higher level. 

The next step we took was to review the course outcomes and module learning objectives. A discussion about her goals for her students and how we can encourage student growth in the areas of workforce skills was our next topic of discussion. We also talked about what workforce skills her students would need to be successful as they complete the activities and assignments in the course. It was noted that many of the activities and assignments had multiple skills, but we thought for cognitive load that sticking to the development of one skill a module would be the best option. A strategic approach was taken to place the workforce skills appropriately in the course. We looked at all components of the course and where the skills would fit best based on the outcomes and objectives of the course.

It was critical that we were transparent with the students about the workforce development skills, so we built the purpose and benefits into the syllabus. We wanted to ensure to provide the research and data behind what we were doing.

image shows example of what has been added to the course syllabus on workforce skills

As we continued our discussions we wanted to make sure that we presented these skills in a fun and interactive way. It was important that students didn't feel like this was a burden, but yet see the benefit to their future endeavors while having a little fun.

The following short video is an example of how we incorporated one of the workforce skills into a construction management course.

We also thought it was important to include instructional language within each assignment that reminded students that the workforce skill development activities they are completing in each module will help them throughout the course.

In the last module of the course, students are exposed to some of the career opportunities available to them in the construction industry. Each video includes someone who is currently in the field. The videos provide an introduction to the job, loves & challenges, how to prepare for the job, and a few teasers. 

image of a video Project Manager, Knutson Construction

Data Driven Decision Making

Since we are piloting this we wanted to collect data based on the student experience. Below is an example of some of the questions that will be asked to the students. The data we receive will help us in our decision making with course revisions and allow us to reflect and see what is working well and what needs to be improved upon. 

snapshot example showing sample survey questions

Wrap Up

When we began our discussions, our ultimate goal was for the students to be able to acquire the workforce skills in the moment but also develop the skills, so that they are successful in the workforce. It our responsibility as educators to plant the seed and help it grow.

We are excited to learn about the student experience and to see how developing these skills impact student motivation and academic success. Stay tuned for updates!!

Designing Learning Experiences for Mixed Student Populations

Tuesday, November 2, 2021 No comments
As a Senior Learning Experience Designer with LSU Online & Continuing Education, I collaborate with subject matter experts (SMEs) to create learning experiences for online courses and programs. In building these quality online courses, I work with SMEs to determine the best approach to designing, developing, and delivering course content in a way that achieves desired learning goals.

I was recently asked, “How do I design learning experiences for students who are entering courses with different learning levels and experiences?” We are starting to see more students entering college to begin their degree journey, continue their degree journey, and upskill themselves through micro-credentials. How do we meet students where they are and in a way that they feel part of a community of learners?

For 17 years I have been researching and applying brain-based learning, gamification, and differentiation into teaching and course design. These three topics have been shown to increase student motivation and academic success. I reflect on these topics as I think about the appropriate learning experiences for a course.

The first step in the process is discussing the vision of the course with the SME and then discussing what they want their students to learn. From there, we brainstorm ways in which we can reach the students to make sure they are mastering the course content. I also like to include the SMEs design interests as those are integral to the course design. My ultimate goal is to design a course with the student in mind that reflects the SMEs voice and personality.

It is important to be intentional when developing quality learning experiences and to include at least some of the following to enhance the learning experience: 
  • purposeful learning opportunities that are connected to the course outcomes and module learning objectives
  • activities that foster voice and choice
  • learning experiences that are personal and authentic
  • forward-thinking activities
  • application to their field of study and/or the job field
  • allow for self-reflection
  • transferable skills 
  • soft skills to prepare them for the workforce or to move up in their field
  • differentiation in order to meet the needs of all learners
    • remediation in place for struggling students
    • extension activities and information for high achieving students
  • utilize different reading materials that vary in difficulty
  • immediate feedback to help with any misconceptions 
  • activities that provide retrieving, predicting, connecting, practicing, and growing
  • activities that build upon themselves so that students end with a finished product
I have had the pleasure of working on several courses with Dr. Kimberley Williams, an instructor in the Construction Management department at Louisiana State University. We recently reflected on our design and development time together and discussed designing for mixed student populations. Dr. Williams feels that the transfer of knowledge, application, relevance, scenarios, and gamification are key in developing high-quality courses. Developing a course that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive is an important factor in the design process. It is important that a student feels welcome, encouraged, supported, and represented in a course.

One of the activities we created together showcases her love for DIY shows, check for understanding of content, and the idea of building upon what is learned to have a finished product at the end which we know is key in the construction industry. The students start the first module on their journey as a home flipper. Each module includes a room to be remodeled and questions pertaining to the content in the module. As they answer questions correctly, they make design decisions for the home. If a student answers a question incorrectly, they are provided with remediation information to ensure they are mastering the content. If a student gets an answer correct, they have the opportunity to extend their content knowledge. We were very intentional in including the remediation and extension pieces to make sure we met students where they were in their learning process. At the end of the course, they had the opportunity to master the course content and have a completed home. The students were able to virtually experience residential construction.

Dr. Williams also spoke about other courses she has designed for mixed populations. Scenarios are critical in the construction field; therefore, many application-based scenarios are incorporated in the Construction Management courses. Building soft skills is another important element for construction fieldwork. The LSU Construction Management program is designed to prepare students to not only have practical knowledge of the field but also the soft skills needed in order to excel in the industry. Students have the opportunity to develop presentation skills, teamwork, problem-solving, flexibility, interpersonal, writing, and listening skills.

Dr. Williams believes that building in remediation in courses where needed is valuable to students. Many students entering into college or working on a micro-credential haven't been exposed to Math or English skills in many years. The SMEs work to integrate opportunities for students to revisit and enhance those skills.

As a SME, Dr. Williams feels it is important to provide students with all the pieces to complete the puzzle. If we don't give them what they need to be successful then we are releasing ill-prepared students into the field. We need to prepare them to be successful and to go out into the field to make big changes. The students are our future!

Stay tuned for more great ideas on creating quality learning experiences in your classes and courses.

Interested in learning more?

  • If you are interested in learning more about our LSU Online & Continuing Education degrees and certifications, please visit our website
  • If you are interested in the Construction Management program we have a large portfolio of programs in the construction management field, and they can stack up into a MicroCred®, undergraduate degree, and up through a doctorate. For an example, view this sample Construction Management Journey.

Kristen Hernandez

FREE!! All items in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store are FREE!!

Thursday, March 19, 2020 No comments

Hi all,
I know it has been a while since I posted last as I have been super busy as a Learning Experience Designer with LSU Online. I wanted to post to let you know that I have made my entire Teachers Pay Teachers store free. As an educator and mom, it is very important to me that I do what I can to make sure that parents and teachers have access to the materials they need to help their kids and their students. Should you have any questions at all, please reach out to me.

You can access the free site by clicking on the image below or clicking on the link in the above paragraph.

Kristen Hernandez