In the Know

Icebreakers Promote Connection 

While icebreakers can be used in any scenario, we want to further encourage their use in online courses. Breaking the ice with a low stakes/no stakes question can help students feel more connected to each other and the instructor before they delve into more in-depth topics. Here is an example where you can get to know a little more about the Marshall Online team members.  

Working within the field, what/who is your professional North Star -your why? 

Diana: As an Instructional Designer here at Marshall, I’ve encountered faculty members with rich life experiences who sought guidance on translating those experiences into meaningful learning opportunities for their students. These people have a wealth of knowledge that, when effectively bridged to the classroom, can empower students for success beyond academics. Seeing these connections come to life is a constant source of inspiration and fuels my passion for this work. Facilitating the integration of faculty expertise and real-world experiences into dynamic learning environments, and seeing students thrive in these settings, is incredibly rewarding. I thank those faculty for being such an inspiration! 

Chase: Being an instructional designer at Marshall University is a career path that I would have never thought I would be doing and love as much as I do. My role has changed throughout my time here, but one aspect of my work has always stayed constant, my admiration and sheer joy while working with faculty to ensure that their online courses are robust and an experience to remember. Building relationships over a common goal and creating a dynamic online experience for the instructor and students alike. My professional North Star was found early on through the course development process while working with faculty. It is what keeps me grounded and why I look forward to coming to work every day. Needless to say, I am proud to be a son of Marshall and work with our wonderful faculty to ensure a quality learning experience for our students.     

Wendi: My undergrad mentor at Ohio University (Dr. Ann Rumble) and my graduate mentor at Washington State University (Dr. Tahira Probst) are my Professional North Stars. Ann found me when I was a confused first-generation college student who loved psychology but had no idea what to do with my degree. She recruited me as a Lab Assistant and Teaching Assistant when I was a Junior and trained me to become a Lab Manager. I did not know what grad school was until she walked me through the options and process to apply. Ann is the reason I got accepted into a fully funded PhD program. Dr. Tahira Probst showed me what it looks like to be a mom to kids and graduate assistants, while juggling many obligations with grace, kindness, and excellence. She taught me how to be a mom, consultant, and compassionate teacher. Tahira is the reason I have my dream job of being a professor and mentor who helps students see and reach their fullest potential.  

Heidi: A few years ago, I had the pleasure of mentoring a student who was writing a poem to perform at a writer slam for the first time. The auditorium was packed, and her parents, grandmother, and siblings cheered her on from the front row. After the slam, her grandmother hugged me and told me how proud she was of her granddaughter. I think back to this moment a lot because it reminds me of the ripple effects that educators can have—not just on students, but their families and communities—and the responsibilities that come with that. In my role as an instructional designer, this moment continues to guide me as we collaborate with faculty to develop courses and policies. 

Mary: My guiding light has always been centered on illuminating what seems elusive or hidden. As a first-generation college student turned educator, I felt a deep responsibility to demystify the academic and social processes for others like me. Now, as an instructional designer, my focus remains on fostering transparency, especially in pedagogy and curriculum planning. 

The analogy of the course experience as akin to a tour bus journey resonates profoundly with me. Just as a calm tour guide informs passengers of what lies ahead, I believe in transparent course planning and pedagogical rationale. It’s about empowering students with foresight. A pivotal moment during a faculty development session crystallized my professional ethos. When asked about what constitutes an exemplary project, everyone in the room replied: “The student exceeds expectations or parameters.” Yet, none of us had explicitly stated that in the assignment. I subsequently developed a rubric emphasizing “intellectual risk” as exemplary. I think back to this almost weekly.  

In essence, my professional “NorthStar” is rooted in the belief that transparency and clear communication are paramount. Just as a proficient tour guide navigates the unknown with clarity, I aspire to illuminate the educational journey for all those I encounter. 

Laura: During my PhD journey, I enrolled in a course led by Dr. Alan Reid. Each week, we were tasked with summarizing our textbook readings in a format of our choice – a written piece, a blog post, a podcast, or something else entirely. Dr. Reid’s encouragement to explore different mediums was exciting.  For the first assignment, I was immediately drawn to the idea of creating a comic strip!  

I discovered a software offering a free trial that allowed me to create a comic book format, complete with multiple panels. The textbook readings, although somewhat dense and centered around the historical events of World War II and beyond, served as an excellent backdrop for my creative exploration. Captain America became my main character, guiding viewers through the story. The process was not only fun and engaging but also injected a dose of humor into the content.   

Upon completing my comic, I realized that I had invested a significant amount of time and effort into this seemingly low-stakes activity – far more than I would have for a traditional written assignment. This realization influenced my teaching approach, prompting me to incorporate elements of student choice, creativity, and self-expression into my assignments.  

 This opportunity has guided me as I continue to enhance my courses with the inclusion of the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This approach provides my students, both in-person and online, with multiple avenues to engage with the material, represent their understanding, and express their knowledge. My gratitude goes out to Dr. Reid for his inspiring teaching methods! 

KaleighAt the heart of what I do in higher ed is a simple but powerful idea: everything we do affects our students in some way. Whether it’s planning events, streamlining processes, administrative tasks, enhancing the student experience, or just being a friendly face (or email signature ), each task, initiative, and decision holds the potential to help shape their college experience. We’re not just behind-the-scenes; we’re part of their journey, cheering them on every step of the way. What makes our work even more meaningful is its impact on both traditional and non-traditional students, offering new chances for growth and transformation. 


Having Trouble with Blackboard?

Contact the IT Service Desk

Call the Design Center


Contact a Designer

Bookings Link

Calendar Events