Looking back on her first year as a master’s student in the School of Information, Sara Steinhurst reflects that Clinical Associate Professor Chuck Severance (a.ka. “Dr. Chuck”) has been the most influential professor, not only on her education thus far, but also her career path.
When she heard that he would be teaching a free online class on the history of the Internet over the summer, she jumped at the chance to take it. Dr. Chuck’s classes at UMSI had always been engaging, interactive, and encouraging to her. She says, “Walking into his class the first day I was scared of programming, and by the end of class I felt like I could do anything.”
Coursera intrigued her because she wanted to take classes over the summer on topics that interested her but might not fit into her regular course schedule. Sara was curious to explore the quality of the educational experience, content presentation and audience engagement in an online environment versus the traditional classroom setting.
She found the video lectures stimulating and interactive. One of the most engaging features of the video lectures was the multiple choice questions throughout. The correct answer was given after answering, which provided immediate feedback on what was being learned. The online learning experience allowed for more time to cover concepts than in the classroom, and therefore the content was more fully internalized.
What Sara worried most about in the online setting was attrition of the class enrollment. The separation of herself from the other students and from the professor made her feel less accountable for doing the work and completing the class. While watching the weekly lecture videos was still fascinating, as the class went on she felt less and less obligated to complete the weekly homework assignment. During a visit to Dr. Chuck’s office hours, he told her that Coursera wasn’t just about completing the work, but learning about the things that are important and interesting to you. In the end, Sara completed all of the assignments, but more importantly, she says, “I expanded my knowledge.”
Sara is a second-year master’s student in the School of Information studying human-computer interaction. She received a BA in psychology from the University of Michigan and has been employed at the Hatcher Graduate Library for over five years. She is also a graduate student instructor for SI 110: “Introduction to Information.” Her educational interests are educational mobile applications and information architecture. Upon graduation she hopes to stay at the university and bring new educational technologies to the library. She was born and raised in West Branch, Michigan, and has two sisters.