NACOGDOCHES, Texas — As technology continues to change the way students learn, professors are discovering new ways to establish a virtual classroom.
Dr. Scott Hutchens, Stephen F. Austin State University Department of Psychology chair and professor, recently created an online version of the general psychology course to help SFA’s dual credit initiative.
“I do not ask my faculty to do anything I would not do myself,” Hutchens said. “Thus, I decided to develop the online course during the summer of 2018 in order to lead by example.”
Teaching a course online had a learning curve, but Hutchens said he quickly adjusted to the format. And although his “first love” is teaching face-to-face, he said teaching online was rewarding in numerous ways.
“I have put my heart and soul into developing this course based on best practices and the direction of the Center for Teaching and Learning at SFA, and as a result, the course has a very personal touch,” Hutchens said.
Hutchens used a discussion-based method to instruct the class, and he said he was proud of how well students performed and engaged in thoughtful discussions. One particular discussion Hutchens mentioned involved Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford agreed to give her testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee the same week Hutchens’ class was studying gender. Ford’s testimony centered around an event that occurred when she and Kavanaugh were roughly the same age as the dual credit students, so Hutchens took the opportunity to have students incorporate what they were learning in the course to this event, such as frontal lobe development, the effects of alcohol on the frontal lobe, memory and sexism.
“The discussion was one of the best discussions I have ever heard in an online general psychology course. I was very impressed with the students’ level of maturity in discussing this sensitive topic,” Hutchens said. “The discussion encouraged students to think critically and apply several things they learned about biopsychology, memory and sexism in an integrated and novel manner.”
Hutchens’ online innovation recently was honored with a Bright Spot award by the university vice presidents, Faculty Senate, and the Center for Teaching and Learning.
“This course has a highly organized design, and it runs very smoothly. After teaching it for the first time in fall 2018, I have spent even more hours fine-tuning it and making it more engaging, user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing with the use of new templates provided by the Center for Teaching and Learning,” he said.
Following Hutchens’ guide, the Department of Psychology will continue to integrate coursework online. The department is in the process of developing an online 2+2 program to offer to community college transfer students who may be unable to move to Nacogdoches due to family responsibilities and jobs in other locations, as well as an online graduate certificate in teaching college psychology.
For more information about the department, visit sfasu.edu/psychology.