Instructional Strategies to Improve Access and Equity for Students

Dr. Daniela Domínguez and one of her students, Samantha Arrollo-Medellin
Dr. Daniela Domínguez and one of her students, Samantha Arrollo-Medellin

Instructional Challenge

Professor Daniela Domínguez teaches in USF’s Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) graduate program and acts as the MFT program coordinator at USF’s Santa Rosa campus. Her students in Santa Rosa include mostly working adults, some of whom are single parents, of low income or other underrepresented identities in higher education. Graduate school is only one of her students’ many responsibilities and challenges. Furthermore, in the past few years, many of her students have been impacted by the fires in Northern California and have unique needs related to that disruption.

Many of the MFT courses are condensed to 5 week sessions, so it’s already a challenge to fit in all of the required coursework in a manageable way for her busy students. Any missed classes or course work could impede a student's ability to complete a course. With the emergence of a regular fire season in Northern California, it has become all the more critical for Dr. Domínguez to find ways to support her students to enable them to stay on track.

Instructional Solution

To make better use of her students’ time, Professor Domínguez “flipped” some of her class sessions—providing lectures, related videos, and other course content outside of class. She recorded her lectures as audio podcasts and Echo 360 presentations, and asked students to listen to the lectures before coming into the classroom, where they would engage in activities and focus on understandings. Audio podcasts helped students to complete course requirements while they handled their many other responsibilities. Students could listen to course lectures while commuting to work or doing laundry rather than use up more of what little extra time they have. Not only did this allow her students the flexibility they needed, it enabled Professor Domínguez to use her classroom time more dynamically.

In one of her courses, Dr. Domínguez assigned students to produce a podcast as their final project. The students developed and recorded these audio projects outside of class and then uploaded them to Canvas, USF’s Learning Management System. Students then peer-reviewed the podcasts of their classmates and came to class ready for discussion. Student presentations can take up a great deal of class time and by moving these out of the classroom Dr. Domínguez gained back needed class time.

With set office hours, students not only have to make themselves available during the times designated by their professor(s), but also need to make the effort to physically get to campus. Dr. Domínguez used Zoom to conduct conference appointments with her students whereby they didn’t have to take the time to come to campus if they had questions or wanted to discuss the material. Zoom is available to all USF students, faculty, and staff and it can be used on mobile devices or on a desktop computer. Implementing this low-cost and flexible option removed a barrier for students to gain access to and support from their professor thus improving their odds of success in her course.

Lessons Learned

As an instructor, Dr. Domínguez used to have a more traditional approach for these courses: lecturing in class and having students do presentations in class. She found some real advantages when she experimented with strategies to leverage technology to make it easier for her students to complete the coursework. Student feedback was extremely positive.

As a participant in the summer 2018 ETS technology intensive, Dr. Domínguez was partnered with another faculty participant to connect with throughout Fall semester. Dr. Domínguez extolls the value of these partnerships as she found it meaningful and supportive to meet with another faculty member to reflect on their teaching practices.

Professor Daniela Domínguez participated in the summer 2018 Educational Technology Services summer intensive.