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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Online Business and Health Care courses get close-up and personal

June 30, 2020

Woman with brown hair and black and maroon shirt and glassesDanielle Philipson is bringing online classrooms to life for her SJVC Business and Health Care Management students who are scattered across the country. “In class when we have discussions, instead of typing my answers, I like to record a video and tell them a story of what I experienced at work or saw in an article that answers their questions,” she says. “Visual connection is important and video format decreases the cognitive load for students because it’s one less thing they have to read.”

An unanticipated bonus is that it also makes a virtual classroom a more comfortable environment for students to participate and ask questions.

This teaching technology is fairly new to online education and students are responding very positively. “My students tell me they love it when I do this and they feel it really helps them learn,” says Danielle. Video personalizes the lessons “and students tell me it makes them feel like I really care about them.”

The human connection is a strong base to build upon.

Danielle has spent her professional career improving education content and delivery design. She earned her Master’s degree in Health Administration in 2002 and accelerated her formal education with on-the-front-lines positions in hospital health care management, online instruction for multiple universities and her own consulting business. In 2015 she earned a Graduate Certificate for online instructional design, and she is currently pursuing a Doctorate degree.

At any one time she had a student load of at least 100 online students and a typical work week of 60-80 hours. “I like to be busy and if you have something that is exciting and interesting, you have to leverage it,” says Danielle.

In 2016 an opportunity came her way to work with San Joaquin Valley College’s Online campus. “Shortly after that, I decided to make an official leap, leave health care behind and go full-force into education,” she says.

As Online Adjunct Faculty Danielle typically teaches two classes each term of 25-30 students. “I sometimes serve as Faculty Mentor, helping new instructors with their first term. I also help develop and revise courses for Online programs.”  Many of those collaborations affect both online and ground campuses. “Not only are we putting new goals in place, but we are developing a greater partnership between ground and online campuses.”

Immersing herself into online classrooms has brought a few unexpected realizations to this instructor, a life-long learner, herself.

“I think sometimes I’m still surprised by the distance some of these students will go, and the challenges they overcome to reach their goals,” she says. “There are students whose husband has just lost his job, or who finds out they’re pregnant, or who is working full-time and now her mom moves in because she is sick. They have understandable reasons to stop, and don’t.”

There are times when Danielle has her own struggles. “Sometimes you’re not seeing the results, not seeing the magic happen,” she admits. “But the students’ commitment drives me. If they’re not stopping, how could I possibly stop?”

There is a constant story of struggle and achievement in front of her every day. “I remind myself that I don’t always know the full story,” says Danielle. “All I can do is my best, then at least I know that I didn’t fail my students.”

Danielle gets plenty of evidence that affirms her students feel her personal and professional investment in their education and success. “When I get communication from a student and they explain when the ‘light bulb’ went off,” she says. “They say, ‘OMG, I remember when you said this, and it just happened at work today.’ “And they knew what to do.”

“I love it when a student makes that connection with the course content and says, ‘Oh, that’s why my manager wanted me to do this or why the organization selected this pathway’. “That tells me that they’re closer to their goals, and I’m so lucky I get to play a small role in that process.”

And there are the emails from graduates who message her with appreciation for what she has done for them, that extra time she has spent. Faculty members use those moments as fuel for the long-haul ahead.

Danielle is ready with support, encouragement, deeper explanation – whatever best serves her students. These are the building blocks they will stand upon going forward.

Danielle hopes every student life she touches takes away a stronger sense of self. “Confidence,” she says, “that they can be successful building on previous wins and knowing that even if there’s a roadblock, they can move beyond that block.”

There are many reasons not to try. “People are scared to fail,” says Danielle. “My personal philosophy is that, as long as I give it 100%, if it doesn’t work out, it’s not a failure. It’s a chance for me to learn something new. Learn what doesn’t work for you or learn it’s not what you’re interested in. But if you don’t say ‘yes’, you’ll never know.”

One of the biggest roadblocks students hit is the time it will take to complete their education goals. A year or two stretches out so far ahead of them that they sometimes can’t see the end.

“I tell them that the time is going to go by no matter what you do, so at least at the end of that time you will be where you want to be. You can either be done or not started and wish you had; the time is going to go by either way.”

Danielle had a great example after which she models her own behavior. “My godmother, Lydia, passed away a couple of years ago. She just loved people for who they were. I think that translated into everything I do. I care about my students and where they are; I care about my colleagues. I put all my care out there. I think that when people put caring first, amazing things can happen.”

Teaching is the perfect vehicle for Danielle to become the instrument of this message. “We were all just so blessed to know her; that’s how everybody felt about my godmother. And I want to leave that same legacy. When I’m not here I want those I’ve left behind to say their life was better because they knew me.”

Danielle’s eyes are front-and-center, looking for every opportunity to touch a life and leave an impression to last a lifetime.

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