There’s no question that Lewis-Clark State College associate professor Jenny Scott brings plenty of high energy to her Business Division classes. She uses that energy to engage her students in a variety of ways because she believes having students engaged in class creates a great learning environment.
Her students agree. Jenny is annually near the top of the list of favorite professors on campus, voted upon by the student body near the end of each academic year. The student comments describe how she makes learning fun, what she teaches is relevant, and how she’s always willing to help them.
“I’m always looking for ways to make it (the class) more meaningful,” she says. “Is it relevant? Is it purposeful? So I ask my students during mid-semester to fill out an informal survey and provide feedback. It’s sort of a midterm class check in. I get responses of what they like, what they are learning, and what works well for them, as well as things that they would change. When I listen to those comments and make little tweaks here and there that don’t totally change the course syllabus in that semester, I think it means a lot of them. It gives them a sense of ownership and commitment in the course, and I value their feedback.”
The fact that Jenny ranks among the favorite professors at LCSC is remarkable because for the last three years she has taught nearly all of her classes online. Jenny lives in White Salmon, Wash., about five hours from the college. She comes to campus roughly four times a semester to teach a weekend accelerated class, put on a faculty workshop through the LCSC Center for Teaching and Learning, or present at a professional workshop. She also makes a point to attend at least one Business Division-sponsored student event each year.
Jenny has taught at LCSC since 2009 and had a good mix of live and online classes before she moved. Since then, she says she has had to rethink the way she teaches her online classes.
“I don’t have that live interaction or the dynamic that takes place in a live classroom so I had to make changes to the way I teach online,” she says. “When you are there live, you get to know your students personally, share stories, and capture those things in live discussions. I miss out on most of that now. So I had to come up with ways to engage the online students.”
Jenny’s online classes don’t meet at a set time. Rather, she will post assignments to a discussion board for students to do in their own time and will engage with the students in a variety of ways. She will post short videos and resources where students can get more information about a topic. She says she tries to find new ways to pose questions on discussion topics and different exercises so the class is more than just reading a chapter and turning in an assignment.
“I want to engage students and what I am finding out is that I really think it starts with us as instructors,” she says. “So the more we engage with our online classes, whether it’s how often, how we communicate, the method of communication, what we share, and what we discuss, it is our presence in the online class that leads to how engaged your students are going to be.
“I try to give them a little more variety and more choices to give them different ways to take ownership of it and feel better about it,” she says. “I like doing little videos because anytime they can hear our voice or see our face, I think that is helpful. And I always try to use their first names when I’m giving feedback. I think that makes it more personable.”
Jenny says in her senior capstone class, where students spend the semester working on their senior project, she holds Zoom video meetings with the groups to help them with their projects. She says that live interaction is beneficial, especially because some of the students in her classes work full time, are raising families, or are just not able to attend live classes, but still want that personal interaction.
“I try to create a class culture online that has class codes and values,” she says. “And I have them regularly check to see if we are upholding those values.”
Jenny says that even though she has taught the same online classes in different semesters, she tries to change them so that no class is ever the same. Jenny says the typical online class varies, depending on the subject, but she will have the traditional online discussions boards where she’ll post a discussion topic about every other week.
“I rarely pick a discussion question out of a chapter,” she says. “A lot of the times I will take the content of the chapter and try to make it relevant. I will ask about a work experience, a volunteer experience, a project experience, really anything so that there is an experience that a student has had and can apply to the content.”
“Some classes I will do testing in, some classes are more writing intense. I am requiring more videos from students now. I teach a Foundations of Management class and require each student be a manager for a chapter. Everyone gets a scenario, and based on that scenario and the content of the chapter, they have to write a formal memo, make a recommendation, and then make a video as if they are leading the meeting. Other students who watch it will then post questions and comments.”
Over the next year, Jenny will be helping to revamp the internship program in the division. The goal is to make it centered more on the application of learning and see if students can apply the skills and knowledge they have gained in Business Division classes.
“What we know is a lot of our online students are working full time so we can’t require an internship on top of their job,” she says. “We want them to be able to gain internship credits through their employer as long as they are applying what they have learned. Hopefully they can work with a supervisor to give them a new project, put them in a different part of the company, or give them some new duties so they can apply what they have learned.”
Jenny says she enjoys working at LCSC because it is a special place to her, from the campus environment to the colleagues who have become friends and to the pride in the Business Division programs.
“There’s always been something about a college campus that has lit a fire in me in a good way,” she says. “It motivates me. Although I’m not on campus, I feel really good or really encouraged when I see students understanding concepts and terms, then applying them, and putting critical thinking into creative decision making. The whole process of learning is motivating.”
Jenny says the feedback she gets from students also motivates her.
“One of my students told me ‘Jenny, you did something totally different last week and it was great,’” she says. “It was like one of those wow moments for me. OK, now I want to keep those wows coming. I can’t see their faces most of the time to know if they are enjoying the process, but when I get one of those random messages and feedback that say they really like something, that keeps me motivated.”
Jenny says she also gets feedback about her upbeat delivery style, which keeps the attention of students. She says she has never been a person who would lecture for 75 minutes straight because she wouldn’t like that as a student.
“Reading the comments from the students is always encouraging because I ask myself ‘Am I effective?’” she says. “I think that’s a question we (professors) ask ourselves a lot. Am I effective in what I do? Is it helping them?” Will it make a difference for them?”
Jenny says she is thankful for the opportunity to be able to teach her classes from a distance. When a state job transfer for her husband came up in 2017, the family made the move to the Columbia River Gorge.
However, Jenny wanted to make sure she could continue to teach at LCSC. She worked with then division chair Delta Health-Simpson on a way for her to teach online classes as well as a live class in an accelerated format during a couple of weekends each semester.
“The college, my division, and administration have been very supportive so I am very grateful,” she says. “And I’m still able to come back and connect with the campus community periodically.”
The one thing I can’t change is that I do miss the random bumping into others in the work room, students saying ‘hi’ as they pass by my office, and having those water cooler conversations,” she says. “I’ve always been big on those when I teach about company/organizational culture in my management and leadership classes. I’m missing out on that so I try to plug in as much as I can in other ways.”
Jenny says she enjoys “helping others serve and lead,” which has become a personal tagline.
“I want to help my students grow and help others,” she says. “So when I hear such wonderful words of encouragement from them, it really means the world to me.”