10 Most Valuable Learning Experiences During My First Year

Categories Full Spectrum Learning Research, Tech Bar

While attending Digital Pedagogy Lab, most of the questions raised in my track included, “Why should students/faculty care about Open Learning and why is this valuable for students?” In response to these questions, I decided to look back at my first year at St. Norbert to reflect on my most valuable/memorable learning experiences I had

1. Working Collaboratively in a Group with Professors/Faculty

The whole of my research fellowship was an experience I was not expecting at all. From the first day, I was surprised when they asked me to create my own goals for the project and really wanted me to shape my own experience. The working team is now comprised of three faculty members and four students and from the start we were all equals. All of our ideas were highly valued and accepted to bring the project to the next level. This experience was and continues to be truly unique from any experience I have ever heard of from students in similar positions all the way to workers in the corporate world. As you will see later in this list, most of my experiences came from opportunities that stemmed from this fellowship instead of experiences in the classroom because how unique of an experience this fellowship has been.

2. Seeing My Hard Work Pay Off

During second semester this past year, right around Easter I started to get mildly sick. It wasn’t anything serious, but it did make me incredibly tired and made it hard to do much during that full week. Of course, this came at a bad time for me. That week I had two large exams, one in Computer Science Data Structures and Linear Algebra. To top it off, the first-year honors students had dinner at President Bruess’ house the night in between them. Anyway, I studied so much for Computer Science that, I wasn’t able to study as much for my Linear Algebra exam as I would have hoped and ended up getting a 59%. Before this exam, I was at a comfortable A, but after I was at a pretty low AB. I could have given up easily and not studied for the exam and accepted an AB or even a B. However, I decided to try to work my butt off and study to try to get the near-perfect score I needed on the exam to get an A in the class. The week leading up to the exam was spent relearning the whole class, and the day before was spent with over six hours in the library straight. I still was worried and stressed and it was a leading factor in me falling off my loft that night (it’s not a fun story). That morning I just decided to do my best and be proud of how hard I tried. When grades came out a few weeks later, I saw that all of my hard work paid off and I was able to ace the class. This class really just taught me the necessity of hard work and being able to work for what you want and never giving up, no matter how hard the road may seem.

3. Creating and Designing the Full Spectrum Learning Website

This project was the main focus of my research fellowship this year, and also one of the most I am most proud of. I had website experience from FBLA in high school, but this project is truly the one I love the most and am able to show off to people all over the world. People from all around the country and even the world have been able to see my work in the website and the evolution of the grid and it is truly humbling that they decided to trust me with the process and design of the website to show this idea. I have learned a multitude of things from creating the FSL website and using that work to advance my personal domains as well. The main skills that creating these websites have helped me with is understanding WordPress and especially the Elementor plug-in. 

The page on the website I am most proud of is the interactive grid. There are a few reasons for this decision. First, it is the part of the site that shows off my partner and I’s hard work with the teaser class videos. Second, I tried to use a plug in to design the table, but it didn’t work well, so I decided to go back to my roots and use HTML and CSS to code the table myself. Because of the lack of responsiveness of a table on a website, I had to create multiple media queries to fake a responsive table by creating a new table for smaller screens. Lastly, this was the page I needed the most help with. I am not great about asking for help when I am struggling, and this page really required me to go out of my comfort zone to work in a group with tech bar students or the staff of academic technology if I was struggling. The main item of the page that I would say I needed the most help with was the axis rollovers. Each element of both axes have rollovers explaining what the names mean and add are based on a segment of HTML and CSS code that work together. I tried to use rollovers in the past, and wasn’t able to get them to work so this was a big step for me when they actually worked. Being able to show my work to the public and have it all be a big learning experience was really impactful for me this past year.

4. Presenting at Domains 2019

Earlier this summer, I had the incredible opportunity to present at Reclaim Hosting’s 2019 Domains Conference in Durham, North Carolina. I had never presented at a conference outside of St. Norbert, and this was a very new experience for me. The main surprise for me was the range of schools that had representation. It was also very interesting for me to understand the view of St. Norbert as a Domain of One’s Own school and really being an example for those programs trying to imitate us. I really did not know what to expect, but I came out of that conference for a deep appreciation for the administration of St. Norbert, and I got a bit of an inside look of how much planning and support needs to go into the ability to have that kind of a program. This was also the first conference where I really had the opportunity to show and explain Full Spectrum Learning (FSL) to those outside of the college and show my work of the website off. The response was incredibly positive, and it was really reassuring to me that my work was making a difference and had a purpose.

5. Presenting to the Board of Trustees

One of the most terrifying, yet rewarding, days of my life happened in early October, when we had the opportunity to present to the Board of Trustees for the college. If you don’t know, the Board of Trustees oversees the college and the president, meaning the lowest on the totem pole in the room for those few hours was the president of the college… so you can probably see why I was a bit nervous. The presentation itself went really smoothly and the feedback was incredibly positive. I started to learn how much I appreciate talking about my own domain and explaining it to those who may not otherwise even think about this kind of digital space. This presentation also lead me into speaking for a multitude of different conferences and presentations on campus including the SyNC Business conference, the Financial Planning Group, and the Hire A Knight Business Conference. All of these experiences have helped me realize how much I appreciate my own domain and how I want to teach others about creating their own domains. These opportunities have also helped me to come out of my shell and be able to show a bit of my personality to others. As anyone close to me would tell you, I am terrified of strangers and if you told me that I would be giving these presentations, I would have had so much anxiety. I still get incredibly nervous before presentations, but I feel incredibly accomplished and come out of them with a new appreciation for my work and sharing it with others.

6. Attending Computer Science Capstones

Being able to see the Computer Science Capstones was a really meaningful experience for me to really see what the goal is. It can be easy to miss the “point” of intro classes and wonder ‘Why am I doing this?’ However, watching each capstone presentation I saw each piece of the work that I had been learning over the past two semesters. Also, being able to see the real world implications of the hard work of the four years of my degree was really impactful. The range of projects was also incredibly inspiring. Knowing that all of the students had (almost) all of the same classes up to their capstones but they all produced wildly different projects. From different coding languages, to design, the variety just amazed me. Some of my favorite projects included a grass cutting simulation, a positive affirmation app, and a dance program that allowed users to create routines based on their own dance moves. A few of the students also expressed their hardships of their first years and how they pushed through which was inspiring to be able to hear, especially because I had thought about changing my major when times were hard. The main benefit of allowing students to see these presentations helps show the hard work of all the seniors while also inspiring the underclassmen to continue on and push through.

7. Attending Digital Pedagogy Lab

This summer, in August I got the experience of attending my second academic conference, Digital Pedagogy Lab, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This conference is truly unique as you are fully collaborating in specific groups of twenty or less for the entire week. I was in the Critical Open Pedagogy track with another student, Ruthie. Honestly, this kind of conference is not easy for students to attend, especially students as young as we are. Most of the concepts of Open Pedagogy can be hard for anyone to understand, and the advanced language was really hard to get through at first. However, it was a great experience to hear and understand the different experiences that each person in the group has had at their own universities across the world. Each day I felt more comfortable and started to understand how I needed to implement what I am learning in to what I am working on with Full Spectrum Learning and how to promote it to the larger campus community especially certain professors. It was a truly unique opportunity that I never thought I would have imagined that I would have especially after only my first year of school and none of this would have been possible without me taking a whim and applying for a research fellowship.

8. Representing the college

One experience that I never thought I would have would be representing St. Norbert while traveling and around the community and the country. Through my work with Full Spectrum Learning I have had the ability to attend two major conferences this summer, Domains 2019 and Digital Pedagogy Lab (see above). There, I was representing the college and even the state on a very large scale. At these conferences, some of the attendees have never heard of St. Norbert, and I am the first student they have met and their first experience. Closer to home, on campus I have presented to a variety of committees and conferences and there I was also representing the college. Many of the conferences included employers from local businesses and corporations. I mainly present my experience using domains, but I am usually one of two examples that they see and hear from. I never would have imagined that I would be in this position, especially in my first year, but looking back it is extremely humbling that my bosses believed in me and trusted me with these presentations.

9. Helping others set up their own domain

This year, I haven’t taught in the “traditional sense” in front of a group, however, I have started to teach students about domains one on one. I was not a tech bar consultant this past year, however, there were a few times when someone called in sick or wasn’t available that I stepped in to help them as emergency back-up. Usually, these appointments centered around domains and I got to help them set them up. This isn’t a way of teaching that I ever thought I would experience, but it has become my favorite way to teach. Being able to show the students the benefits of their domain and help me to show them and help them with questions they have has been a really impactful experience. Also, it helps me to explain to others what I am passionate about and what I fell in love with. Also, knowing they have the support that they need on campus can be incredibly important and I am glad that I can continue to be a part of tech bar as a consultant next year!

10. Understanding Hidden Figures

Lastly, my tenth most valuable experience is a little bit different from the others. I recently rewatched the movie “Hidden Figures” about the women computers involved in the space race. During one scene when the main character has a mental breakthrough and discovers what equation to use for the “go no go” coordinates of the landing, I realized that I actually had learned this equation a few months earlier in Linear Algebra. This is a bit different of an example, but I was glad to see a real life example of the work I am trying to accomplish as part of my degree.

Thank you

I just want to end by saying thank you to everyone involved in my learning experiences over my first year, especially my research fellowship. I would have never imagined I would have most of these experiences in all four years, let alone only my first year. I am blessed to be able to attend such an amazing school and be open to such caring faculty and staff. I honestly just can’t say thank you enough for each experience and each person who cares for me and has trusted and believed in me each and every day, especially when I couldn’t believe in myself or my work.

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