Digital Learning Blog

A Meaningful and Collaborative Learning Environment

by | Mar 17, 2022 | Digital Learning Blog, Faculty Spotlight, Fanny Tsai

I want to write a post to spotlight Professor Victorya Nam, an instructor for lower division writing courses (20A, 20B, 20C, and 22A) at the School of Humanities. As a lecturer in the Global Languages and Communication department, her work supports a diverse student population and simultaneously integrates various technologies into her online courses. After knowing I would have an opportunity to share one of my faculty stories, I could not wait to catch up with Victorya because of her ambition and dedication in fostering her students’ writing skills. I am glad to have had the opportunity to work with her and develop her online courses during the pandemic. Victorya is one faculty member who continually urges me to keep up with the latest  technological tools to support her integrating into her classes so that they can help revive students’ interest and collaboration even in an online setting. Sometimes the tools don’t work properly, but she doesn’t surrender, continuously visiting me during my office hours and asking for help to solve her questions. I would describe her by saying – “Brava Victorya! She is an exemplary and fantastic instructor in UCI School of Humanities.”

One thing I wanted to share is how Professor Victorya first became drawn to the field of teaching:

“I began teaching in a hot kitchen when I was 14 years old.  My student was my grandmother, an industrious and determined woman who also served as the family matriarch.  She could already speak English but wanted to learn to read it, for she understood that learning English could help her job prospects immensely and thus began the lessons in the late afternoons. I did not realize it then, but I had found my career.”

When faced with the challenges of the pandemic, Professor Nam has never given up her vision on supporting her students in writing/reading skills, and she was able to keep her original teaching philosophy. She believes in the most robust “relationship” and “trust” between her and her students because “I want my students to trust that I have their best interest in my heart.”  She believes, “relationship with my students, it’s my priority.” Additionally, she continually thinks about her students’ success and supports them when they need her, as she reiterated, “I need to have my students understand that I have their best interest in mind. That’s it. And I thought that that was only possible through education with DTEI.”

Like other faculty, Victorya faced challenges at the beginning of the pandemic, such as converting an in-person writing course to meet all students virtually. She felt a lack of connection with her students via zoom meetings because “is it possible to make a personal connection with my students, where it’s not just about delivering the teaching materials but that they trust me enough to take this incredible journey of writing?”

Then, she decided to seek help to convert her in-person course content to remote, so she joined the Digital Learning Institute (DLI) for Cohort 3. Since then, Victorya has participated in all the program meetings and workshops. She adopted my suggestion to record her welcome and lecture videos using new technology tools (i.e., YuJa Quizzes) to engage with her students. She added, “students love it, even right now, my students say, ‘Prof. Nam you don’t need to repeat the lecture content because we watched your lecture videos many times before we came to the classroom;’ I have almost 90% of students pass in my courses.”

Another theme that cut across my interview with Victorya was her value in articulation and collaboration. She constantly tries to find multiple ways to support her students in meaningful ways, (e.g., by implementing Perusall or Discussion tools) in her course; students have helped one another better than ever, including before the pandemic.  

Bouncing back and forth between the different time zones and diverse student cultures, Victorya similarly treats her students with respect, passion, and care because “Lower division writing is the foundational class for students’ academic careers because no matter what major they may be, they must think critically and express their ideas critically in their writing.” 

Towards the end of our conversation, I asked Victorya about the DLI program and DTEI support team services.  To this she replied, “DTEI challenged me to be the best that I can be.  The more I learned through DTEI, I realized there are more opportunities for me to improve and be even better.”

About the Author:

Shu Fen (Fannie) Tsai, M.S.
Instructional Designer, Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation (DTEI)

Fannie Tsai has over ten years of experience promoting teaching excellence in higher education. As an instructional designer at the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation, she supports faculty in designing courses and content for various teaching modes with backward design and learning technologies. UCI faculty appreciate her help in creating a mastery learning path to guide students’ learning. In addition, Fannie is passionate about inclusive teaching. She devotes diligence to facilitating faculty using inclusive technologies to design an accessible learning environment for all students. Fannie joined DTEI in September 2019 after nine years of service as an instructional technology designer at SDSU. She has a B.A. degree in Multimedia/Programing and an M.S. degree in Instructional Technology.