Faculty Spotlight: Laurie Carrera, LICSW

Laurie-Photo-small

Laurie has her Masters in Social Work from the University of New Hampshire and is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker.  She has significant experience working with children, adolescents and families in a variety of settings such as school systems, residential programs, mental health agencies and adventure-based learning environments.

Laurie has been teaching online for a year although she has taught in the classroom for longer than that.  Laurie says that moving to teaching an online course was a humbling experience for her since she had to learn a new style of interacting with students. 

Laurie notes, “I enjoy teaching because it is an opportunity for me to share my knowledge and experience with others.  What is equally important to me is being able to learn from the people in my class!  I feel fortunate to have found a field of work that I am passionate about.  It is my belief that learning can be both fun and challenging.”

Teaching Practices

Laurie uses a variety of approaches in order to most effectively teach new skills and present information.  She often relies on interactive classroom techniques so that students can be engaged in the learning process.  Her students can expect frequent in-class discussions, group activities, mixed-media presentations, and interactive projects. 

She believes the ‘online learner’ often appears to be focused on simply completing the assigned ‘task’, whereas in a face-to-face class there is more obligation to participate and ‘read the crowd’.  As with any class, there are students that choose to interact more than others.

“How much you get out of a class is based on how much you put in.”

Expectations

She lets her students know what she expects by being very clear in the Syllabus about her expectations.  And, she relies on rubrics in order to establish expectations when it comes to grading.  She creates a presence in her online classes by responding to posts in the forums on a frequent basis.  She also responds in a timely manner, either with feedback or comments, to any writing assignments that students complete.  She expects consistent participation in her classes.  Her assignments typically include reflection essays, short papers, oral presentations and experiential learning projects.  It is her goal to bring the text readings to life as much as possible.  In order to do so  she states, “I encourage expression of unique learning styles and I embrace creativity.”

She tells us, “I have found it successful to create small groups, which the students seemed to appreciate.  I also like the idea of setting up the forum so that students can choose the discussion topic they are interested in participating in.” Laurie is still experimenting with ways of managing discussions. She has had 25 students in an online course. If she had wanted them all to participate in the same discussion, it would have  been  confusing and overwhelming.

Online Presence

Laurie remarks, “One advantage of online discussions is that a student cannot be interrupted or overlooked.  In the classroom, there are typically the talkative and less talkative students, but sometimes the less talkative have so much that they could share, yet are never heard! Managing online discussions seems to reinforce, for me, the value of students sharing their experiences.  When teaching online I incorporate discussion forums into every week, whereas I do not necessarily do this in a face-to-face course.  I like having this reminder to let the students speak.”

Laurie was asked if she had learned from any “mistakes” in teaching online.  She was good natured in her answer and said, “Where do I start…ha…I felt like a chicken with my head cut off for a few weeks when I started my first online course…I tried to use some of the assignments from my face-to-face course for the online course and it was not the greatest success.” Laurie has found a lot of resources to use in her online teaching. She found TED Talk videos to be a great addition to her text.  She used Netflix clips as well.  Also students have created some Vimeo videos for presentations which were great.  And, a student created an online scavenger hunt, which was really neat.

Her advice to new online instructors is, “Give yourself permission to struggle, while being open to feedback and accepting of criticism.”

Influences along the way

Laurie shared some background about experience she had with one of her mentors. “I learned a great deal from Jason Holder at Adventurelore Programs, in Danville, NH.  I have known him and worked with him for approximately 14 years, and he is inspiring when you see him leading group programs or interacting with individuals.  The skills that I learned while being outdoors and facilitating groups has certainly made me confident in the classroom. I like to get students up and moving and they usually appreciate it as well.”


“I learn a lot from my students.”

Laurie loves traveling, being outdoors and spending time with friends and family.  She states, “I am often looking for the next adventure.  It is my dream to teach abroad someday.  I think it would be such a great experience to live in a Spanish speaking country and work within a community, while also providing students with a cultural experience….maybe someday!” 

To contact Laurie you may send an email to: ljcarrera@go.granite.edu.