A student and educator, now course designer

A student and educator, now course designer

By Grace Jackson

What are the qualities of a good teacher?

Chika Willis, a student pursuing a Master of Education in Adult Education, found the answer to that question in online environments where students are encouraged to be self-directed, a valuable skill for life inside the classroom and out of it as well.

Instead of instructors controlling every aspect of the learning process, from an online perspective students can adapt the direction and quality of their own educational experiences.

A good teacher is responsible for not only delivering relevant information and transferring knowledge, but allowing students to take an active role in how they learn.

Taking responsibility for the learning process

“The most effective way to teach is by creating an environment where students take responsibility for their own learning,” Chika said. As an educator and now as a student, Chika understands this concept well.

Chika grew up in Vancouver, BC and graduated with a double major degree in Asian studies and Japanese from the University of British Columbia. She was initially drawn to being a translator, but found little inspiration in translating industrial manuals for building cars.

Instead Chika traveled to Japan in 2004 and taught English to international students for three years. When she returned to the US she began teaching for an international language school.

An a-ha moment came when Chika became a student at CityU.

Success for the adult online student

Although she hesitated taking courses that were all online, Chika found that environment gave her the freedom and flexibility to think for herself, and that she was in control of her own learning process. “And this,” Chika said, “is what adult learning is all about.”

She also realized that being effective as an educator is not limited to teaching in face-to-face classrooms.

Inspired by sustainable practices

The desire to live a sustainable life inspires Chika everyday, and she makes direct connections between her personal actions and the impact that has on the planet. It’s often said that great design is sustainable design, and the concepts of sustainability translate to Chika’s capstone project of redesigning 15 educational leadership master shells.

“Sustainable design in a master shell allows for continuous student feedback, and the shell can be reused with wider applications,” Chika said.

A well-designed master shell with sustainability at its core can be adapted and developed as needs change, leading to innovative instruction that results in a peak learning experience for the student.

“It’s not about assignments being dumped into an empty shell,” said Chika. “The shells have a basic, clean objective and is broken down to exactly what students need to do.”

“And, what’s learned in the course and in the program is measurable. The end-product is always considered along with bigger picture goals in mind,” she said.

e-Portfolios and other teaching tools

One of Chika’s favorite classes was Adult Learning Theory, where she researched undiagnosed learning disabilities (UDL) in adult learners, from both learner and faculty perspectives. Her research showed “a bleak picture of what learners may go through their whole educational lives and truly reaffirmed the necessity of UDL.”

In her Instructional Technology and Online Education class, Chika researched three types of learning technologies and learned of the success of e-Portfolios in different programs.

Chika found that e-Portfolios are a “vital communication tool between learners and faculty as a reflection tool, and can be used in a way to see gaps and identify unaddressed issues in the current curriculum.”

So, where will Chika be in five years? Will she still be involved in education? As an Administrative Assistant III for the Educational Leadership program in the School of Applied Leadership, higher education is part of Chika’s inner landscape. Yes, she says, if her focus is still “online sustainable practices, universal design, and meeting the needs of a diverse learning population.

And especially if it involves possibly teaching on a beach!”

Photo of Chika and her family

Chika and her family

Good work, Chika! We wish her continued success as a student, teacher and now as a course designer.

Find out about the Master of Adult Education and if teaching adults is for you! You can also explore City University of Seattle’s other graduate leadership programs on the CityU website or by requesting more information. We’re all about the finish!