Epiphanies with Claire Major Howell

Claire Major Howell Our Fireside Guest: Claire Howell Major

Claire will be sharing a story about how she leveraged a huge network of educators to collaborate and write one of her books, Teaching Online. What might the implications be for us as educators? In our classes? In our learning community? 

Claire has been teaching for 30 years and has authored numerous books about topics surrounding teaching and learning in higher education. She is a cofounder of the Cross Academy and she is a faculty at the University of Alabama teaching courses about college teaching, technology in higher education, and reading research in the field of higher education.  



Clarie talked about how new technologies inspire the idea that they can do everything–they become symbols of change. I wonder how often this cycles with an idea that forms once the technologies are established: that the technology is harmful and should never be used (e.g., Powerpoint, devices in classrooms…). Claire quoted Lisa Lane saying “pedagogy first”, that  is, think of the pedagogy before using the technology. That would address those critics!

So often, the epiphany is: ASK. In Claire’s case, it was asking her network to contribute to her book about online teaching. I think part of what made the many contributions possible is that Claire asked for only 300 words from each contributor. 

Another epiphany is that our personal lives can inspire innovation. In Claire’s case, online teaching emerged from pregnancy, summer Alabama heat, and the need to teach.

Our conversation was too short. I wish we’d had time to talk about Angelo and Cross’s 50 assessment techniques and how to use those online…among other ideas. 


Throughout this meeting, I kept trying to remember the title and topic of an open book project I remember seeing like 13 years ago when I was a grad student. I’m guessing it was in game studies or platform studies, and the book was on a custom website where different tabs could go to different chapters. You could flip pages, and on each page, there was a section for annotations. Very similar to what Perusall or hypothes.is does now… but anyway, they were soliciting comments and corrections before “publishing…” 

This crowdsourced editing was always interesting to me in that it sort of also blows apart the peer review process while also encouraging a discussion about content as sort of a sideboard to the main project. Kind of like mashing up a book project with a blog that has a healthy comment section.

Capture of Zoom session with participants in windows.


It was amazing to hear about Claire’s work. The title of her dissertation was inspiring as was her research to practice connection. One thing that stood out to me about Claire’s epiphany was about the importance of self-reflection and realizing our own unfinishedness. Out of this came an important aspect – the importance of social networks and fostering these networks. Claire mentioned so many names that I want to go in and research about!

Here’s a list of the ones that particularly stood out to me:

  • Alec Couros
  •  Howard Rheingold,
  • Lisa Lane (pedagogy before technology) 
  • Cris Crissman, Eloise Tan, Matt Koehler (Tpack) – pedagogical knowledge and content knowledge – overlap and where does online teaching fit into this
  • Guilia Forsythe
  •   Charlie Miller and Aaron Doerling (inventors of flipgrid). Will Cross 
  • Eric Rabkin (academic honesty) 

I also appreciated Claire’s discussion of creating an edited text with 300-word contributions from folks; however, what intrigued me the most was her pedagogy for a large fully online class. I would have loved to hear more about her pedagogical approach for this class. Maybe at a future meeting, I would love to hear her reflect on her learnings from teaching this class.


How wonderful to finally spend some time with Claire after interacting with her online in Lisa Lane’s magical Pedagogy First course. I think we both discovered so much about how the web can work during those years. Lisa had managed to attract some really amazing people and the community that developed around that course had a lot of experience and a willingness to share. 

It obviously made an impact on Claire as in her book, Teaching Online, she leveraged the talent of so many into a really wonderful book. For our learning community here at Bothell, part of what interests me is how we can best leverage all of the amazing faculty to really begin to share the work we do and our ideas in a meaningful way. 

I have some questions that I hope this learning community can help me think about and answer. 

  • What will it take to get faculty to share the work they do in classrooms? 
  • Where will those ideas go, and how will people know where they are?
  • How will faculty be able to converse and advance they ideas expressed? 

Claire has done so much in and for the world of teaching and learning. She has produced a variety of types of work in the field and I think it really echoes what we keep saying about using multimedia in teaching. She has written books, delivered live presentations, recorded presentations, she has created videos and she can be seen in podcasts. Below are a few examples of her work and thinking.

Thank you Claire!

Thank you for the time, the ideas, and the community you build! Thank you!


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