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Home » News » Spotlight on Alumna Sarah Buck, Remote Course Design Master

Spotlight on Alumna Sarah Buck, Remote Course Design Master

Published January 20, 2021

When Dr. Sarah Buck (PhD ’17) took on her first assignment as the co-designer of an online Art History course, she had no idea how invaluable those skills would become at the close of the decade. In 2013 she and Dr. Kyle Killian began redesigning ARH 2000, “Art, Architecture, and Artistic Vision,” for the FSU Office of Distance Learning (ODL). The course was first offered online the following year. In recognition of their work in designing and implementing the course, Killian and Buck received two awards from ODL: the Award for Excellence in Online Course Design and the Award for Excellence in Online Mentoring.

Over the next few years, Buck completed her doctorate and simultaneously took on the role of instructor of record for ARH 2000, further developing the assignments and updating the content each year. She now coordinates an impressive cadre of 20 course mentors – graduate assistants and adjuncts who interact directly with the students.

Each semester the course introduces more than 1,000 undergraduates – most of whom have never taken an art history course – to topics in art and art history, with content delivered in multiple formats, assignments designed to encourage creativity, and interactive elements that overcome the solitude of the traditional online asynchronous course. Buck explains that she takes all perspectives into account as she designs course material, seeking to streamline site navigation while at the same time keeping the content relevant and engaging.

As more courses moved online, Buck’s growing expertise in remote course design was influential far beyond ARH 2000. She also developed a hybrid remote architectural history course for FAMU and participated in a variety of pedagogical and technical workshops. In the early spring of 2020, Buck began to work with Dr. Richard Emmerson to convert his popular E-series course Apocalypse: The End of the World in Art, to an online asynchronous platform. At the time the goal was to make the course available to students in other time zones or in academic programs that limited their schedule availability. In the middle of planning, the pandemic brought a new urgency to the project, and Sarah simultaneously completed both the fall version and a compressed version of the course for the Summer C 2020 semester. She and Dr. Emmerson put the finishing touches on the summer course in June, just days before the semester began.

“We were all in the same boat, trying to remodel our courses into something completely new, and collaborations with Sarah were both invaluable and entertaining,” writes Jean Hudson. “From official workshops to frantic text messages, she always took the time to share suggestions or brainstorm solutions.”

Through a difficult year and a massive transformation of the way we instruct, Buck’s influence and dedication have made a lasting impression on the many teachers who have worked with her; just a few are quoted below:

Sarah is an absolute treasure! She knows how to tackle baffling technical issues, jump through soul-destroying bureaucratic hoops, and cajole grumpy faculty with grace and humor. More importantly, she is savvy about ways to teach students online most effectively. It is impossible to overstate her genuine contribution to the Department of Art History, its students, staff, and faculty.

– Rick Emmerson

Sarah’s profound mastery of Canvas has impacted many of the student teachers in this department. She is always sharing tricks and tools to make course sites more user-friendly and interactive, and I am grateful for all the times she’s advised me on dealing with difficult classroom or grading situations. I even modeled my remote ARH2050 on her designs for the ARH2000 and IDS2678 courses.

– Britt Boler Hunter

Sarah is energetic and passionate about teaching. She really puts into practice her belief that every student is capable of learning and succeeding, even if the course is not in their major or interest area. She ensures that her course mentors get into the practice of reaching out to students and building connections, in their own ways and ways fit to the course, with students.

– Sarah Mathiesen

She updates assignments to address current events, which shows how dedicated she is to creating a relevant experience for undergrads. While it is undoubtedly easier to stick with the same content class after class, Sarah makes an effort to make ARH2000 special each time she teaches it.

– Emily Tuttle

Incidentally, while Buck was earning her doctorate and building her online teaching expertise, she was also becoming an accomplished amateur equestrienne. At right, she is pictured with her riding partner Roulette.