There are so many wonderful people that are a part of the OC Online community! Take a moment to get to know Nan who serves in operations as support and development staff.
Hey Nan! What a blessing you have been to OC Online! Can you tell us a little bit about your position and role at OC Online? How long have you been with us and what you enjoy most about your work here?
Thanks!! My primary role at Oaks Christian Online is to support the operations and development of our various systems, including things like adding custom features to Canvas (the learning management system we use) or updating the OC Online website. I started here at the beginning of 2018. I can’t believe it’s been over 4 years already!
There are so many things I love about my job. Having worked as a software engineer in a large IT department of an international corporation for over a decade (before answering the Lord’s call to homeschool full time), I find working with a small group of committed believers who are uniquely gifted at what they do refreshing, energizing and inspiring. I enjoy watching our student-centric services from our dedicated team pay off with steady growth in enrollments!
I know you have had a lot of tech experience but not as much in online education. Can you share a bit about how working at OC Online has expanded your thinking about online education specifically?
I wasn’t as well versed in online learning as a lot of our team members were before I joined Oaks Christian Online. They opened my mind to how well online learning can really fill in the gap where traditional learning falls short. It is thrilling to be part of a group that provides NCAA approved online Christian education to students from anywhere in the world, in any time zone, and with any kind of schedule, even in the middle of a semester! Our engaging and interactive course content coupled with our community building events (like the ones in Student Life) directly challenges the traditional stereotypical mindset associated with online learning.
Here is an example of our creative and interactive content created by our team to facilitate learning.
One of the advantages of online learning is for our teachers to be able to easily track students’ progress in a class. The image below shows how many assignments each student hasn’t turned in yet.
Below is another example of the benefits of taking our online courses. For a student in need of accommodations, our team can click the “extra time” button below in our system to automatically allow the student extra time for all quizzes and tests in this course.
The opportunity to keep improving our system, processes, and operations to best serve our students and teachers has kept me passionate about this job.
What are some of the challenges you experience in your work here and how have they caused you to grow?
Working with a small team is like working for a start-up company in that one person needs to wear many hats and everything everyone does can make a remarkable impact on the whole team. Shortly after I started with Oaks Christian Online, it became quite apparent that we needed to automate some of our redundant manual processes as well as complete tasks that require new technologies/tools that I was not familiar with. I had to immerse myself in reading, researching, training, and connecting with developer communities. This is different than a large IT shop where you can just reach out to a colleague of certain expertise. I learned not to be afraid of dead ends as they often lead to breakthroughs.
One of the things we love about our staff is that many of us also serve as teachers from time to time. This keeps us from becoming disconnected from the (online) classroom and from students. Recently you had a chance to substitute teach computer science. What was that like and how did that experience sharpen your work as a staff member?
This is a great question. Even though I felt somewhat intimidated by teaching just about any subject for various reasons, I felt the strong call to fill in the gap when the need for a computer science teacher arose in the middle of the fall semester. It gave me first-hand experience with online education. I am sure all our teachers agree with me on this: it is impossible not to fall in love with each of our students! Even though I have never met any of them in person, I felt like I knew them in just a few short weeks. Their personality came through vividly in their writing, their questions, and their assignments. I noticed their brilliance, diligence, tenacity, humility, kindness, and inquisitiveness; they are an inspiration!
Overall, I would say being a good teacher is not an easy job. It often took me hours to grade or to come up with the most relevant content to present in the 30 minute weekly live class. I wanted my comments or our discussions to be worthy of their time. I have gained a whole new appreciation for the hard work teachers put in and how critical a role a teacher plays in the lives of his/her students. He/she has the privilege of speaking life into these young souls! I’m so grateful to have had this experience; I would not trade it for anything.
Finally, we’d love to hear a bit more about you as well; where are you from and what are some of the fun things we should know about you?
I was born in Shanghai, China. I came to the US to finish college over 30 years ago. At that time, it was quite uncommon for a Chinese citizen to be granted a visa to study in the US. Friends say I was really “lucky”. His divine purpose was revealed decades later when I look back. It was a “visa” for an atheist (me) to come to know her Creator and to be used by Him to lead her sister and her father to Christ. “Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:33).
Outside of work, I love to play tennis, travel, gardening both indoors and outdoors, but most of all, I absolutely love studying Scripture and studying the world He created. My dream is to be able to go to seminary someday, Lord willing.