GCU Course Introduction

This page is intended to serve as my introduction to classmates and professors in the online courses I take at Grand Canyon University as a part of my doctoral journey.

Dear Classmates and Professor,

I have been enrolled as an online learner with Grand Canyon University since 2014. I have earned a Bachelor’s degree in International Business from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. I have a Masters degree in Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development from California Baptist University. I earned my long desired Masters in Educational Technology in late 2015 from GCU. In June 2016 I completed my first residency week and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was certainly the highlight of my doctoral journey so far, and completely different from my online experience….namely in getting to meet my peers and professors face to face and enjoying that exchange academically and socially. While attending classes in person is not an option, residency week made me wish I could do a blended learning model as some of my peers seem to be doing. I am currently scheduled to attend my second residency the week of June 19th with a few of my former residency classmates and am looking forward to the reunion.

I started my career as an elementary educator in 2000 with the Fontana Unified School District. I have taught grades 2nd through 5th and I enjoy teaching upper elementary. In 2011 I became a Nationally Board Certified Teacher with a Middle Childhood Generalist emphasis. I am very passionate about educational technology and the needs of gifted/high achieving learners. I enjoy working and learning in virtual environments, namely Second Life and Minecraft. Since 2007 I have networked with and learned from other educators in Second Life, not to mention met a variety of amazing people from all over the globe. In 2013 my then 3rd graders introduced me to Minecraft and I slowly began to learn about this virtual world as well. As a part of my Masters Practicum, I launched my own Minecraft server in 2015. I have worked with 3rd through 6th grade students remotely as a part of a distance learning experiment. Learning Minecraft for educational use has been a challenging experience for many reasons, but one I have enjoyed.  In December 2015 I left my 4th grade classroom to become a Teacher on Assignment/Instructional Coach for our newly established Linked Learning department (an offshoot from our Career Technical Education department) and I am very excited about what the future holds. In pursuing my EdD I aspire to become an educational leader and do my part to bring the change needed to make sure we are providing our students an education that is properly preparing them for their futures.

I recently had an opportunity to become an online group facilitator for the National Education Association (NEA) and I was thrilled to become a facilitator for the Digital Tools and Learning 3-5 group as a part of their EdCommunities. I hope for it to be a learning experience in how to make online learning and virtual PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) much more engaging for all involved. Anyone is welcome to join, all you need to do is make a free NEA account, then join the group.

I have been married since February 2001 and had my one and only child in December 2004. We live in Colton, California with our two dogs:  Dot (my son’s mixed breed who shares his birthday) and Ryker (a Fox Red Labrador Retriever, whom I adore).

After having been through several course introductions, I elected to provide mine this way, as you are welcome to explore my website and learn even more about me. One of my biggest difficulties with online learning at GCU (though I have found that GCU is not the only university to host online courses as it does) is the lack of a true connection to classmates and professors. The lack of a real connection to others (as you would find in traditional in-person learning) has been very difficult for me and has caused online learning to not be very engaging. What is curious to me however is that I know online learning can be much more dynamic. For instance, I have learned and collaborated with others all over the world via my virtual reality experiences and I find the forum structure of our classes to be rather two dimensional. I would love to see classmates and professors post more dynamic content, such as videos or podcasts, or to host a live session every now and again via any one of the various web conferencing tools where we are provided the opportunity to truly engage with one another. My interest in online learning has led me to focus on that topic for my dissertation.


Melanie Ruiz