Missouri State University
Dr. Jokima Hiller

Dr. Jokima Hiller

  • Assistant professor

Personality and persona set online classes apart

She’s known for her personality and personal experience.

“Often when passing previous students in the hallway, they’ll tell me how they miss my stories!” says hospitality professor, Dr. Jokima Hiller.

She’s known for her personality and personal experience. It is foundational to her teaching philosophy that lessons and topics have applicable real-life experiences to support them.

So in her classroom, each topic is explained using a personal anecdote from her professional life. She doesn’t shy away from talking about mistakes she made.

Teaching online presents ‘a quandary’

It is important that her students know what is at stake when they make a decision. But when Dr. Hiller was approached to teach her course online, it was a different story.

“...I was in a quandary as to how to include a ‘personality’ or ‘real life’ persona.”

Bitmoji of Dr. Hiller

Online classes lack the speaker-audience dynamic that many instructors lean on to seamlessly transition from course material to personal anecdote. Delivering an anecdote in a slide deck just doesn’t work the same.

But Dr. Hiller, like many of the exceptional online faculty at Missouri State, relied on her creativity to find a solution. The beauty of the online modality is the opportunity to use internet culture as a tool for teaching.

In order to solve her teaching quandary, Hiller relied on the aid of her teaching partner, “Dr. J.”

Dr. J and Hiller share a lot in common.

“We both like the color green, enjoy being an Aunt, and have our doctorate in hospitality management.”

Dr. J is a bitmoji.

A bitmoji is a personalized emoji. Like an avatar, the small graphic is an internet stand-in for a user.

While avatars can include a wide range of images, icons, or graphics, bitmoji’s tend to look like a personalized caricature of the person they represent. They can be used as a way to show the audience, ‘See? It really is me behind this username.’

Extending her personality to online students

Dr. J extends Dr. Hiller’s personality into the online classroom realm.

“She enjoys telling it like it is by sharing her experiences of TRUE stories that have happened in the hotel industry...The story presented each week directly applies to the prior week’s lesson to wrap up that week.”

Each week, in addition to the lesson and topic, Dr. J expounds on the facts by sharing Dr. Hiller’s real life experience. For a lecture in her lodging course, Dr. J, the bitmoji, tells the story of her experience persuading hotel management to raise hotel room prices during Indianapolis race weekends. Eventually, she convinced her managers, and the hotel’s profits increased. Dr. J explains it like this:

“Here’s the deal, if you don’t maximize your rate when your hotel SUPPLY is in demand, then you cannot lower your rate when your supply is in low to no demand.”

An important lesson for hospitality students to learn and apply, cleverly explained by a customizable avatar. It just goes to show the breadth of creativity afforded by online course structure. Certainly, Dr. Hiller, and her internet alter ego, Dr. J, have made their personality an important part of the course.