Tera Reynolds

Dr. Tera Reynolds is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Information Systems. She also leads the Consumer heAlth infoRmatics for Engagement (CARE) research lab on campus. Her research interests lie at the intersection of health informatics, human-computer interaction, and computer-supported cooperative work. Reynolds is particularly interested in examining how we can mitigate the risk of technologies exacerbating health disparities by providing another advantage to already advantaged groups.

Dr. Reynolds earned a Ph.D. in Informatics from the University of California, Irvine, a M.A. in Information from University of Michigan, a M.P.H. in Epidemiology and International Health from Boston University, and a B.A. in Biology from Lawrence University.

She talks with us about her courses in the Online MS program, how students can get involved with her research, and the similarities between the online and on campus MS programs.

Tera Reynolds Headshot
Information Systems: You are currently teaching Interaction Design in the Online MS program. What are some of the projects and course objectives the students are working on this semester?

Tera Reynolds: The overall goal of this course is to really get students thinking about design – what makes a product or system “good” or “bad” (and who decides) and how to create systems that are usable by humans, offer a positive user experience, and are inclusive. This involves learning design principles and looking at interactive websites to see how those design principles were applied (or not). It culminates in a hands-on final project that applies the key concepts we learn to redesign a website using a human-centered design approach.

Information Systems: What are the similarities between the online and in person program/courses for our graduate students?

Tera Reynolds: What has impressed me most about the students in this online course is their willingness to engage with the material and each other. They work on group assignments together and interact through discussion boards and everyone approaches it with the same spirit of growth and learning that I see in in-person courses. In other words, while the modalities are different, there is still ample opportunity for interactive learning in both settings.

Information Systems: Can you talk a little bit about your research, what are you currently working on and what are the overall goals?

Tera Reynolds: The ultimate goal in my research is to engage and empower patients and citizens, particularly those that need it the most (e.g., fewer resources), to harness the power of their data to improve their health and the health of their communities. I have a number of ongoing projects that are working towards this goal. For example, I am currently exploring whether the support provided by artificial intelligence (AI) can meet the needs of patients with questions related to their medical data (particularly laboratory test results) and how the support provided by AI differs from that provided by humans. Ultimately, I hope that this project will provide insights into how humans and AI could each contribute to an ecosystem of support for patients. In addition, I have several projects related to how technology – from smartphone applications to social media – currently supports mental health care, as well as problems with using technologies in mental health care. Much of my research is qualitative or mixed-methods (qualitative and quantitative).

Information Systems: You are the director of the Consumer health InfoRmatics for Engagement (CARE) research lab on campus. What is the focus of the CARE lab and what are some exciting recent/current initiatives you are overseeing in the lab?

Tera Reynolds: The CARE research lab is really about people – the people that make up the lab and the people that we are aiming to understand and better support through our research. The individuals that make up the lab are among the most amazing, creative, smart, persistent, and caring people that I have met. I have the pleasure of currently working with 6 PhD, 5 masters, 3 undergraduate, and 2 high school students. They are driving much of the research I discussed above and are all motivated to do meaningful and impactful research. In our lab meetings, we focus on goal setting and accountability, fostering collaborations, supporting each other in reaching our goals, and effectively communicating about our work.

Information Systems: Are there opportunities for graduate students to assist you with your research or help with future projects?

Tera Reynolds: I am always excited to work with motivated students, whether through independent studies or volunteer research experiences. If you have an idea that you want to explore that you think aligns with my research interests or if you want to gain research experience by joining an ongoing project, feel free to contact me (reynoter@umbc.edu). In general, my biggest suggestions for reaching out to faculty about research opportunities is to do your research into their work (e.g., look at their google scholar page and their publications), be as specific as possible about your interests and what you hope to gain from a research experience, and contact them early (e.g., I work with a limited number of independent study students each semester so spots tend to fill up).

Information Systems: What are examples of research/projects/discoveries from previous online students that were in your classes?

Tera Reynolds: I have had students in my courses work on a number of really interesting research projects. For example, one group of students explored the different challenges that people with disabilities face when using different types of digital health tools (e.g., patient portals). They found that people with disabilities faced several challenges when interacting with digital health tools, including difficulties in processing the structure of complex medical websites and lack of support for their particular disability (e.g., not using a font that is easy for people with dyslexia to read). Particularly exciting projects that are ongoing this semester include how first year undergraduate students learn to navigate their digital healthcare on their own and how this could be better supported and understanding barriers to continuous glucose monitoring use in Central Maryland.

Information Systems: What are the systems and processes that are covered in the online program (at least in the classes that you teach) that are used everyday by organizations in the public and private sector?

Tera Reynolds: Broadly, we talk about concepts such as information processing and mental models and how understanding human cognition and affective experience is key to good interactive system design. In terms of technologies, we talk a lot about the design of websites, which are obviously a part of everyone’s daily life. We also talk about effective computer-mediated communication (e.g., email, text messaging) and computer-supported cooperative work (e.g., collaboration through Google docs), which is a part of many people’s everyday professional life.