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Tips for moving graduate or other discussion-focused courses online

  • 1.  Tips for moving graduate or other discussion-focused courses online

    Posted 03-19-2020 15:00
    I am trying to figure out how best to move my graduate Cognitive Development course online. It's a discussion-heavy course with 19 students. Each week, a student or two serve as class leaders, briefly overviewing an article and facilitating discussion of the question posts for that article that their classmates have made on eLearning. Toward the end of each class, I give a brief lecture to prepare students for the next week's readings.

    This is the first time I've taught this course at the graduate level, and I've loved it. The discussions have been lively and interesting, and I feel like we are all learning a lot from each other.

    I have been receiving mixed messages about how to approach shifting to online learning. Some teaching experts strongly encouraging faculty members to go asynchronous with the content so that students can access the material whenever they want. But my intuition from talking to a few of my students is that they would prefer to keep meeting virtually during our class period instead of moving offline. What are your thoughts?

    Thank you!

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    Candice Mills
    The University of Texas at Dallas
    Email: candice.mills@utdallas.edu
    Web: www.utdallas.edu/thinklab
    Twitter: @CandiceMMills
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  • 2.  RE: Tips for moving graduate or other discussion-focused courses online

    Posted 03-20-2020 05:54
    Hi Candice. In my experience, most guidelines are made with large undergraduate courses in mind. Asynchronous makes a lot of sense in this context, especially if students are going to be in different time zones, have family care responsibilities, have slow connection speeds, etc. However, I agree that graduate seminars don't translate as well.

    Nineteen is a lot. Would a hybrid approach be possible, such as splitting your scheduled time in half and meeting with 9-10 students per block? It's not ideal, but it might make a synchronous meeting more manageable (e.g., ability to view everyone on the screen).

    One other consideration: How would you provide a comparable learning experience if a student could not join the meeting or had a bad connection? Can you ensure that there would not be disparities based on factors beyond the student's control?

    If everyone is on board, you could certainly try it and just switch to asynchronous if it's not working. I would be more comfortable experimenting with a graduate seminar than with a big undergraduate class.

    Good luck!

    ------------------------------
    Heather Kirkorian, Ph.D.
    Laura M. Secord Chair in Early Childhood Development
    Associate Professor | Human Development & Family Studies
    School of Human Ecology | University of Wisconsin-Madison
    4105 Nancy Nicholas Hall | 1300 Linden Drive
    Madison, WI 53706
    kirkorian@wisc.edu | 608-263-4020
    https://sites.google.com/site/kirkorianlab/
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Tips for moving graduate or other discussion-focused courses online

    Posted 03-20-2020 13:45
    Hi Candace,

    Heather brings up a nice idea--work in smaller groups. However, go with your gut here. Whatever you think is working for students--do it. Things may change though out the semester and you can adjust.  You know best and it seems you are tapped into how your students are feeling. Bottom line: whatever you do, your students are going to walk away with more information than if they weren't in your class--that is important. 

    We are in extraordinary times right now. I have said this in another post and will reiterate here' we are an important consistent connection to our students who are feeling confused and scared. Whatever you are doing, I am sure it is appreciated by your students. 

    Breckie

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    Breckie (Ruth) Church
    Professor
    Northeastern Illinois University
    Chicago IL
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  • 4.  RE: Tips for moving graduate or other discussion-focused courses online

    Posted 03-20-2020 14:54
    I am providing a quote form Leonard Cohen (provided to me on another discussion board) that we should think about when trying to teach online:

    "Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That's how the light gets in." Anthem by Leonard Cohen

    Take Care--we are all doing our best.

    Breckie




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    Breckie (Ruth) Church
    Professor
    Northeastern Illinois University
    Chicago IL
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  • 5.  RE: Tips for moving graduate or other discussion-focused courses online

    Posted 05-02-2020 11:47
    Thank you all for your feedback. For my graduate class, I ended up staying with synchronous class meetings instead of moving asynchronously. I surveyed my students to find out more about their technological needs and their availability, and although there were a couple of concerns about internet connectivity, everyone wanted to keep meeting in person. We did keep videos off when others were talking, for the most part, but using a combination of the "raise hand" function and text boxes helped the discussion go smoothly. I really enjoyed it.

    My undergraduate class was another story, but I'll post about that separately.

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    Candice Mills
    The University of Texas at Dallas
    Email: candice.mills@utdallas.edu
    Web: www.utdallas.edu/thinklab
    Twitter: @CandiceMMills
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