Reflections on Spring, Planning for Fall

Now that grades are all calculated, I’m doing my end-of-the-term evaluation of the classes and making notes for future terms. This process is especially meaningful this term since I’ve been using my spring WS 340 Gender and Science course as a pilot training ground for my hybrid version of the course next fall. Overall I am pleased with the results. Whew! Glad to know that I wasn’t thinking crazy-thoughts about online activities. Here are some of my notes about the two steps in my re-design process.

First, I redesigned the current events news report to be a discussion board activity in weeks 3 and 9. Instead of students writing formal reports, each student participated in an assigned discussion board to post a short analysis and discussion prompts to a news story from the NYTimes. Then students responded with at least two sentences to 2 group members and at the end of the week, wrote a short Final Post in which s/he incorporated their classmates’ thoughts and questions into a conclusion of sorts to their analysis of their news item. In a class with 141 students, I was apprehensive about the amount of time it would take to score their responses but using BB’s option to grade forums it went very quickly. With a clear, detailed rubric, my GTA successfully scored one of the assignments. This was a particularly astute class and they wrote exceptional analyses and it is definitely an assignment that I will include in my fall hybrid course. It works especially well as a write-to-learn activity for low-stakes grading.

The second activity is a testament to learning communities–both formal ones like the Center for Teaching and Learning’s Hybrid Learning Community and informal ones like hallway conversations about teaching and even my carpool! I have always had students complete a poster presentation for their final project and with the encouragement of several colleagues, this spring I made the assignment a group poster. Students created their own groups and I set them up on BB so they could utilize a discussion board, wikis, and email as they chose. Most groups communicated through email and in the face-to-face class, but a couple used their discussion board and a few groups even chose to communicate through facebook. I walked the students through some brainstorming and pre-writing activities in class to prepare them for their outside-of-class meetings. I had not originally thought of this as a hybrid learning activity but it turned out to be the perfect blend of face-to-face and online/outside-of-class activity. The best final poster presentations were by groups who utilized all three spaces to work with each other to complete their individual work and put it all together into successful posters. I’ve been revising my rubric and emails to reflect what worked well for groups this term.

I’m looking forward to adapting the rest of the assignments and activities for the fall hybrid version with these two experiences in mind. Thanks to my hybrid learning community this spring for so many great ideas and to my amazing carpool that always provides space for teaching and learning brainstorming. I hope everyone is as lucky as I am to have communities like these.

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