Online Collaborative Activities for Non-Native English Speakers

These are just tentative ideas on work in progress, which is to design a new hybrid course for international students – learners of English.

I’d like to address “Online Course Design Pitfall #5” written by Elizabeth St. Germain in response to those instructors who underestimate the importance of collaborative interactive learning.  I’m planning on using some of the available resources on Blackborad and Google Docs, implementing the following teaching strategies:

  • To assist students in their reading assignments, I’ll post the text with some basic annotations already made and difficult vocabulary explained for them.  This should guide and facilitate their comprehension.  Their assignment will be to create a summary outline, using a special template provided.  This task will be submitted and graded as homework.  This is one way to make sure students actually read texts!

  • Unfortunately, students often don’t read assigned texts.  To address this, I’ll use “Fishbowl” discussions where everyone is assigned a role and participates.  Assessment of this type of activity will be done in quizzing the students online after the discussion on what they have learned.  Students’ responses will also be graded as classroom participation.

  • Finally, students will write a summary-response paper in class.  By then they should be well -prepared and up for the task, following a sequence of online and classroom activities: from guided reading to summarization to discussion to quizzing and, finally, to writing a response paper.

Another important focal point of this course is writing a research paper. My intention is to make this project as collaborative as possible both in the classroom and online.  Once the topic is identified, students will be engaged in the following collaborative/individual tasks:

  • Brainstorming ideas using Google Docs

  • Developing a research question in a lab individually or w/ a partner  and graded as classroom activity

  • Developing a rough outline on Google Docs individually or w/ a partner and graded as homework

  • Developing guidelines for locating quality research websites as the whole class activity

  • Library guided research as the whole class activity

  • A follow up library research online quiz

  • Students pool their findings form the library/Internet search: Jigsaw “experts” post relevant quotes on Wikis

  • Thesis Statement development in class.  This activity is finalized by submitting the assigment to Google Docs and graded as homework

  • Detailed Outline in class.  This activity is finalized by submitting the assignment to Google Doc and graded as homework

  • Drafting

  • Group peer editing in class

There are two challenging tasks I’d like to describe briefly.  The first one is to make sure that the topic/prompt selected for the research paper meets the objectives of the course and, at the same time, is conducive to collaborative learning.  My understanding is that it needs to be an “umbrella”-like topic with related subtopics so that students can work together on some steps of the project while focusing on their individual essays.

The second challenge is to make the course material come alive for the students.  For this purpose, I’m planning to use multimedia digital resources to supplement the syllabus.  To connect their coursework with real life, I’d like to use some video clips and follow up questions to present students with real-life cases that would illustrate the ideas and concepts of the course.  Students will have an opportunity to analyze and reflect on the issues of the course through watching the videos.

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