Becoming “The Guide on the Side”: Centering Students in Hybrid Courses

As long as I’ve been a Spanish teacher (sixteen years now!) we as a profession have been talking about and moving toward student-centered, content-based, and task- or project-based teaching; language instructors have long since stopped seeing themselves as the proverbial “Sage on the Stage” (see Online Course Design Pitfall #3: Insist on being the “sage on the stage.” from this article).  And while being a facilitator rather than an all-knowing keeper of information looks a bit different in an online or hybrid environment than in a fully F2F class, I imagine we can apply the many of the same skills to make sure our students remain the central focus of our courses.

In order to keep our hybrid courses student-centered both inside and outside of the classroom, we must avoid the temptation to overuse recorded grammar lectures and stuff the online component of the course with prepackaged content delivery while reserving our task-based, communicative activities for our classroom meetings.

One specific activity that may help us avoid this issue is a great tool available for Canvas: the glossary function.

In face-to-face Spanish courses, students are given a list of vocabulary words to memorize at the beginning of each lesson.  They’re expected to use these words, but the list is never sufficient, and students make frequent use of tools like google translate and while they’re completing assignments in Spanish courses.  Why not make this necessary part of language learning into a wiki-building activity? Whenever students need to look up a word for an assignment, they can add it to the course glossary– complete with definitions, tags, relevant images or examples– thereby creating a living, evolving, searchable document to which students both contribute and refer.  The course glossary is accessible via a plugin that’s displayed on every Canvas window in the course, so it’s easy to navigate, consult, and build.

There are many ways to make sure students are the principal content-creators in both the online and F2F portions of hybrid courses; this is just one I’m excited to try!

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2 Responses to Becoming “The Guide on the Side”: Centering Students in Hybrid Courses

  1. kneiflc says:

    This is a great idea! I encourage my students to keep a running vocab list of useful words throughout the term (or year) in a personal notebook, but making it public and collective is an even better idea. It would be interesting to see if students would actually consult something like this rather than using Google translate or My hunch is that it might take some incentivizing, but if we built its use into the design of the class (for example, allowing them to use it on in-class, graded assignments to recall words that are not part of the official vocab), then it could be a useful learning tool for students.

  2. Raven Chakerian says:

    Yes! I love this idea, Emily. Let’s do it! I have never played with this feature in Canvas. In fact, I don’t think I knew it was there! Like Chris, I tell my students to make “personal dictionaries” of words they look up often but this is an even better idea and its collaborative! I agree with Chris that they might need incentives to use it. I like his idea of allowing them to use it on in-class assignments!

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