Learning from each other

Online Course Design Pitfall #5: Ignore the ways students learn from each other.

Students know best

A few weeks ago I decided to make my Spring course asynchronous due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  I would use the class periods for Q&A.  However, these hours were painfully awkward; many students would log on yet only a few would ask questions.  After the first week, a student emailed me and suggested I give out problems so they could try them in the Zoom breakout rooms.  They said that they really miss being in the classroom and getting to think through problems with each other.  I thought it was a great idea, and that’s what I’ve been doing, in concert with the taped video lectures they can go back and reference at their convenience.

My next course

My hybrid course in the Fall will promote peer-to-peer learning by giving students several different opportunities to work as a team.  During class activities, they will be given team-oriented problems where they have to brainstorm solutions (e.g. design a sustainable urban transportation system).  I would bet that for every solution I would have lectured about, there would be at least one student in the class that new something about it.  By giving students in-class team assignments which require them to use each other and the internet, they are exposed to each other’s curiosities and personal background.  This is more meaningful than having me lecture about it, and sometimes, the students come up with solutions I had never thought/heard of and I learn too!

For a longer opportunity to learn from each other, the students will do team projects.  They will have to explore a topic of choice and then present a poster.  Both the project and the poster session will allow for substantial peer-to-peer learning.  I am unfamiliar about the integration of online spaces (e.g. boards) to promote peer-to-peer learning.

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3 Responses to Learning from each other

  1. Kelby Hahn says:

    This sounds great! I am doing something similar with my students this term, typical class time is students in breakout groups working on problems. I feel like I’m still trying to find a groove for how best to jump between those groups, answer questions, and facilitate class. Do you have an tips or tricks of things working well for you? I’m always looking for ways to make class run more smoothly.

  2. hanseeri says:

    Interesting – I have been designing out group aspects of my original on-campus class as I created the hybrid. This was motivated by what I perceived to be a greater challenge for groups to work together…and the consistent dislike of group projects that I hear from nearly every student (as part of exit interviews I do as a Department Head). Your description/experience makes me re-think my plan.

  3. Kari van Zee says:

    In remote Molecular Biology Lab this spring, we started using assigned lab groups of 4-5 students/team and breakout rooms to facilitate student-student interactions. We start the sessions with a groups discussion, Q&A and introduce the lab assignment/problem sets before students head to their pre-assigned breakout room. We always have an instructor+TA in each session, so one of us can go into a breakout room to answer questions, contribute to the discussions, and the other stays in the “main lab” and students can hop back into the main room. I think the students are interacting more in their groups now. The student groups also each have a blog group and are posting and discussing about primary research articles.

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