eLearning Technology Blog

High demand for workshop on engaging students

by WSU Online 19. February 2014 14:30

PULLMAN, Wash. – More seats have been added to next week’s faculty-led workshop on engaging students after high demand quickly filled the initial allotment of 36.

“We’ve just added 18 more slots to the signup page,” said Rebecca Van de Vord, Washington State University Global Campus associate director and director of eLearning Services. She is coordinating the workshop with the provost’s office and the Teaching Academy.

“And we’re offering a live-stream option,” she said.

Van de Vord attributed the demand to two things: “The provost’s office fully supports using innovative methods to increase student retention and success. And the best way for busy faculty to get tried-and-tested information is directly from their WSU colleagues.”

The workshop is noon-1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, in CUE 518 on the Pullman campus. It will be introduced by Erica Austin, vice provost for academic affairs. Participating WSU faculty members are pharmacy professor Jennifer Robinson, animal sciences emeritus professor John McNamara and entomology professor Laura Lavine.

Topics will include such approaches as group work, the flipped classroom model, self-directed learning and other student-centered strategies.

Using peer pressure
Lavine, for example, divides her Entomology 101 students into small groups and assigns each student a specific role, such as manager, spokesperson, observer and presenter. She monitors the teams as they work through a written activity.

Peer pressure prompts students to come to class prepared, she said, and the assigned roles help them overcome shyness.
“They learn the content but also gain skills for learning and for working in teams,” she said.

“Professor Lavine got people engaged,” said one student. “You felt like there was no way to show up without being prepared.”

McNamara uses a mix of pedagogies such as small teams, online research and short papers.

“I pleasantly but clearly let the students know that their learning is their responsibility, that it is fun and I am there to help them,” he said.

Not fully flipped

Several of these innovative tools fit the flipped classroom model in which students learn foundational materials outside of class, then discuss them in a faculty-mediated environment. The flipped classroom model, in turn, parallels methods used to create engagement in online instruction, said Van de Vord.

“By emphasizing discussion and collaborative learning, the Global Campus has made great strides in conquering the physical distance between faculty and online students,” she said. “At times, the distance between lectern and seats can also seem daunting – but it’s just as manageable.”

Richard H. Miller, Global Campus

A Few Good Tweets

by WSU Online 7. February 2014 13:14

This year WSU Global Campus Connections is incorporating the rather wily beast known as Twitter into our programming.  Social media is often touted as an untapped gold-mine in established institutions, and with the constant barrage of praise that Twitter receives; it’s hard to ignore the inkling that perhaps it could be an asset to any student engagement program. We’re going to Twitter to get students and faculty talking about the Common Reading text, Being Wrong.

Participating in the Common Reading Twitter book club is quite simple – use #WSUCR (short for hashtag Washington State University Common Reading) at the end of each tweet you write containing content or ideas about this year's book.  One could even tweet about the Common Reading events this semester and the amazing faculty who will be presenting on a huge array of topics from brains and chemicals to travel.

To read the entire conversation, type #WSUCR into the search bar at the top of the Twitter interface and you can see what everyone else is saying in regards. You can click ‘respond’ underneath their post, or re-tweet to share what others have said.  

The Twitter Book Club, like many conversations on Twitter, is essentially driven by the use of the hashtag.  Twitter claims that hashtags “organically” developed by Twitter users themselves as a way to topically group conversations. “Hashtags were widely used before Twitter, but caught on within Twitter in 2010 when Twitter introduced ‘Trending Topics’ which was a main page feature displaying popular hashtags of the moment”  (see the Lightbug's article in Light Span Digital, "How to Use a Hashtag.")

Of course, more dubious social-media gurus, like Samantha Matt of Huffington Post states, “hashtags were originally created as a way to promote content in Tweets. Once you put a # in front of a word, it automatically becomes a link that takes you to a page where other people have hash tagged the same thing.” Taken from Matt's article, "How to Properly Use a Hashtag."

Hashtags are indeed curious creatures. Despite having been widely parodied, they hold a surprising rhetorical complexity.  The hashtag can indicate authenticity – such as revealing an embarrassing or surprising fact. For example, “I can’t stand studying anymore! Going out for coffee #dyslexiasucks”.  They can also contain humor or imply sarcasm.  Such as, “I love my roommates new music  #hurtsmyears.”  These are mediocre examples at best, but if you’re interested, poke around online. You’ll find some very entertaining examples.

Regardless of how one uses a hashtag, the fact remains they are powerful, capable of tracking and cataloging entire conversations.  I certainly can’t think of a better way to harness such power than to engage in an interactive cross-disciplinary conversation about a great, challenging book.

Rebecca Stull

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