Recently, Walker 416 was filled to capacity with faculty, staff, and pizza; all gathered together for the latest in ITG’s Faculty Showcases. The topic this semester was “student interaction”, and we at ITG were lucky to get three outstanding professors to present: Kevin Miller of WLP, Mary Harkins of Performing Arts, and Paul Mihailidis of Marketing/Communication.
Kevin Miller’s presentation focused on student discussion in his online course “Novel into Film,” which he offers during the summer sessions. He enthused about how empowering the Canvas discussion medium can be for showcasing students’ thoughts and opinions. “I’ve been surprised at the sophistication of many of the online discussions. They can be orders of magnitude more nuanced than is sometimes possible in a regular classroom.” Many have expressed to ITG that students can sometimes be shy about participating in classroom discussions, and Kevin agreed. “Some students I’ve thought were very good in person have absolutely blown my doors off online. I’ve had occasion to write students telling them that they taught me something today.” Kevin also mentioned that facilitating online discussions involves a lot of work, especially as the due date approaches. “When discussions have blown up, I’ve spent many a Saturday night at my computer,” he noted.
Professor Mary Harkin’s presentation focused on her use of video lectures, discussions, and online quizzes. Broken down into 87 individual clips, her “American Clothes in the 20th Century” course relied on online quizzes to test students’ mastery of the material. In her use of the Discussion feature, she took a slightly different approach than Kevin in her discussions, since she required students to post a comment before they could read other comments. This was done to keep students from using the “I think the same thing” response. As to her videos, the secret to her success was a software title called “ScreenFlow”. This allowed her to have a stronger voice within the online class, as she did voice-overs for all of her PowerPoints. One great takeaway was how she broke these larger lectures down into smaller, more manageable chunks for online classes.
Professor Paul Mihailidis’ focus was on the use of the Calendar feature of Canvas and feedback to students in the “Communications, Media and Society” course. The course itself is separated into a weekly lecture and then smaller break-out classes, so synching is was a must among the instructors. Using the Canvas Calendar feature, Paul was able to keep due dates organized among students and coordinate among the other faculty. He also went over how he used the Gradebook in Canvas, especially the Media Recording options. Everything in the course is paperless, as all assignments are downloaded and uploaded via Canvas. “The ‘I didn’t know how to upload’ is the same excuse we’ve all heard before, just a different medium,” Paul said of the online assignments. As for his video feedback, he explained that students could “engage with video better than just reading comments.” His rubrics for each assignment also helped make it clear as to what was expected of the students, allowing more time in class for discussion and less on explanation of each assignment.
ITG would like to thank everyone who attended. To those who couldn’t make it and find the ideas here have piqued your interest, get in touch with ITG! We’d love to help you go further with integrating technology into your class. ITG can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 617-824-8090.