Published: May 15, 2013

Susan KentI love the questions, I really love the questions, but it has meant that I am falling behind on my lectures.  Were I able to deliver the lectures ahead of time online, then class could be devoted to discussions of a lot of interesting stuff and I could take questions till there was no tomorrow.

I had originally thought I could create animations that would help me to explain various historical processes--shifts in agricultural practices, for instance--but after having learned from Mark and others that it wouldn’t be practical, I have thought more and more about Beth’s idea of creating a hybrid course.  I would like to implement it for the Fall 2013 semester in my HIST 1800, Introduction to Global History.  I am teaching it this semester (as three case studies of resistance to the British empire--India in 1857, Ireland from 1916-21, and the Igbo Women’s War in Nigeria in 1929) to about 55 students, and have found that they are so unaware of some basic information that they constantly, constantly ask questions.  I love the questions, I really love the questions, but it has meant that I am falling behind on my lectures.  Were I able to deliver the lectures ahead of time online, then class could be devoted to discussions of a lot of interesting stuff and I could take questions till there was no tomorrow.

My only concern with this is that I’m not sure students would actually listen to the lectures and do the reading ahead of time.  They don’t do the reading ahead of time now, so what would get them to change?  The online portion could contain quizzes on the lectures and reading that have to be completed by a certain time, after which they close and are inaccessible.  That would compel the students to do the work before they came to class.

I teach an online class for Continuing Ed, and could simply record lectures as I did for them.  But it would probably be more interesting to record my class sessions now, and be able to edit them for clarity and continuity.   The students’ questions might prove to be instructive for planning for the in-class portions of the hybrid course.

I truly believe we have to accommodate online learning, and I think this is the way to go--the combination of accommodating students’ schedules and lives through online lectures with in-class face-to-face instruction/discussion/debate that enables students to raise questions and concerns and benefit from the contributions of classmates and the expertise of the instructor.

I would like to arrange for the video-taping of my lectures in HIST 1800, Introduction to Global History, and HIST 1020, History of Western Civilization II, both of which contain 75-200 students.  The idea would be to place the lectures online for students to see and hear ahead of class, and to create a series of online quizzes covering the material from them and from the assigned reading for the week.  The quizzes would only be open for a certain period of time so as to ensure that students do watch the videos and read the assignments.  Then the actual class time could be used to discuss various issues and questions that go beyond the basic lecture and reading content.

The taping of lectures would take up the entirety of a semester, and obviously would not be of use in a hybrid online class until it was taught next.   The online quizzes on the lectures and the reading would take only a matter of weeks to construct, and could be altered each semester to accommodate different readings or newly-added or revised lectures.  Once the basics were in place, the online portion could be used unlimitedly by me or by others who teach the course.

The hybridity of this kind of online education makes it possible to address the concerns many of us have about the huge benefit of being in a live classroom with a professor.  It builds in the flexibility that students are seeking with online courses, but ensures that they get much more than a completely online course can offer.

I have subsequently learned that OIT offers lecture capture facilities in certain classrooms.  The problem is that I don’t teach in any of the rooms where the capture equipment is available, so I have submitted a proposal to ASSETT for purchase of the software (Camtasia for Mac) and equipment necessary to record my lectures.

On the most basic level, the quizzes on D2L covering the captured lecture and reading material will ensure that students have listened to the lecture and done the reading--the quizzes would be open only for a finite amount of time and would have to be done prior to the class meetings.

Having gained a baseline level of information from these exercises, students would then be expected to participate in a wide-ranging and somewhat freewheeling discussion.  They would be asked to submit questions for the rest of the class, and part of their course evaluation would be drawn from these questions and from their participation in the class discussion.  I am leery of putting too much emphasis on the evaluation of these aspects of the course, as I want the discussions to be interesting, stimulating, and fun.  But I’m afraid there needs to be some grading element so as to keep students on task.

In these discussions, I am looking for students to demonstrate historical thinking--to make connections between a variety of events, to discern the difference between cause and effect from associations, to evaluate arguments, to assess the qualitative and quantitative heft of evidence and its capacity to uphold assertions, to understand context, and to appreciate chronological thinking and understand change over time.

I am not familiar with the classroom assessments from Carnegie et al, but am certainly open to utilizing them to ensure that the hybrid online course elements are doing what I hope they will do.  Are they providing the degree of background information necessary to enable students to benefit from the classroom discussions?  Do they help students to think historically and help them make the next step toward evaluating the strength and validity of arguments?

I anticipate that there will be students for whom discussion is awkward and even painful.  They may perform perfectly well on the online portions of the required assignments, but not do so well in the discussions, which I regard as the most important part of the course.  It may be helpful to survey students a few sessions into the course to ask what would make it easier for them to participate in this particular class.  I am eager to learn about other assessment tools that will help me teach better and make the learning experience more complete for students.

I learned a tremendous amount from the leaders and participants in the seminar.  the collective knowledge of the group proved almost overwhelming at times, but always in the best sense.  I would have benefitted from a bit more hands-on practical instruction--how to actually create the programs or applications that were presented, and it would probably be a good idea (at least for people like me) to schedule additional seminar sessions--perhaps optional--that could address that aspect of things.

My project will not be implemented until the fall semester, when I hope to be able to capture my lectures in HIST 1800.  If successful, I will then put them online for students in the course when I teach it again, so that I can use the class periods for questions and discussions.  I will report on my progress over the next year so as to keep you all apprised of its success (or otherwise).

I would very much like to stay involved with the OIT/ASSETT/Libraries community that is being built through the seminar process.  I have a great deal more to learn just to know what is out there now for classroom use, let alone what may come along in the next few minutes.

Let me just finish by saying how much I appreciate the generosity/talents/skills/efforts of all the staff involved in the seminars.  You provided us with a meaningful experience that proved worthy of every moment I spent in the seminar.  Many, many thanks.