Published: July 6, 2020

Jocelyn ArmesJocelyn Armes, PhD Student, Music Education, School of Music

During the spring semester of 2020, Jocelyn Armes taught Introduction to Student Teaching in the College of Music. An innovative approach that worked both in the in-person class as well as when the campus moved to remote teaching mid-semester was her use of the Perusall Web App for class readings and discussions.

Perusall is an Office of Information Technology-supported, web-based application that allows instructors to house in one location all their reading materials for a course: published work, personal documents, open educational resources, and more. In the application, students annotate readings and asynchronously respond to each other's comments and questions in context. To maintain feeling of a small class, Perusall segments large courses into smaller groups automatically to ensure productive discussion.

Jocelyn utilizes the jigsaw method in her courses, a teaching strategy that organizes student group work so that each individual has something unique to contribute to their group’s outcome, in the same way each piece of a jigsaw puzzle comes together to create a completed image. During jigsaw class projects, students could run their own Perusall discussions on readings of their choosing, thus engaging directly, together, on a relevant text. Through this method, students were more engaged and used evidence to make their points throughout discussions, rather than regurgitating other students' contributions. Previously, Jocelyn found the latter to occur more frequently when students discussed articles via the Learning Management System (LMS). 

Additionally, within Perusall, Jocelyn was able to highlight text, ask questions, and have students respond with their own questions within the text itself so that students felt supported throughout their assignments and engaged with the ideas of the reading and each other. Jocelyn sees this as an inclusive practice where all students had a voice during discussions, and each were able to bring in their own media expertise with video and audio responses also available. Perusall created a free-flowing environment that is not seen in a traditional discussion board within the campus' LMS platform.

One student, during a College of Music town hall via Zoom, praised Jocelyn’s use of Perusall in their digital classroom, saying that it was a more student friendly and digitally authentic experience than traditional discussion formats.