Teaching starts on Monday and I’ve been busy rethinking some of my e-learning strategies for the Communication Skills unit taken by our first year BA (Hons) Communication and Media and BA (Hons) English students.
Despite the rather odd title (set before my time) it deals predominantly with interpersonal communication theory… with a seminar exercise about halfway through where I get them to debate and reflect on their own communication skills (or interpersonal communication competence if you like).
Last year I had two formative assessments (non-marked):
Although the students engaged with both the blog and the wiki relatively well, the experiment was a mixed success.
The main problem appeared to be a confusion about “what to write where”. Clearly there was some overlapping functionality between the two, and students struggled to differentiate between the them. Naturally there was also some concern that the wiki would be abused by lurkers / freeloaders that did not contribute, in effect exploiting the other students’ efforts. Given that the process of producing the notes was the pedagogical goal, this was not a concern I shared, but nevertheless hindered optimal engagement for many. Finally, there was a sense that since it was formative, it was less important than the summative assessments (i.e. graded work).
In light of these concerns I have revised the e-learning strategy significantly for the coming year.
Firstly I have decided to simplify matters by only focussing on a single format – the blog had to go. Why? Well, in part because it wasn’t really a blog: it was private so no peer engagement, and it was impossible for me to comment on 80+ students’ weekly entries. It was also the least effective in engaging the students with the learning outcomes of the unit.
So, I’m left with the wiki, but needing to encourage greater engagement and reduce fear of freeloading. Carrot and stick time.
The stick is to make it part of the summative assessments and attaching some grades to it… that way all students are required to engage in order to pass the unit.
The carrot is to offer the students to embed my lecture slides on the wiki page ones I’m satisfied they have been through the wiki process and covered the main points.
Sounds great… until I remembered the excuse from many students last year: “I didn’t contribute because all my notes were already on there”. With 130+ students this year, that excuse could actually be a genuine problem.
After considering a range of options, I landed on the following two solutions: Firstly, create a wiki for each seminar group that is only accessible by those students (17-20 students in each group). Secondly, encourage the students to use the comment facility on the wiki to reflect on the lecture, discuss their notes and readings.
I have inserted the final outline below and welcome people’s thoughts, especially if you are conducting similar experiments.
myBU is powered by Blackboard v9 and I’m using the Teams LX v3 application.
Assignment 1 – Student Wiki Pages (30%)
The Student Wiki Pages section on myBU contains a wiki for each seminar group where students should collaborate on producing lecture notes for every week of this unit. Each page also allows you to post comments where you can discuss the lecture contents with fellow students.