In DLINQ this year we have been hosting a series of conversations about the challenge of humanizing teaching practices in blended, hybrid, and online digital spaces. During our latest Teaching Hybrid & Online Conversation Series session on learner feedback, we invited Dr. Katherine Punteney to share her experience re-designing a course assignment and how an exploration of pedagogy, tools, and learner feedback helped to shape some creative new practices.
Katherine’s initial consultation request noted that she wanted to “add a discussion forum/ place to respond to reflection prompts in Canvas [Middlebury’s LMS] and would like input on how to structure it (in terms of both technology and pedagogy).” Prior to our initial consultation, I shared a list of discussion forum features, and also offered some links to articles [see: Online Discussion Pedagogy, The Discussion Forum is Dead. Long Live the Discussion Forum] that I thought might create some room for questioning conventional uses of discussion fora like those found in Canvas. When we met, Katherine clarified that she was really interested in creating a space where students would be able to creatively engage with course topics and issues, interact through peer learning with one another, and provide feedback on the book she was drafting at the time. Tasking students with a threaded text discussion forum would suffice but, she was open to considering some alternative approaches.
As we clarified the root of the challenge, we talked about feedback practices like classroom assessment techniques or “CATS” which could be adapted in different contexts as a means for students to reflect on course topics. And because she was working on a draft of a text book on her area of expertise, international education management, we also considered digital annotation tools like Hypothes.is. During our back and forth, listening, riffing, clarifying, I recalled an Educause article titled “Making Learning Without Borders a Reality” that featured the social video tool Flipgrid as a support for building learner social presence through interaction and reflection. Over the course of the next few days, Katherine reported back on the test ‘grids’ she had built with Flipgrid that were based on learning goals for her class.
After these initial tests, Katherine revised assignment guidelines to clearly explain course learning goals that creatively take advantage of Flipgrid’s unique affordances and constraints for social video.
Video Posts: Due: 9pm the night prior to each class session
One of the key skills we will be practicing in this course is the ability to speak professionally about the international education field. To practice, we will use a free online tool called Flipgrid. Prior to each class session, you will record and post a short video message (approximately 60 to 90 seconds in length). Your video message will be a response to a posted question.
This assignment has four goals:
- Ensuring that all voices are heard and included in discussion
- Improving public speaking skills
- Increasing our learning through reflection
- Prompting our thoughts before class so that we have more robust discussions in class
In addition to posting, each student will sign up to help with writing the discussion prompts or pulling themes from the videos for class discussion. To earn full credit for this assignment, you must respond to prompts for at least 10 different class sessions, as well as assist with facilitation.
Instructor Reflection & Learner Feedback
A few weeks after the course started, Katherine followed up with a brief reflection on how the use of social video was evolving in the class. She reported:
Students said that posting videos to Flipgrid is helping them with their public speaking and that they are enjoying that aspect of the practice… Now that we’ve done a few and gotten used to the technology, the students will start helping me develop prompts and summarize themes from the videos. We’ve got some ideas to make “role play” type prompts (pretend that you are an international student advisor, and respond to a student who…). We are also going to try to set up a debate on the platform. Students said that they like to have two options of prompts to respond to and appreciate having a variety of prompts (very open-ended, very specific, opinion-based, critique, etc.). Their favorite so far is the chain one that you suggested – a student poses a question about the topic, the next student answers the question and then poses a question for the next student, etc. Some are doing their responses from the phone app and said it works easily.
From the instructor side, I found a couple of things of note: 1) The prompts can only be 500 characters long, which is not that much! 2) You should write the max video length into the prompt so they know how long they have to answer. 3) Flipgrid automatically labels the videos with people’s names based on their email. This is not great for people who go by something other than their legal first name. 4) We did the first videos in class, working in small groups. I had the groups go to different rooms/outside/etc. so there wouldn’t be background noise. Each group worked together, taking turns recording videos introducing themselves. When they finished, I had them watch the other videos that were coming in and look for themes. They reported back to the classroom at the designated time and shared the themes they noticed. This worked well to introduce the tool. However, students had shared computers and didn’t log in and out between users, so many of the videos have the wrong names on them. 5) Our class is at 8am. I have students posting by 9pm the night before because most of the prompts are about the readings (which of course they are doing the night before). This means that I must watch their videos late at night or early in the morning to prepare for class. I’m opting for watching the videos before I go to bed. They are pleasant to watch, so this is working out for me.
One of the things I have always enjoyed about my work is the opportunity to partner with instructors in the exploration of pedagogical challenges, whether or not they lead to new practices that include technology. During our panel discussion on learner feedback, Katherine also reported that students enrolled in the course with the Flipgrid assignments have already found the experience applicable to their career search activities where candidates are now more often being asked to submit brief recorded video responses to interview questions before ever speaking to a person. The effectiveness of Katherine’s practice speaks to her commitment to exploring pedagogical questions, challenging assumptions about the affordances of digital tools, and perhaps most importantly being comfortable co-creating learning experiences with her students.