Faculty Panel Recap: Online Spanish & Hybrid Anthropology Courses

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Bob Blake, professor of Spanish, and Tim Weaver, professor of anthropology, gave excellent presentations at the faculty panel on hybrid and online learning last Friday!

Blake has been involved in computer-assisted and online learning for many years and brought a wealth of experience to the panel. He explained that he’s taken a module approach to his 25-student introductory and intermediate Spanish courses, creating online content that can pair with face-to-face, hybrid, or online delivery formats. The fully online courses contain five categories of activities: (1) full-class video conferences once a week in Adobe Connect, (2) autonomous learning with ‘textbook’ materials (he’s created exceptional online modules to supplement the textbook), (3) web listening and speaking activities (students watch videos of native Spanish speakers and also record themselves speaking), (4) small group video chats (students speak with one another in Spanish while a TA or instructor moderates), and (5) online writing assignments and quizzes.

The students in Blake’s courses have responded well to the materials, and are especially enthusiastic about the small group video chats. Blake explained that students are actually getting more practice speaking Spanish and more one-on-one support from instructors in this format. Furthermore, videos of native Spanish speakers give students more opportunity to learn about Spanish culture.

Weaver’s 350-student anthropology class is quite a different creature from Blake’s 25-student course. As recipients of the Provost Hybrid Course Award, Weaver and fellow anthropology professor Andy Marshall designed a hybrid version of the course, which Weaver is teaching for the first time this winter.

The online portion of the course consists of video lectures that Marshall and Weaver recorded in ATS’s eLearning Studio; the lectures are accompanied by self-study quizzes and the students also have assigned textbook readings. By shifting the lectures online (as is common in “flipped” classrooms), Weaver is able to facilitate more small group discussion in class. He asks students to take a survey at the beginning of class, then discuss it in small groups and take the survey again; he uses the students’ responses to these surveys to guide his subsequent discussion of the course material. Notably, Weaver is not using clickers for these surveys—instead, he creates the surveys using Poll Daddy and students respond to it using their own devices; if a student does not bring a device to class, he or she simply looks on with a neighbor. Weaver says the students have responded well to this format and have not expressed any concerns with using their own devices.

Weaver and Blake have very different approaches to online learning, but both are excellent examples of how educational technology can lead to quality learning!

If you have questions for Weaver or Blake, or have your own story to share about how you are using digital tools or web-based activities in your classes, please post a comment!

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