Extend, Scholar

Subterranean Scholarship Blues (#oext138)


Today’s Daily Extend (#oext138) is titled Subterranean Scholarship Blues.

This Extend challenged us to consider instructional challenges we have faced in the past.   This Extend ties into the Scholar Module during which we will explore the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL).   The Scholarship module is all about evaluating your teaching practice and finding the places where it’s just not working, where we can improve as teachers, or how we can better support our students.

For this Extend, I decided to create a mini-presentation about an instructional challenge I faced.

A few years ago, I was asked to step into a course that was half-way through the semester when the original instructor had to leave.  This course which taught Microsoft Office applications was a challenge for me.  I quickly found that the students were struggling and were not very engaged in the class.  We shuffled through the remainder of the semester as I tried a variety of approaches, none of which seemed to do much.

At the end of the semester, I asked the students to participate in an open discussion about the course with the goal of researching and experimenting with alternative approaches in subsequent years.  Once the students realized there would be no repercussions for speaking up, the floodgates opened and a productive talk ensued.  The key issues that the students had with the course were:

  • A huge spiral-bound textbook which only 2 people in a class of 35 had ever opened and used – no one would carry it to class
  • Slide decks for the class were not engaging
  • More demonstration and less lecture were wanted
  • The computer lab was tightly scheduled, leaving them little time outside of class for practice
  • Students like to work on their own devices, not be tied to the school computers
  • Students have many outside commitments and want flexibility as to when they work on their studies
  • Initial student proficiency has great variation, meaning some students are bored and some struggle to keep up

Research into the tools which might be available to improve the situation led me to Paradigm’s SNAP tool.  This tool allows for web-based training and assessment.  The textbook comes in a convenient electronic format bundled into the web tool.  Pre-assessments, guides, and tutorials allow students to self-assess their proficiency for each lesson and adapt the level of study needed.  Students can break out of the classroom, have availability to work at any time, and can access the tool from their own devices.

We’ve just gone through the first semester using the new tool.  While there were a few teething pains, overall the response from the students was very enthusiastic.  In future classes, I’ll continue to refine how the tool is used with the goal of increasing student engagement, learning, and satisfaction.

The link below is the slide deck I created for the Daily Extend.

A huge thanks to Greg Rodrigo (@greg_rodrigo) for his recent workshop on Creating Dynamic Presentations.  He helped me to break free from the PowerPoint bullet list.

Instructional Challenge Presentation