SLOAN-C: Using Collaborative Learning Techniques in Blended Courses

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On April 23, 2010

sloan-c.png Presenters: Matthew Russell & Gerald Bergtrom; University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

This is a clicker-enabled presentation using an older generation of TurningPoint’s clickers. Matt has a Ph.D. in comparative literature and Gerry is a professor of Biology at UWM.

Collaborative learning (CL) is about students working together, whether on the content of the course on reflecting on it or through carefully constructed activities. CL activities seek to do the following: increase students’ ability to analyze concepts; allow students to practice critical thinking and collaborative skills; promote synthesis of new knowldege by getting students to work together with instructors and fellow students.

Research tends to broadly support pedagogic value of collaboration techniques. Collaboration also supports accommodation of dfferent learning styles (both traditional and non-traditional).

CL prioritizes active learning instead of lecture and discussion model. Leads to better reasoning skills.

CL is active learning. It fosters better communication and contact between participants (students & instructors). Students develop learning networks with emphasis on group and individual accountability.

CL is the best tool for integrating benefits of both online and face-to-face learning in a blended environment.

To construct collaborative assignments, you should develop outcome-oriented exercises. Decide on a learning goal (what students should be able to do) after going through the module. Decide how students will work together to meet the goal. Decide on a rubric to assess whether students achieve the learning goal.

Classroom assessment techniques (CATs), clickers, discussions, and dropbox are all tools that can be employed for collaboration. CATs are short assignments that provide feedback about student learning (e.g. one-minute points; ‘muddiest point’; summarize/paraphrase). CATs are designed for small groups, useful in face-to-face but also in blended courses. Group discusses a case study, problem, or provacative point.

Gerry gave us an exercise where we defended or disputed a statement in small groups. We then had to turn in our index cards with our statement (and signature). The responses collected stimulated commentary and discussion on the topic in question (in this case, whether or not driftwood is art). Questions can be derived from content that has been delivered online. Another example of an index card question relevant to Dr. Bergtrom’s biology course is, “What is life?”

Clickers facilitate active and collaborative learning. Clickers can assess preparation, help students engage in the content, practice critical thinking, assess instruction, provide constructive feedback, and increase attendance.

We went through several clicker slides to demonstrate how they work. Of course, we are quite familiar with clickers on our campus. Gerry described how slicing data can be used for more refined analysis of clicker responses (e.g. demographic information can be tied to clicker responses to show how different groups of people answer a question).

This session didn’t provide me with a great deal of information I didn’t already know, since we spent a lot of time talking about clickers. However, it did validate everything that we have been doing on our campus to introduce collaborative learning techniquest to our faculty. Both Dr. Bergtrom and Dr. Russell have been using these techniques in their diverse courses (biology and comparative literature, respectively) with great success.

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On April 23, 2010. Posted in Blended Learning, SLOAN-C, Teaching Strategies