One thing I’ve recently noticed is that many new faculty teaching online get very excited about the idea of incorporating more videos, articles, and podcasts into their courses. They toss them into the course and eagerly await students to watch them, yet they don’t. The faculty then wonder why students aren’t discussing them or getting interested in them; it’s usually because there are no additional instructions for students about what to do with this media, or there are no associated assignments.
When I discuss this issue with faculty, the dialogue goes something like this:
Faculty: “Well, I don’t want to give them more work! I just think it’s a nice video/podcast they might like.”
Me: “What would you do if you showed the video in class?”
Faculty: “We would talk about it.”
Me: “Then they should talk about it, too. And one good way to get them talking about it is to require an assignment with it.”
But this doesn’t have to be an all-encompassing heavy-duty discussion or project. It can be as simple as a short blog post on their thoughts. But that can get boring after a while, right? Not necessarily. If the instructor can come up with ways to make the post topics more interesting and give students choices, they can find what most interests them. Choices increase the chances that students will find something they are interested in among the myriad of videos and media you as the instructor have provided. Here are a couple of ideas for blogging response assignments:
Create blogs where students can express their thoughts on the media/articles. An example prompt might be, “Develop 1 question that came as a result of reviewing the material, and 1 thing you found interesting and why—try to add something no one else has mentioned, and comment/discuss if it appeals to you.” These assignments won’t necessarily be discussions, but will be more like brief critical thinking and/or reflection assignments. Ask students to keep these responses brief, especially if they have a discussion in that same week. As a guide, the average blog post outside of a course is around 500 words or less, otherwise students may not read each other’s posts.
If there are several videos/articles you want students to view in a week, try asking them to choose at least 2 resources in which they are interested and develop 1 question for each and choose 1 interesting thing from each. Ask them to provide a short 2-3 sentence comment on someone else’s post (remind them not to repeat the students’ post or give short affirmations like “I agree,” and “Great post”).
You can change it up and ask thought-provoking questions or controversial questions to spark student interest in different weeks. For example, “Referring to the videos you’ve watched this week, answer the following question,” or “Give your opinion about the following controversial statement, referring to at least 2 of this week’s course materials to support your claim.” Welcome students to bring in outside resources if they have found more evidence to support their claim.
Also, you can make an assignment a little more interesting by giving students a role in a particular scenario and ask what they would do in that role, using at least two of the week’s materials as reference.
The great thing about these quick assignments is that it’s easy for students to do, instructors to grade, and to ensure that students are getting to see the materials more than once. This will also avoid students realizing too late that a video/article is covered in a test and will reduce the chances of students going back into the material and trying to find the answers while taking assessments.
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