Funded by the provincial Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) initiatives, HIST 120.6 was a ground breaking course for the U of S in many ways. Not only did it utilize a Lecture Capture system, Recollect (Now Opencast Matterhorn), that was developed through the U of S ARIES Lab (Advanced Research in Intelligent Educational Systems), but it was one of the first courses to blend cohorts of online and face-to-face students in the same section.
HIST 120.6 had been taught face-to-face in large lecture theatres for some time. The Department was keen to try and move to an online model, but wanted to make small steps. The first proposal from the Department of History was to record the lectures in one term and deliver them online to distance students in the next term. Instead, we proposed that the online students would benefit more from being part of the action while it happened and that a blending of online and face-to-face students within an online environment might help to promote a sense of community for all.
With this new understanding we began to work with the Instructor to develop several collaborative activities that would have face to face and online students interacting through-out the term.
First, we established a Blackboard course to where the lecture recordings would be streamed to for the online students to view and for both online and face-to-face students to review throughout the term. This site also housed the syllabus, discussion forums, weekly quizzes, short weekly guides, and a link to the course wiki where most of the interactive components would take place.
Discussions around Position Papers
The weekly discussions were based on written student position papers. Each student was required to write two short 500-word papers on topics supplied by the instructor. These papers were posted to the Discussion Forum and would be the subject of conversation for that week. The papers were graded according to the following criteria:
- Evidence of a serious and critical engagement of the course as a whole.
- Evidence of thoughtful questioning of your reading.
- Depth and subtlety of ideas.
- Persuasive, concise and lucid expression.
This assignment was intended to help students develop skills in using primary sources and writing an effective argument.
The Wiki Notes Assignment
Students, both online and face-to-face, were divided into wiki working groups. Each group was responsible for creating notes for one week of lectures (normally three per week) and the related tutorial. A rubric was created to evaluate the quality of the notes and the students were responsible for maintaining their wiki pages through out the term. Duties for this assignment were as follows:
- Providing excerpts from the primary source for the week and explaining how they connected with the main idea of each lecture.
- Identifying and defining significant terms from the week.
- Presenting points of historical dispute.
- Finding three key scholarly secondary sources on the weekly topic.
- Updating the wiki page as other connections emerge throughout the year.
- Monitoring the wiki page to ensure that it has not been vandalized and any contributions by non-group members are successfully integrated into the page.
The wiki was an opportunity to bring together the class notes and provide a useful study guide. Students also gained experience in note taking, integrating course knowledge, using technology and teamwork.
Course evaluations were administered by the Department of History using SEEQ. Although the course received positive evaluations from both online and face-to-face students, the Department of History went through a series of administrative changes over the academic year and discontinued delivery of the course due to subsequent adjustments in their program structure. This six-credit course was redesigned as two separate three-credit courses and developed separately into an online and face-to-face version.