Faculty Using Technology

A short video on this teaching strategy can be seen here

Robin Fowler, College of Engineering, co-teaches Introduction to Engineering, a course in which student teams design, build, and test products for professional scenarios (e.g., Company X needs a remote-operated vehicle to investigate subglacial life at the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica). Teams need to apply course concepts to evaluate competing designs relative to client-generated objectives and constraints. However, teams often pursue suboptimal designs due to poor group process.

To enable more equitable and conceptually sound design decisions, Fowler shifted team meetings from face-to-face discussions to synchronous, text-based online discussions, during which team members are geographically dispersed. Fowler creates a Google Doc for each team, including each student’s individual project idea and a decision-making matrix to be completed as a team. Students simultaneously access these materials and negotiate decisions at preordained times using the commenting and chat features in Google Docs. Read more »

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A short video describing this teaching strategy can be seen here.

George Hoffmann, Romance Languages and Literatures, teaches a course that explores the controversial literature on the Algerian War. Thirty-two undergraduate students are each required to deliver a PowerPoint presentation on a capstone analytical project. In-class presentations are dynamic, but ephemeral, and their engaging material is lost to students in following course iterations. Therefore, Hoffmann uses Google Sites to create a collaborative course website to document and extend the highly visual capstone projects across courses.

Based on his or her PowerPoint presentation, each student creates a media-rich web page, exclusively in French, without having to learn HTML. Hoffmann pairs students to peer review web pages using the commenting feature in Google Sites. Students’ grades reflect both the content of their own web page, and the quality of their peer critiques. Through the combined use of PowerPoint and Google Sites, students not only learn valuable communication skills, but also practice disciplinary skills of close reading and critical evaluation. 

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Steve Skerlos (Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering), discovered that his graduate students, even those who were quite successful in his classes, were not retaining what they had learned in class in a way that they could apply that knowledge to research questions.  Additionally, Prof. Skerlos had a desire to shift his lecture-based courses to have more in common with senior design courses in engineering, i.e. the instructor and the students all working together to solve problems.  The following description of Prof. Skerlos’ flipped class is for his ME 499 course, Sustainable Engineering and Design.  Prof. Skerlos, though, has flipped many classes, including a 150-person undergraduate course. Read more »

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Michael Witgen (History, American Culture and Native American Studies) did not set out to “flip” his class.  He was inspired by colleagues to find some way to integrate technology into his 300-level History course, History of the American West.  Working with the Michigan Education through Learning Objects (MELO3D) community, Professor Witgen and his GSI team created a wiki for the course that, along with a coursepack, served as the course syllabus and textbook.  

Students’ First Exposure to Course Content

Each week of the course has its own webpage, which gives students access to the readings and study questions for each class session.  The course “readings” are primary source artifacts from the American West, ranging from images of maps created in the 1700s to letters from Noah Webster to YouTube videos of Daniel Boone cartoons.  The study questions serve as guides for students as they explore the pre-work for the class. Read more »

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Can technology help student teams improve their group process—and ultimately their learning? CRLT's recent Occasional Paper on "Teaching in the Cloud" explains some ways it can. In particular, the paper highlights how Online Collaboration Tools (OCTs) can enhance students' ability to collaborate effectively. OCTs can facilitate group members' access to one another and the team's efficiency by reducing spatial and temporal barriers. OCTs can also provide novel, efficient, and effective means for instructors to monitor and provide feedback on group projects.  

The paper features two U-M faculty members who successfully utilize OCTs to improve student teamwork as well as instructor management of group projects. 

  • Robin Fowler of Technical Communication and Engineering: Fowler has improved student teamwork in Introduction to Engineering by shifting from face-to-face team meetings to synchronous, text-based online discussions. Her students share and assess design plans using Google Docs, a system that has increased student engagement and participation in group decision-making. Click here to learn more and watch a short video of Fowler discussing this teaching strategy and some of its outcomes.
     
  • Melissa Gross of Kinesiology: Gross's studio course uses 3D animation and motion capture technologies to study the biomechanics of human movement. Students' group presentations include such animations to illustrate their research findings, and these require sharing and collaborating on many large video files. Gross uses Box.net, a cloud-based storage and sharing service, to solve storage and capacity challenges and facilitate student management and coordination of their teamwork. Click here to learn more and watch a short video of Gross discussing this teaching strategy. 

For additional resources about using student teams effectively in a range of course settings, see this section of our website and this recent CRLT Occasional Paper

 

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