Teaching global communication online

I have been teaching my global communication lecture class since the fall of 2008, generally in one of the large lecture halls at Virginia Commonwealth University. But this semester I am moving the class online — with 200 students. I have been part of a group of VCU professors in an Online Development Institute, who trained and prepared with our Center for Teaching Excellence to offer selected classes online.

I am excited about this opportunity as I believe that the online environment allows for more effective interaction among students than in a traditional large lecture classroom setting.

Previously I taught two graduate classes online, but this is the first undergraduate class that I am moving online and by far the largest. The global communication class is part of the VCU College of Humanties and Sciences‘ general education curriculum and one of several options all students in the College have to take. Even this first time around the demand to get into the class was enormous. I could have easily admitted 100 students more, based on the e-mails I received.

The class has a relatively basic structure. Every week I assign readings in our textbook (generally one chapter) and provide online YouTube lectures on the main points as well as additional material. I also provide an overview on the most  important news stories of the week in another brief YouTube lecture and provide the links to articles in Delicious. I also assign additional readings, which are generally provided through links.

Every week, students either have to take an online quiz or have to engage in an online discussion, both on our Blackboard class site. They always have an entire week to take each of the quizzes or to answer discussion questions and reply to their classmates. This should give them more flexibility, but it will also demand more discipline from them, since I am not handing tests to them at a certain time. I also give a midterm and final exam. All of the tests draw multiple choice and true/false questions from a test bank I developed.

For the online discussion, I am breaking up the class into 10 groups so that students will interact in online classrooms of 20 students. They will introduce themselves to  each other and interact with the same students for the duration of the semester. I have two teaching assistants who will each supervise  five of the discussion groups.

I use Camtasia to record my lectures and post them as unlisted videos on YouTube. I try to protect the class from outside comments as it would create an uncontrollable environment with this many students. If you are interested in some of the course material or the online lectures, please just send me an e-mail. Below is a link to one of the video tutorials I provide my students:

MASC 151 – Tour of Blackboard Site

The class syllabus can be downloaded here.

We just finished the first week of the class and started the second one. I plan to give an update on this site on challenges, things that work well, and what I learned myself at the end of the semester.

Please feel free to comment, make suggestions and share your own online teaching experiences.

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