Question 49

49. Which were the most problematic?



Well, having a student drop was probably the most problematic, as Professor Napoli had to step in as a collaborator (although there was a good balance in which the “student” hat was worn pretty effectively without blurring the lines into taking on a teaching role when creative collaboration was the goal). Some students did report a little frustration with finding convenient times to Skype, and finding the right approach to grading individually in each institution, as mentioned, provided a few headaches. 

A goal of the course was to provide course material and exercises that provoked reflection upon processes of creativity relevant to the field, in addition to the opportunity for students to collaborate in a supportive environment. The eight-week time frame for the course that was necessary to align with the unit structure of our USA partner meant that there was very little gestation time and students and staff had multiple simultaneous tasks.  One solution would be to expand the course across two units of study and thus allow more time for reflection.

One point that slipped through the net in the development stage related to the term ‘draft’ the original intention was to create just three drafts: the final assignment would be the third draft. However a final (fourth version) was added, which did create additional work for the students and staff. So a reduction to just three would be advantageous.

At VU, the 8 week collaboration needed to be longer. The possibility of extending the collaboration for an entire semester would be terrific. Other than this there were no problems at all.

(CCC) Most problematic for me were the video posts, as the acoustics in our classroom and the poor audio quality of my equipment prevented us from sharing much of our final work in class. 

Really the only thing I can think of is that adding in collaborative work necessarily increases the student workload or takes away from other work. I feel on balance, though, that the assignments had much greater impact overall, and heightened student interest helped them to complete the additional work. (CCC)

The UVIC students were resistant on two counts: working with Americans, and working with non-Political Science students. They clearly held a bias that Political Science students are somehow the more intellectual students. This surprised Dr. Aragon as the seminar included strong students through struggling students. 

The ESC students did not immediately see the less-than-warm-and-fuzzy exchanges between themselves and their Canadian counterparts as insightful learning experiences, and tended to treat these encounters negatively when they occurred. It took some work on the part of Dr. Gupta-Carlson to help them consider how the exchanges might be contextualized as intercultural learning experiences.

When the assigned writing tasks produced challenging moments for negotiating meaning across language and cultural difference that they were designed to produce, I did not feel entirely prepared to adequately and effectively respond to the situation. Rebecca -- I too felt unprepared to respond the some of the moments of tension. It is not clear whether the issue was true cultural differences, or simply individual personalities, or even the way that we wrote the assignments.

Internet connections for videoconference.

Clarke: As mentioned directly above, the off-seminar collaborative work depended greatly upon the goodwill and application of the individual students concerned. Not knowing what to expect, Dirk and I did not set fixed goals for these collaborations, nor did we grade them, and that was perhaps a mistake.

Vanderbeke: I agree. In addition, for the next time it might be more useful to plan and set the assignments earlier - some of my students pointed out that only one or two weeks were not sufficient for substantial work based on asynchronous collaboration.

  1. The unevenness of the workload was problematic – our Swarthmore team spent much more time on the planning and implementation phase of the grant, developing and fine-tuning the weekly syllabus, developing analytical questions for inquiry, and responding to online work in adequate time.
  2. While the course was clearly laid out as an interdisciplinary venture, the fact-oriented historical methodology of our partner often trumped our more analytical media-oriented approach by default.  Since we had a smaller class, could rely on a better overall educational preparation for our students, and had less asynchronous time per week than our Ashesi partner, we could and had to push our students harder and faster to reach a higher level of analytical inquisitiveness of texts, theories, representations, often resulting in a skewed dynamics that also impacted the student teams: while we could assume that students here understood the “what” and “when,” and could challenge them to ask “why” and “how” during asynchronous and synchronous times, our partner at Ashesi would often (have to?) be content if her students retold “what and when.” Horizons of expectations regarding assignment outcomes would thus vary greatly.
  3. Transparency – while Carina and I were very adamant about sharing all of our asynchronous coursework – posting it on Moodle etc. – we were often surprised by our partner’s asynchronous coursework (tests, quizzes, lesson content) in retrospect.  On occasion, this would lead to parallel, rather than integrated pedagogical trajectories. Some of it had to do with the greater sum of time at her disposal and some with a more essentialist pedagogical approach.
  4. Focus on Africa combined with experience-based approach on the Ashesi side sidelined some of the other case studies to the point of oblivion. Since such heavy emphasis was placed on students’ experience (of the aftermath of slavery, for example) it was very hard for them to think about another diaspora systematically, historically and analytically.
  5. Forum-Discussion Questions – on several occasions, our partner would post and require the entire class to respond to forum discussion questions without consulting about them with us. While some of them spurred on great discussions, overly generally phrased others, on the other had, would encourage students to feed off of each other’s prejudices and stereotypes, just when we wanted all of them to question them.
  6. Our heavy emphasis on Skype did not serve us well – we should have had some other synchronous tools on stand-by (Facetime etc.), although most of the troubles stemmed from bandwidth issues.

Being able to see where you want to go, but being unable to get there because of road design was problematic. In other words, sometimes the technology gets you close to where you’d like to be, but because of issues of implementation or hardware limitations or inertia (i.e. People have become used to using a certain technology in one particular way and that usage has become ingrained), it could sometimes be difficult to arrive at the hoped for destination.

Until we settle down on google hangout, we could not provide a stable communication environment to students, exploring several communication tools and environments to find the best conditions for their virtual communication technically. But I think this cannot be helped for the our first trial because we cannot test it until the class actually begins. The experience was valuable for the next time. 

Synchronous sessions with technical glitches  - no sound, no picture,

One of the most difficult pedagogical challenges was establishing shared expectations of deadlines.  Since the semesters were staggered, students at UNCG felt the pressure of the final presentation as a last task for completion of the course whereas students at AUB still had a month left after the final presentations.  The discrepancy between these two perspectives caused some challenges for groups that could not find a common understanding of the level of urgency needed in that project.  

The diffusion of leadership and the complexity of our GNLC plan.  It was sometimes simply overwhelming to contemplate.   We had very much wanted a webcasting component, but without someone (we didn’t have the graduate assistant we expected)  acting as secretary, we never could figure out a real time when we could meet to pitch the proposals.  Therefore, when we met in October 2012 in Manchester, we decided to have students shoot and post videos of their pitches and post to VIMEO.

As already mentioned, logistical time constraints around class and teaching responsibilities were significant. Given more time and flexibility would have facilitated additional opportunities for extended interaction and collaboration. All faculty fellows carried extraordinary full-time teaching and administrative responsibilities in addition to their COIL work. These variables are important to consider when conceptualizing optimal conditions necessary for COIL success.

HSE - Blackboard discussions, as I said.

GMU - And, the lack of any real personal connection among the students, as discussed above.

None come to mind for either faculty member. 

RAMA: The most problematic was the technical difficulties in the lessons. In addition, it may subsequently be discussed whether syllabus was too extensive and thus confusing for students. And perhaps also teachers.

NCCU: I would have like the weekly sessions to be a bit longer perhaps 90 minutes instead of one hour.  Access for internet connectivity was the most problematic I would have to say.

UNISA: Internet connectivity was a major challenge. The unavoidable disparity in time zones required after hours commitments from South African students which impacted negatively on their participation. The lack of Unisa full time students attending any classroom activities was problematic as it does not match the academic culture from the other two universities.  

The initial exchanges in the blog were most problematic, not because of any failure on students’ participation but because the blogging format was too challenging and incomprehensible from a cultural standpoint for the Korean students. The WordPress blogs simply did not work well as an international collaborative tool.

time difference was the major challenge

ULPGC: Students were asked to put their work together and to present a single document. We found out that usually students from both institutions used to copy and paste their work on the asked format but didn’t really engage in real discussion. The work was not always seen as a whole but as the addition of both parts.

Language barriers among students. It takes time to develop a trust and understanding of what this project is about. Monitoring student interaction.