In this blog post and an informal, face-to-face lunchtime “brownbag” seminar for faculty members held today on campus, I will present some principles and examples of free online applications that have worked well in my team-intensive professional communication and social research methods courses.
The main purpose of the workshop is to share instructors’ insights and specific experiences with communication technologies for student team research projects, starting with my own. Each technology has had its strengths and weaknesses, and some of these can work together or even be set up to function within or “through” the Blackboard course management interface we use at our university.
The relevance to rhetoric is that teams require appropriate forums for their collaborative everyday communication, and the forums can structure, enable and limit the kinds of informative and persuasive acts that learners and researchers need to engage in during a short-term university course.
I’m a professor and for the past 10 months, I’ve used Zoho Projects for team projects in my classrooms and for collaborations amongst academics at a distance.
I’d just like to share my thoughts on how I use this tool, the things I absolutely love about this online collaboration application, and things I wish could be worked on. I’m also sharing this with the Zoho support team on their support forum.
Higher education innovation
Peer Mentoring featured on the front page of OnCampus, 2007
As I complete a book on peer mentoring in undergraduate courses, this theme is quite fresh in my mind and well worth a blog post.
At the University of Calgary in 2005 I founded our Faculty of Arts Peer Mentoring program. I still coordinate it, although others now teach our peer mentors. I have just completed my 2nd year as the Director of our university’s SU-funded Curricular Peer Mentoring Network located at our Teaching and Learning Center.
What are peer mentors?
In a nutshell, undergraduate students become peer mentors who collaborate with instructors and teaching assistants to enrich peer-based learning within their courses. They may also design and lead learning activities outside of class time and online. Normally they return to a course they have already taken and work with a professor they are familiar with. They apply for this honor, and are supported and educated by taking a 4th year course in peer mentoring and collaborative learning.
Image: T. Smith, 2009. With subject's consent.
Nearing the end of an adventure
In a few days my students in Communications Studies 463 will be completing their final websites and collected experiences and reflections.
Their thoughts will be presented publicly on campus on April 14th to an audience of approximately 30 people in addition to their class of 27 students and 4 instructional team members.
My post today responds to several of the common themes of their reflections:
- transformed expectations about what the course should/would be like
- the unexpected workload that comes with increased accountability to stakeholders in addition to the usual fear/respect for the grade
- the technology challenges and learning
- the teamwork challenges and learning
- the unusual roles of the instructional team members as collaborators
- the unfamiliar assignments that are a “hybrid” of academic, public, and organizational genres suiting our hybrid partnership and bridge-building aims.
- the joys and fears of producing a real website for a real public while being evaluated by one another and supporting one another.
As I begin teaching another new service-learning course (Coms 463: Advanced Professional and Technical Communication) at the University of Calgary, Canada, in which my students will conduct interviews, I must once again apply for course-based research ethics approval from my faculty’s ethics subcommittee.
Click the image to see all 3 frames. Created via Cartoon Playground.
Within this application I am required to describe such factors as
- the context in which the students will be researching
- how I educate them about research ethics,
- whom they are recruiting and how they avoid coercion
- methods of research (survey, interview, etc.)
- and the means of obtaining proof of informed consent, secure data retention, and ethical data dissemination as agreed between researchers and participants.
This post describes the rhetorical audiences, purposes, skills, and impacts of the research ethics application process. Continue reading
Screen shot close-up of my Google Site for the course
An increasing number of teachers are becoming web-savvy and are looking for ways to efficiently organize their course information for students through communication technology.
I’m one of them.
For many years now I’ve created a public course website for each course I teach. Essentially, I have created an area within my own site, an area with 8-20 pages of material: a course home page with subpages for assignment descriptions, a schedule, links, and course-specific research or writing advice.
I’ve done this in combination with the “Blackboard” course management technology that has been adopted at my university, preferring the ability to craft the site the way I want, and display the non-confidential information publicly.
This blog post uses my own course website to explore the benefits and limitations of using Google Sites technology, especially in combination with Blackboard, a technology used for course management at many universities.
fragment of "WW1 Causes." (Harris Morgan 2007, Sep. 21, Wikimedia Commons)
This section of the blog article “Cause and effect in rhetoric” discusses how cause and effect arguments enter into Rhetorical Praxis and Pedagogy.
It discusses the value of rhetorical cause & effect reasoning to the concsciousness of those who practice rhetoric, and to those who teach and learn rhetorical practice
For the introduction to the article, go to Cause and Effect in Rhetoric Part 1.