Connecting Online with In-class

This past semester, I worked on new assignment for COM 1010 that in some ways points to the opportunities I see in hybridizing the course. A few of us had the chance to do a kind of trial run of VOCAT 3.0. I thought I’d test drive an idea of having students analyze the rhetorical techniques that persuasive speakers use in a particular presentation, with the plan that they would then make their own short presentation about the speech they analyzed, arguing whether or not they thought the speaker was persuasive.

The idea stemmed from a class period the previous semester where we watched and analyzed President Obama’s speech about Syria from September 10, 2013. In that class, I played the video through the projector and stopped and started at points I thought were key, where I’d already identified that the President was using rhetorical strategies like ethos, logos, pathos, or making a particular type of persuasive argument. I asked them what they thought was happening in each moment, and they were fairly good at identifying what I was asking for. However, I was left with the feeling that there was a lot more opportunity for engagement in analysis, that I’d been leading them too much, and that the contact with the material I’d designed for them was a bit superficial and passive.

The new VOCAT allows for students to upload speeches from YouTube, Vimeo and elsewhere, so I tasked them in the Spring semester to find their own videos to upload and analyze, using the annotate feature, which allows you to capture notes wherever in the video you want to. Now they had many more opportunities to make their own decisions, like what video to choose and where to annotate (they had a few key concepts they had to find, like one example each of ethos, logos, and pathos). I think they were able to do much closer, more invested analyses because of this. The assignment ended up scaffolding itself well, as they went from annotating, then pulling those annotations together into an argument, then presenting the argument to the class. In class, students were curious about and attentive to their fellow students’ analyses, and we all had the benefit of seeing clips of a wide variety of persuasive speakers. There are a lot of tweaks I’d make to the assignment going forward, but it definitely seemed to deepen the distributive and critical learning happening in my classes. I would love to continue thinking about how online spaces can support in-class presentations and how they might build upon each other.

In terms of risk, if I think broadly about COM 1010, I fear loss of engagement because of loss of class time. COM 1010, for me at least, works best as a kind of workshop, where we walk through the process of making different types of presentation together and build camaraderie and trust. I see a risk here, but maybe also an opportunity to think carefully about how to reinforce the workshop/camaraderie feel in online spaces so that it can support the face-to-face interaction in class. From reading everyone’s posts, I am struck by the possibilities for experiment and play that hybridization presents. A focus on experiment could be radically beneficial to COM 1010 students (and teachers, too!) learning how to approach the challenges of making and giving presentations.

3 thoughts on “Connecting Online with In-class”

  1. COM 1010, for me at least, works best as a kind of workshop, where we walk through the process of making different types of presentation together and build camaraderie and trust.

    This kind of statement is a crucial part of the hybridization process. What are the other ways that COM 1010 “works,” and how do these modes of engagement rank on the “effectiveness scale”? Can any of them be offloaded productively to the online space? I hope that at the other end of the hybridization process time spent in class will be even more intensified, more focused, and more purposeful, and that those energies will flow to the online spaces; but all this has to be engineered.

  2. I like the idea of students analyzing a variety of speeches together on-line, maybe working with other 1010 sections, then presenting the highlights in class. I assign an out of class speech to watch, their choice, whether a meeting at work, a book discussion at Barnes and Noble, weekend speaker at a faith community, community board or a business speech at Baruch. They have to write an analysis on delivery skills. This could be a shared assignment, done in pairs or groups on-line. Even ask the speaker to participate in the discussion (risky?). Discuss how to apply to their own speeches. Do many possibilities.

  3. To build on Luke’s comment, ideally, hybridizing encourages reimagining of workflow, classroom space, student engagement, and pedagogical strategies. It’s a complex process, and one that will continually be tweaked, but in many ways that is valuable in and of itself–thinking of teaching, learning, and course design as constantly evolving processes and products.

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