Student-centered Learning in a Hybrid History Course

“I ask students to post a photograph of themselves and record their commentary over that image (a common practice in digital presentations of oral histories).”

Ashley Rose Young, Ph.D. Candidate in History, affiliated with the Humanities Writ Large Initiative Emerging Networks, has used instructional tools integrated with Sakai such as Warpwire, discussion forums, and VoiceThread to facilitate student-centered learning and engage students in a hybrid course on teaching methods of oral history she developed in GS 762: Online College Teaching. In this post, Young shares her teaching approach.

Ashley Rose Young

Student-centered learning (SCL) can be achieved with a course design framework that supports student engagement and discourse, promotes active learning, and encourages peer-to-peer collaboration. Young’s students develop research and analytical skills, they practice collaborative community partnership skills, and they develop effective communication skills using experiential learning methods. Students design their own oral history projects, working through the interview process to create “oral texts.”

Encourage dialogue and engage students

“I ask my students to create a 3-5 minute introductory VoiceThread that will give them a space to speak about their interest in oral history and also ask pressing questions they hope to address during the course of the semester. I want them to be able to express themselves and their interests verbally rather than in writing so as to gesture to the focus of our study of oral histories. “

Collective discourse and collaborative learning

“Throughout the course, students are asked to contribute to online forums through VoiceThread. Instead of writing out a forum post and then responding to their peers’ posts, I ask students to collectively build discussion through a weekly VoiceThread. I start the week’s VoiceThread and pose provocative questions that students can thoughtfully answer by drawing upon course readings or field experiences.”

At the end of the instructor’s VoiceThread segment, students are asked to address one or more of the questions Young posed and then ask a series of their own questions that will further the class conversation. The next student’s task is to respond to the previous student’s question(s) and then pose another set of questions.

Critical analysis through guided participation

“By the end of each week’s online forum, students will have recorded a cohesive conversation that links one student to the next through both their voices and their critical analysis of the methods of oral history. VoiceThread was a perfect fit for my oral history class because of the program’s focus on layering voices and commentary to make a larger story. I believe the online portions of this course align with and expand students’ abilities to think critically and engage with one another in an online forum.”


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