By Zhaochang Peng
The most precious treasure of learning is not the teaching of the instructor; it is the students’ own motivation and effort.
This project utilizes Wordpress resources available to Rollins (through social.rollins.edu), the help provided by a team of instructional technology, pedagogy, and library staff, and a FITI grant, to develop an engaging course website that can enhance the student learning experience and outcomes for the course ECO323 Political Economy of Chinese Development.
What inspired you to implement this project?
This project has been fed by three powerful sources of inspiration:
- Our lovely Rollins students who have shown a strong interest in learning about China and are eager to benefit from a more user-friendly way of presenting course materials and organizing class dynamics,
- Our great staff teams of instructional technology, pedagogy & library services who are ready to set up useful workshops and provide valuable resources & one-on-one help to faculty, and
- My wonderful faculty colleagues who have utilized the FITI grants to create inspiring instructional projects.
What were the goals for this project?
This project had a dual goal: presenting various China-related course materials in a vivid style so that the students will be able to immerse themselves in a virtual Chinese environment without visiting China, and creating an online space that promotes dynamic interactions between the instructor and the students and among the students themselves.
Identify the tools used for this project.
Tools: WordPress website on social.rollins.edu with its full line of page & comment components and various plugin functions;
Resources: The most precious human resources for this project were the talented instructional technology team at Rollins (particularly helpful support was provided by Jessica Vargas and Amy Sugar), the passionate pedagogical expert—CAJ Institute Director (up to summer 2016) James Zimmerman, and the committed Head of Public Services of the library Dorothy Mays. In addition to these, China-related academic and multimedia resources from my own collections, libraries, and the internet were heavily used.
What pedagogical techniques, strategies, and/or philosophies did you employ?
Interactive engagement is the overarching pedagogical philosophy for this project. Under this umbrella philosophy, specific strategies and techniques employed include high-impact immersion and engagement learning activities (browsing the user-friendly online webpages and course materials, and completing remote community engagement assignments with the assistance of online display and discussion) and student-centered online comments (students are required to comment on online webpages & materials, and to engage in discussions of each other’s comments).
What were some of the lessons that you learned from implementing this project?
Students like this kind of project very much. Their interest in the course stimulated and their effort at getting the most of the course doubled. As an instructor, you will be pleasantly surprised by the great potentials in your students that can be released by such a project. It take lots of effort and energies to tweak the website to achieve desired pedagogical effects, but the payoff is well worth it.
How did this endeavor change your teaching in expected or unexpected ways?
I expected to enhance my teaching performance by engaging in this project and am glad that this goal was achieved. Unexpectedly, but in a pleasant way, I found this project helped the students share in my teaching through their own participation in online interactions.
What did you change (or would you change) the second time you implemented this project in class?
I will strive hard to improve the interactive functions of the website so that the students can more easily comment on different course materials presented on the same page and post their own self-designed webpages and materials.
How did this project impact student learning?
Their interest and motivation were heightened as they had a stronger sense of belonging to an interactive virtual community. The most precious treasure of learning is not the teaching of the instructor; it is the students’ own motivation and effort.
Is there anything in addition that you would share with other faculty about this project?
Lose no time and tap into the valuable resources and talents of the Rollins instructional technology team. Your pedagogical dream will come to full fruition.