Writing in the Disciplines

WRS 102 (Writing in the Disciplines) introduces students to the kinds of writing required of students across the university. Students write documents in their choice of disciplines and share their drafts in a gamified writing and editing online environment.

Blended learning approach

The rationale for seeking this blended learning award is to support the development of GWrit (The Game of Writing: a gamified online writing environment), specifically a version for a new, blended learning format of Writing Studies 102. Writing courses usually use class time for discussion and sharing of drafts. These activities were moved to the new online, gamified environment. Over 100 files (videos, texts, screencasts) were created to enable students to study on their own time and as they were drafting their assignments rather than force them to conform to the usual face-to-face timetable for learning.

Content development team

  • Roger Graves, Professor, Department of English and Film Studies; Director, Centre for Teaching and Learning.
  • Heather Graves, Professor, Department of English and Film Studies; Director, Writing Across the Curriculum.

Sample module in the course

The blended learning approach has been to divide the course into four modules, each one of three weeks. In the first week, students decided which of the three assignments in the module they were going to complete. In the second week, they wrote an in-class assignment in groups that built their skills for that module and assignment. In the third class of the module, they worked in groups to make final revisions to their assignments.

For each module there were online activities posted on a Google Site. An introductory video and screencasts based on slide presentations. As students began working on the assignment they chose, they then read the relevant chapters in the textbook—for example, on how to write a good observation. They then looked at the model paper in the textbook and the grading rubric on the Google site to build knowledge about the important features of writing an observation. After they posted a draft of their assignment, they read the drafts of other students on GWrit and posted comments to help those students improve. Because reading other drafts helped them learn about the kind of writing they are doing, the commenting process gave them ideas about how to improve their own draft. They then revised their work in preparation for handing it in at the end of the module.

 

 

In the second in-class assignment in the module on critical thinking and analysis, students were given a graphic produced by Career Services listing facts about recent University of Alberta graduates. They wrote a critical analysis of the graphic in groups. In this analysis, they posed questions about the statistics presented in the graphic, including information about how these statistics did not match up with national and international findings. At the end of the class, each group handed in their critical analysis. This functioned as a mini version of the main assignments.

 

General results from all cycle 1 blended learning projects

What is students’ engagement and satisfaction in different blended learning approaches?
Student Engagement
  • Survey results suggested that students above first-year level BL courses were statistically more engaged than in first-year level BL approaches:
    • Individual motivation of students in later stages of their academic program seem to influence engagement, even when students are presumably not as satisfied with the course and/or its format.
  • Interviews revealed that engagement was also boosted when students received effective ongoing instructor support, and when they were able to collaborate and interact with other students in the course:
    • The opposite occurred when students struggled with ambiguous instructions (or an unclear course structure), because this often increased their workload (having to navigate large amounts of vague information).
Student Satisfaction
  • Survey results showed that students were statistically significant more satisfied when the online video resources were not highly produced (e.g. recorded using a laptop webcam, featured the professor in a casual setting, etc).
  • Interviews corroborated that student satisfaction was mostly influenced by the quality of the online resources (and even more the online video resources):
    • Students responded positively to good quality, entertaining and informative videos. They also appreciated when the professor explained the material in a more unscripted way.
    • Students also highlighted the importance of seeing the instructor’s face when making videos for educational purposes, since this is a way to complement the pedagogical relationship between them and the instructor.
Taken together these results suggest:
  • The importance of cultivating a relationship between instructors and students in the different mediums to promote student engagement (even more to promote student satisfaction with BL).
  • And that no matter the pedagogical approach implemented instructors should always remember/aim to bolster a pedagogical connection (face-to-face and online).
What is the instructors’ experience in developing and implementing a blended learning course?
  • Instructor interviews revealed that they spent an extensive amount of time (more than expected) transforming their courses into BL. Instructor experiences were permeated by the amount of time invested reflecting about the content, developing the different materials, and implementing the different activities:
    • Even when they witnessed positive outcomes, having to spend so much time in the project greatly interfered with the rest of their academic responsibilities.
    • Furthermore, some instructors did not have the appropriate institutional support (from their department or faculty), which both hurt their attitude towards BL and made the transition more difficult.
  • These results suggest that it is vital to not only prepare instructors for the magnitude of the project they are potentially undergoing, but to also install the appropriate institutional mechanisms to support them in this process.
Do you want to know more details about our Blended Learning Evaluation? Send us an email:

L. Francisco Vargas M.
fran.vargas@ualberta.ca

Resource development details for this module

Roles of the content development team (~30 hours)

  • Create the materials, examples, and make the presentations.
  • Outline content and initial storyboarding to develop scripts.
  • Develop the script and record the audio.
  • View video drafts and request edits.

Roles of the CTL production team (~45 hours)

  • Support in creating storyboard and script.
  • Edit, revise and approve the script and storyboard.
  • Clean audio with Audacity.
  • Create and annotate video using Camtasia Studio.
  • Edit and upload video to Google Sites.

Tools & additional information

GoogleDocsTOOLS

YetiMicTOOL

AudacityTOOLS

CamtasiaTOOLS

SitesTOOLS

ScreencastTOOL

Contact

Do you want to know more about the content?

Contact Details

Roger Graves
roger.graves@ualberta.ca

Do you want to know how CTL can help you?

Contact Details

Phone: +1 (780) 492-2826
ctl@ualberta.ca