Social Presence Continued: Rethinking Skills for Graduate Students

Introduction

social presence

In the last blog that I wrote for OCDI, I discussed activities designed to encourage the specific type of interpersonal communication required early in the process of turning an online graduate sociology seminar into a community of inquiry. The activities described foster a sense of group identity among sociology graduate students. The first activity allows them to examine the extent to which they possess a view of social phenomena that is distinctively sociological. The second set of activities allow them to reflect on and discus sociological concepts and theoretical perspectives with which they are familiar because they were first encountered in their undergraduate introduction to sociology course and discussed with some regularity in many of the courses required for the major.

Before I can focus on a checklist for creating cognitive or teaching presence, I must focus on one additional activity required to create a climate that will foster the required social presence. The next climate setting activity early in the process of turning this online classroom into a community of inquiry turns the attention of participants to skills.

Broadly Transferable Skills

The first part of the skills activity relates to the OCDI concern with transferable learning. The assignment is preemptive. I require that participants demonstrate the ability to think logically about how the skills they acquire or hone in this seminar (and the other courses required for an MS in sociology) will contribute to the list of transferrable skills that are applicable to their future professional endeavors. I provide examples. But they must answer the question of how they will apply the skill for themselves.

An Incomplete List of Graduate Student Skills – Graduate College University of Illinois –

http://www.grad.illinois.edu/sites/default/files/pdfs/gradstudentskills.pdf

Graduate Students Transferrable Skills Northwestern University Career Services
http://www.northwestern.edu/careers/media/pdfs/Graduate%20Student%20Transferable%20Skills%20Handout.pdf

A Focus on Group Projects

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I then ask them to review the requirements for the group projects in the course and to identify the skills and tools that they will need to have in the group to achieve success as a group.  Recently I have been experiencing “cognitive dissonance” about how the project must change if the seminar participants must use only open web resources. The dissonance was resolved as I worked on writing this blog and thinking about how to create an open web class project.

The Traditional Literature Review Relies on Subscriptions

For several decades, the project in the seminars I facilitate has been a traditional review of the literature (or at least a good start on a literature review). The process of conducting a literature review provides students with the opportunity to enhance a number of transferrable skills. For those in the thesis track and for those who plan doctoral studies the transfer is visible and direct. The literature review is more than an assignment. It is a “rite of passage” connected with the writing of theses and dissertations as part of “severe” initiations into academia. Those who were planning applied work often went through the same process even though they were not pledging academia.

In the 21st century, VCU Libraries is more than a partner in this process. The library offers instruction on writing literature reviews in sociology. The library offers tools including databases, bibliographic database managers, access to journals through subscription, and interlibrary loan. The librarians will teach people to use these resources in classes and workshops and even in one on one consultations. Without use of the journals and tools that are available by subscription through the library, this traditional project becomes undoable.

Access to Research Libraries is Limited

There are few open access journals in sociology. Open sociology journals are not the only limits that students in the online-applied sociology program face. It is very important to remember that when people leave the university they lose access to the many research library services that advanced graduate students and faculty members take for granted. Therefore, it is important that students in the applied online option learn to use resources to which they will not lose access when they graduate.

I am working on designing a new class project that relies on open web resources and free web 2.0 tools. I can use these resources to create class projects that impart needed skills without worrying about loss of access after graduation. The applied online students also need class projects that help with the “professional paper” that they must write at the end of their internship experience rather than help with the literature review that informs thesis writing. I can do that!

 

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Designed Just for the Online Applied Option

I propose to guide the online applied students through activities that focus on the “gray” literature open to the public.  I propose to introduce them to bibliographic database managers that are free of charge and that allow collaboration with work colleagues not connected to the University.  I propose to require them to present their findings professionally rather than academically.

Effective: Fall 2014 SOCY 693 Internship Semester course; 150 contact hours. 3 credits. May be repeated for a maximum total of 6 credits. Permission of the internship coordinator and graduate director required for enrollment. A graduate-level internship that allows students to explore professional opportunities as related to the discipline of sociology. Students will be required to write a professional paper applying sociological concepts and methodologies to their experiences in the setting, as appropriate.

I believe that taking the time to walk the students who have chosen the online applied option through assignments that have clearly been designed with their needs in mind provides additional impetus for students to identify with each other and with the goals of the course. I do not think that I can over emphasize the importance of this when students may never meet each other outside of the virtual world.

I think this approach also conveys the first message that I want them to receive about my presence as a teacher.

Hi, my name is Ann Creighton-Zollar. I made this just for you.

 

With these plans in writing, I can turn to a checklist for creating cognitive presence.

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Learner Centered Environments and Social Presence

Introduction

 

One way in which the framework presented in “How People Learn” (HPL) and the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model overlap to help me create an effective course is at the intersection of “learner centered” and “social presence.”  According to the HPL framework, in order to create an effective course I must design a seminar that centers on the participants by paying attention to their initial knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs. Social presence is one of the three presences in the CoI model. It is a complex concept associated with both social and academic factors.

 

In the HPL framework, the word community refers to an environmental context in which participants share norms. In this approach, learning occurs best when the norms “encourage academic risk-taking and opportunities to make mistakes, obtain feedback, and revise.” According to this framework, it is only in a context of intellectual camaraderie that we can expect students to reveal their preconceptions about a subject matter, their questions, and their progress toward understanding.

Defining Social Presence

There are important differences between earlier and more recent definitions of social presence and I think that an understanding of community in the CoI model becomes clearer when these changes are considered

 SOCIAL PRESENCE3

According to Garrison, the later definition does a better job of conveying “…the dynamic nature of the social presence construct in a progressively developing community of inquiry.”

Social presence in an academic context means creating a climate that supports and encourages probing questions, skepticism and the contribution of explanatory ideas. Sustaining critical thinking and discourse requires a sense of belonging that must develop over time.

Garrison, D. Randy (2011-05-20). E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and Practice (Kindle Locations 817-819). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

The Categories of Social Presence

CATEGORIES OF SOCIAL PRESENCE

The original classification scheme for social presence included three broad categories: affective communication, open communication, and cohesive communicative responses. After the first decade of research, it appeared that affective responses might not be the defining characteristic of social presence in a community of inquiry and that is why in the newer definition group identity is seen as taking precedence over personal identity.

 

The research suggested that a classroom focus on affective ties between individuals diminishes academic functioning by undermining the aspects of cognitive presence that rely on the willingness of participants to be critical of each other. At a practical level, Garrison says that while individuals should be encouraged to provide autobiographies, this must not be done in ways that distract from the academic purpose.

 

Rather than trying to force close relationships between individuals as a CoI is forming, the classroom environment should allow these relationships to develop naturally and progressively through the processes of purposeful and collaborative inquiry.

INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION

Early on in the process of turning an online classroom into a community of inquiry, a specific type of interpersonal communication is required. This form of interpersonal communication must create a climate that emphasizes a sense of belonging to the group and to its educational goals. The interpersonal communication must create an “academic” environment, an environment that is respectful and supportive enough to allow both critical reflection and discourse.

 

My Interest in the Concepts

 

This is not the first time that I have written about these concepts in the past few months, so a few words about my continuing interest in them appears suitable.  I am charged with designing two graduate level seminars for first and second year graduate students in sociology who have chosen the online-applied option. I also expect students who have chosen the thesis option and some students from related disciplines who have a serious interest in how sociologists approach the subject matter. However, based on recent experience, I also expect students to register for the fall semester who lack the ability to identify with a group composed of sociology graduate students or with sociology as the course of study.

One of the most common misconceptions that students, even at the graduate level, have about sociology is that it is “just common sense.” They think of sociology courses as fun and easy but not academically rigorous. These students sometimes register for graduate level seminars with no sociological background, no sociological goals, and no sense that this is problematic. If the semester starts with too much emphasis on affect or too much time on the autobiographical, they become entrenched before they realize that there is a group with a shared agenda. They do not belong and do not wish to belong to this group.

Therefore, I have been spending a great deal of time trying to come up with new writing exercises for the start of the semester, exercises that set the appropriately academic tone. I want students to be able to start the semester writing about themselves so that I can learn something about the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and skills that they bring with them.  I hope that the new approaches to creating social presence demonstrate the existence of a core group with shared sociological learning goals while simultaneously allowing them to express their conceptual diversity.

In the spring semester, I asked students to complete the VARK questionnaire and to write an essay about their learning preferences. By graduate school, they all tend to have multimodal preferences and the essay is simply a chance to start with metacognition. However, it was also a chance to become too autobiographical and too affective.  In the fall, I am starting out both metacognitive and sociological. And I must thank Susan Bodnar-Deen for reminding me how sociologists prefer to introduce themselves.

One goal of the program in sociology is for all of its graduate students to develop a “sophisticated” understanding of sociological concepts and theories. In the fall, the first thing that I want to know about the seminar participants is where they stand in the social structure – agency debate. I have a one-page hand out and two short videos on the topic. After they have read the hand out and watched the video, I expect graduate students in sociology to be able to tell me where they stand and why. In addition, I expect the brief response to “why” to be slightly more persuasive than “It’s just my opinion.”

One of the triggers that I will use for the discussion of structure-agency is this 14:00 minute TEDx lecture by Sam Richards.

In the second exercise of the semester, I will provide them with triggers and ask them to tell me where they stand on micro-macro (and is that congruent with their structure-agency position) and where they stand on order-conflict. I want to know if they most closely identify with conflict theory, structural functionalism, symbolic interactionism, or exchange theory.

The next exercise deals with what  skills (sociological, technological, and transferable) each student brings to the table. In this exercise, I ask the students to consider the requirements of “group projects” and to consider what skills a team would need to have in order to successfully complete them.  I ask them to assess the extent to which they possess these skills and what skills they would need other members of their team to possess.  Then we talk about collaboration. Given the chance, I create self-directed work teams composed of people with complementary skill sets.  I expect the  sociology graduate students will find these activities in which they identify their philosophical and theoretical standpoints as well as their skills to promote identification with the other sociology students and with the discipline.  These introductory activities require the type of interpersonal communication that leads to the next steps in creating social presence: open communication and cohesive responses.

Hopefully, the  students who joined the seminar with the perception of a graduate level seminar in sociology as a course that requires nothing more than “commonsense”  will notice sooner, rather than later, that the sociology graduate students are not actually speaking standard English and have a different understanding of course goals and learning objectives. Creating social presence in this way will contribute to the creation of cognitive presence and the achievement of the academic goals that have been set for graduate students in sociology.

And Then I Blew Up the Kitchen

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The Two Year Old

Where I come from they say that bad things come in threes. I did not have that saying in mind as my recovery from eye surgery progressed much more slowly than the surgeon predicted. I have learned to anticipate surgical optimism. Even when an epidural steroid injection knocked me out for a day I was still hopeful about my potential for meaningful group collaboration.  Then I blew up the kitchen.

The smoke alarm provided by ADT is very loud and disorienting. I managed to change the setting on the whole house fan and to open the front and back doors but I could not find the house phone. I heard the wail of the approaching fire engine and my next door neighbor calling out “Miss Ann, Miss Ann” at the same time. I wanted to run through the house and gather precious stuff but good sense prevailed and I simply picked up my purse and stepped out onto the porch. Note to Self -Keeping purse by door – GREAT JOB.

It was hours before I thought about my homework and my group again and when I did I felt pretty hopeless. Then I opened the purse and spotted the “Smartphone.”

It is only a few weeks old. The purchase was not motivated by a desire to be a better student or teacher. It was a capitulation to the communication styles of my children and grandchildren.  A grandmother who does not text is out of the loop. I pulled out the phone and emailed my group.

Once the device was in my hands I decided to try Google docs. Life will never be the same again. I need a new prescription for corrective lenses. I need better control over this one finger (I will never be a thumb typist). But even with one eye, and it in need of correction, I can see the potential.  It will be a few days before my house is habitable again. That gives me some time to see how smart this phone really is.

The WordPress app is next. If I can post my reflection using only this device then this week will have been characterized by a huge learning arc.

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And it will be even more important with the next batch of grandchildren.  As the 18 year old gave the Farewell Address for the class of 2014, her two year old cousin demanded the iPhone to play a game and her eight year old brother worked on his selfie skills.

Reflections – OCDI Online 1

 

woman with birds flying from its hair

 

Reflections on Unasked Questions

This week I spent much time in reflection. I reflected on how good practices in graduate education might be similar to and different from those for undergraduates. I reflected on how facilitating graduate seminars in sociology for students who selected the applied online option might differ from those designed for students in the thesis track. For example, when I reminded myself that I am designing classes for the applied online option, I stopped obsessing about “the literature review” and the idea of giving up the sociology journals that are only available to those with subscriptions became somewhat easier. Going through the VCU Libraries website, searching the databases, and then clicking on that bright yellow button are deeply ingrained behavior patterns, as is clicking on the Inter-Library Loan button when VCU does not have a subscription.

 

vcu_getit

The students in the applied online program will still need ways to answer questions about “what is known or not known” about an issue or topic. There are few open online journals in sociology. Therefore, I will need to identify or create a way of approaching the known about a topic that does not require the traditional literature review.

Open Online Sociology Journals

 

Contribution of Selected Tools to Good Practice

While reflecting on these issues, I identified several tools that I use or plan to use in the seminars that I facilitate. I believe that having our entire program on the open web communicates high expectations for the instructors and the students. The contributions of all participants will be available for anyone who cares to look to see and to critique. The students will know that this is their “permanent record.”The variety of tools that I have identified demonstrate respect for diverse ways of knowing. Screencasting combined with WordPress meets visual and aural needs along with those for reading and writing. Each of the tools that I selected encourages active learning and student engagement. WordPress, Jing, and Camtasia can also work to increase contact and as ways of providing feedback.

 

Cognitive Domain Category

Key Word

Tool

Remembering
Bookmarking

 

Diigo
Understanding
Categorizing, Tagging, commenting & annotating
Diigo
Subscribing
WordPress RSS Aggregator
Applying
Editing
Camtasia, SnagIt
Analyzing
Surveying
Survey Money
Evaluating
Critical Commenting
Word Press
Creating
Blogging
WordPress
Screencasting
Jing, Camtasia

 

I name a category on the cognitive domain of Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, a keyword, and a tool because in addition to understanding the contribution that various tools make to good practice , I am also interested in how they relate to specifying learning objectives.

 

A Tool Report – Camtasia

Camtasia

Screen Recording and Screencasting Tool

Who Makes It?

TechSmith – http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.htm

What Is It?

Camtasia is screen-recording software that allows the recording of the actions that are taking place on a computer screen.

Camtasia also allows you to add video, images, and even sound from other sources to the recording.

The recording can then be “produced” as a video that will play in any browser.

Short topical screen recordings are “screencasts.”

How Much Does it Cost?

Camtasia can be downloaded for $299. Adding a boxed copy only increases the price by shipping and handling. Educational pricing is available and so are packages that bundle Camtasia with other TechSmith products.

Who’s doing it?

“Screencasts have become a regular fixture in distance education programs because they provide a sense of engagement between faculty and students without compromising the ability to access learning materials online whenever and wherever it is convenient.”
[http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/7-things-you-should-know-about-screencasting]

Why is it significant?

Screencasts provide students with lessons they can watch at their convenience and as often as they want.

What are the downsides?

A general criticism of screencasting is that it is not interactive.

Camtasia does have the ability to create mini flash quizzes that provide feedback to students.

Where is it going?

In the past, e-learning environments have been text-based, favoring those with preferences or needs for learning through reading and writing.

Screencasting provides the means for communicating with those who need and/or prefer to learn visually and aurally.

What are the implications for higher education?

Screencasts provide a simple means to extend rich course content to distance students, students with disabilities (who might have restricted access to certain class sessions or presentations), and anyone else who might benefit from the material but cannot attend a presentation. The technology also offers a simple means of providing a fixed presentation, one that shows the same material in a consistent, repeatable form.

Reference – 7 Things You Should Know About Screen Casting – From Educase

Tutorials and Guides

From TechSmith

Text Based Guides

http://www.techsmith.com/tutorial-cs8-user-guides.html

Video Tutorials

http://www.techsmith.com/tutorial-camtasia-8.html

Resources to assist with incorporating Camtasia and their other products into online course.

http://www.techsmith.com/education-online-course-design.html

Open Web

 

Sociology of Nutrition: A Course for the M.S/ in Sociology Applied Option

Participants in this seminar will become a community of learners engaged in a process of critical inquiry into the sociological issues related to nutrition in the US. Participants in this online community of inquiry will construct meaning largely through reflection on course content and confirm meaning largely through discourse. Operationalized through the iterative phases of the Practical Inquiry (PI) model this process will include a focus on both the metacognition and the metacommunication that are essential for deeper learning.

 

Participants in this seminar will engage the multimodal learning content on nutrition available through the open World Wide Web (web). They will also share their reflections on the content through the open web using blogs. They will engage in discourse with classmates, and potentially the world, using the open website required for each course in the online program for the M.S. in Sociology Applied option (OAP). Participants will also collaborate in self-directed work teams to produce a high quality multi-modal presentation for the open web that they will be proud to have in their developing online professional portfolios.

 

Earlier, I discussed my attempt to assimilate the Practical Inquiry (PI) model by associating its vertical dimension with the logic of science and its horizontal dimension with the sociological imagination. Each course that I design for this program will pay explicit attention to how the rich content available through the open web can help to move an aware community of learners through the phases of the PI in a highly engaging manner.

 

Seminar participants live what we study. This learning must transfer. The participants in this seminar are students in a program directed toward the application of sociological concepts and theories as well as the application of sociological methods.  This course will help them to approach important issues related to nutrition from a sociological perspective.

 

My vision is a diverse community of learners approaching the nutritional issues facing our society using both metacognition and metacommunication to engage with and to produce multimodal learning content combining the logic of science with the sociological imagination on the open web while highly engaged in moving with purpose through the phases of PI in order to achieve deeper learning.

 

Seminar in Social Inequalities: A Course for the M.S/ in Sociology Applied Option

Participants in this seminar will become a community of learners engaged in a process of critical inquiry into the social inequalities deeply embedded into the structure of society. Participants in this online community of inquiry will construct meaning largely through reflection on course content and confirm meaning largely through discourse. Operationalized through the iterative phases of the Practical Inquiry (PI) model this process will include a focus on both the metacognition and the metacommunication that are essential for deeper learning.

 

Participants in this seminar will engage the multimodal learning content on social inequality available through the open World Wide Web (web). They will also share their reflections on the content through the open web using blogs. They will engage in discourse with classmates, and potentially the world, using the open website required for each course in the online program for the M.S. in Sociology Applied option (OAP). Participants will also collaborate in self-directed work teams to produce a high quality multi-modal presentation for the open web that they will be proud to have in their developing online professional portfolios.

 

Earlier, I discussed my attempt to assimilate the Practical Inquiry (PI) model by associating its vertical dimension with the logic of science and its horizontal dimension with the sociological imagination. I also mentioned that I would design this course paying explicit attention to how the rich content available through the open web could help to move an aware community of learners through the phases of the PI in a highly engaging manner.

 

Seminar participants live what we study. This learning must transfer. The participants in this seminar are students in a discipline that has an emphasis on the study of inequality. This course must help them to achieve two important program goals: a sophisticated understanding of sociological concepts and theories and the ability to apply sociological methods and theory to their current or desired areas of professional interest.

 

My vision is a diverse community of learners approaching the structural inequalities embedded in society using both metacognition and metacommunication to engage with and to produce multimodal learning content combining the logic of science with the sociological imagination on the open web while highly engaged in moving with purpose through the phases of PI in order to achieve deeper learning.

HIGH ENGAGEMENT – OCDI PRE-INSTITUTE BLOG 3

What does “high engagement for student success” mean to you with respect to (online) learning?
High student engagement (What affordances of the web as a platform of (social) participation will be utilized to move beyond didactic paradigms that focus on the acquisition of information by students?)

 

I am very aware of the fact that linking the vertical dimension of the practical inquiry model with the “logic of science” and the horizontal dimension with the sociological imagination makes me the “poster child” for assimilation learning theory. However, I also know that before I made these connections my brain was bleeding from the trauma of new learning. Therefore, I want to work with these cognitive presence concepts until the newly plowed furrows are closer to healed. Therefore, I am thinking about how I can use the phases of the practical inquiry model to organize my continuing efforts to move “…beyond didactic paradigms that focus on the acquisition of information by students.”

 

The four phases of the practical inquiry model are trigger, exploration, integration, and resolution. The first question that I must address is what the web provides to facilitate high engagement through each phase.  The second question is what “high engagement for student success” means to me with respect to online learning in a seminar in social inequalities. This blog offers some of my first and definitely incomplete thoughts.

 

The web definitely provides triggering events. Recently, I experienced the power with which an internet meme can function as a triggering event for a consideration of social inequalities. What I found fascinating was the extent to which my Facebook friends shared memes that I considered so out of character with their worldviews. I could not resist further exploration of why my “friends” were sharing memes carrying such contradictory messages. Yes, I do know that people are capable of holding mutually contradictory cognitions. However, these people until that moment had presented themselves to me as the possessors of relatively coherent perspectives worked out over decades.

 

What I discovered was that they were sharing memes without benefit of thought, certainly without engaging in metacognitive processes. In the seminar in social inequalities, I would like to engage first and second year graduate students in responding to memes that deal with social inequality more thoughtfully.  (What started this train of thought was Rotten ecards and the food stamp battle just as the 2014 Farm Bill was being passed).

 

I believe that the initial responses to the memes will provide insight into the extent to which students bring their ability to think hypothetically to these triggering events. When shown the image and its accompanying text, how many possible explanations can they generate? The generation of meaningful hypotheses also requires access to relevant information. I have talked with audiences where few knew that there was a connection between the Farm Bill and “food stamps.” I know people who have never heard of the 2008 recession. Last semester one of the graduate students who was studying with me was dismayed to learn that there are hungry people in the USA.

 

I will see the participants in this seminar as “highly engaged for success” when they are more actively engaged in the search for alternative explanations, for information that can refute their initial hypotheses. I know that an important part of what I must do during the exploration phase is to guide seminar participants to relevant sources of information.  I think that Diigo can play an important role in this process. I also think that shared Refworks folders will be useful for the participants in this seminar.

 

Long ago, I set out to make the transition from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side.” However, on occasion I still feel pushed to be the “sage on the side.” I need strategies that allow students to achieve integration without returning myself to center stage. Finally, I need to make sure that I do a better job of planning so that I do not repeat what I have done here: run out of time before achieving resolution.

DEEPER LEARNING – OCDI PRE-INSTITUTE BLOG 2

If you find errors in these posts, please point them out to me. Even after three eye surgeries, I am unable to error proof everything that I write.

 

“Does the learning generalize beyond this one course?”
http://rampages.us/ocdi/about/
 “How will the course be about more than content delivery and mastery?
http://online.vcu.edu/about/
“What does “deeper learning” mean to you with respect to (online) learning?” http://rampages.us/ocdi/schedule/pre-institute-activities/

 

The prospect of provoking deeper learning in an online environment is exhilarating. From my perspective, provoking deeper learning means that I must facilitate the mastering of core sociological content while promoting the development of an academic mindset and increasing the abilities to think critically and creatively, collaborate, communicate effectively, and to learn independently in an online environment (http://www.deeper-learning.org/resources.php).

 

In the online environment, helping students to improve their time management skills is also an important part of my responsibility. I cannot “know” that the main reason students withdraw from their online courses is that they fall behind and do not think they can catch up without trying to do something about it.

 

I believe that everyone who teaches sociology wants to awaken or nurture the sociological imaginations of those who study with us.  We want them to understand the intersection of biography and history and therefore have some difficulty imagining teaching and learning that do not transfer beyond a single class.

For that imagination is the capacity to shift from one perspective to another—from the political to the psychological; from examination of a single family to comparative assessment of the national budgets of the world; from the theological school to the military establishment; from considerations of an oil industry to studies of contemporary poetry. It is the capacity to range from the most impersonal and remote transformations to the most intimate features of the human self—and to see the relations between the two.

Mills, C. Wright (2000-02-28). The Sociological Imagination: 40th Anniversary Edition (Kindle Locations 106-110). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

Putting “applied” in front of “sociology” indicates an explicit intent to provoke learning that transfers into professional lives.

 

I also believe that for first and second year graduate students deeper learning in sociology requires the ability to put the disciplinary humpty dumpty back together again.For pedagogical purposes, the teaching of sociology is usually broken down into theory, methods, and substantive areas. Even at the master’s level, many students continue to believe that these divisions are real. They frequently say things such as, “I love theory but I don’t like methods.” To me that is similar to preferring one arc of a circle to another. One way of helping them to see the relationship between the interesting topics covered in a seminar on social inequalities and the theories and methods of sociology is by teaching the “logic of science” in sociology.

 

The “trick” (a complex act requiring skill) here is to help students understand the logic of science without turning them into the “abstracted empiricists” for which Mills had so much disdain.  I want them to learn the logic of science but not to become more attached to the philosophy of science than they are to social study or social change. My recent participation in Preparing to Teach Online (PtTO) has offered me some insight into how I might approach this task online.

 

PtTO introduced me to the work of Garrison, his colleagues, and their Practical Inquiry Model.

Practical Inquiry Model (Garrison, R. D. (2007). Online community of inquiry review: Social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 11(1), 61-72.)

Practical Inquiry Model (Garrison, R. D. (2007). Online community of inquiry review: Social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 11(1), 61-72.)

The vertical dimension of this model deals with inductive and deductive reasoning, as does the logic of science. The horizontal dimension where the private and shared worlds meet is also the realm of the sociological imagination. I think that I can make this work!

DISTINCTIVENESS – OCDI PRE-INSTITUTE BLOG 1

If you find errors in these posts, please point them out to me. Even after three eye surgeries, I am unable to error proof everything that I write.

 

When geography no longer matters, why would a student choose THIS course from THIS university taught by YOU?

 

I do not know, YET. Starting my participation in the VCU OCDI with an admission of ignorance is slightly disconcerting, but only slightly. Both the question and the course that I am designing are new to me. As I start the course design process, I am delighted with the idea that I can create a course that is as unique as I am. However, the distinctiveness of the course will emerge from the process through which I develop the appropriate pedagogical mindset and the technological literacies required to create a singular learning environment on the open web

 

The course that I am designing, a graduate seminar in social inequalities, will be a required course in an online Master of Science in Applied Sociology program. Therefore, I think that the first question to which I need an answer is how the program will be distinct from others. In my opinion, which is seldom humble, students benefit when the courses in such a program share some purposively unified themes.

 

The structure, goals, and themes of the program will provide the constraints within which I can be creative. I am very excited that I will have an opportunity to discuss program and course design with my sociology colleagues over the coming weeks. The first question that I have for them is also about distinctiveness. the distinctiveness of our students.

 

When geography no longer matters, what students are we trying to attract to THIS program at THIS University?