First Fully Online Class Launched In CHASS

By Laila Rashid, CHASS Dean’s Office Student Intern
November 29, 2012

In an information age where technology and computers have become central to students’ lives, there is no better time to reflect on how this revolution has changed the way they learn. UCR took an innovative step when it launched its first fully online class this academic year—which just so happens to be in CHASS.

Dance 7, or “Dance: Cultures and Contexts,” is the first class at UCR that requires students to complete all related work entirely online; this includes both individual effort and collaboration with their professor, teaching assistant, and fellow peers. It is part of the UC system’s Online Instruction Pilot Project, or OIPP, which works to eventually gather enough research to effectively integrate online education so that it can enhance the undergraduate curriculum. Prior to being contacted by the OIPP, Jacqueline Shea Murphy, associate professor and chair of the dance department, had already thought about the concept earlier when the department discussed how to increase enrollment in the more popular lower-division classes.

When the class was first designed, it included nothing more than simple lectures and quizzes. After much thought, it grew to include a myriad of unique components. Students must use an “etherpad” (similar to a Google doc in which users may edit and write simultaneously) to interact with a few other peers and create a blog based on each of the four “modules” (topics of the course).  Each student in the group must take on a specific role, such as text editor or producer, and is held accountable for that particular role once the project is completed. The class includes video lectures taught by Professor Shea Murphy, which allows the students to pause and rewind the video if they need information to be repeated. It also includes elaborate discussion chat rooms led by a TA, where students may instant message one person or the whole class, click a button to either raise their hand or agree/disagree with a comment made, and participate in class-wide polls. So far, the class style has proved to be beneficial for many students, allowing them to engage with unfamiliar people in an all too familiar environment. Professor Shea Murphy expresses excitement for ways she feels the class “teaches necessary tools for the 21st century in terms of using the online world for critical analysis,” and “involves so much collaborative work that is typically not done in the large lecture classroom.”

It is perhaps not surprising, considering this is the very first trial, that the course initially encountered some technology challenges and needed to troubleshoot software compatibility and plug-in internet cable issues. These have since been largely resolved and now, recognizing the flexibility an online class offers, Professor Shea Murphy hopes that online versions of some classes will become available and accessible to students who live far from campus or have jobs or family responsibilities. 

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