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Reimagining Collaboration: With Professors Jon Harrison, Pierre Deviche, and Kevin McGraw

The Teaching Innovation Center kicked off their SPARC* Series with a workshop titled, "Reimagining collaboration: With Professors Jon Harrison, Pierre Deviche, and Kevin McGraw" on Wednesday, September 1, 2021. The SPARC* series stands for, "SOLS Plan to Adapt and Reimagine Courses," and is geared toward discussing the benefits, challenges, and examples of adapting and reimagining aspects of courses, both online and in-person. As classes have transitioned back to the physical classroom from distance learning in the wake of the pandemic, faculty have had to reimagine how to approach instruction. In the same sense, online courses that have continued to function online are taking a look at what works, especially in terms of engagement and collaboration. There is an opportunity to explore what has been most effective in online learning and how we can reimagine it for the physical classroom and the online sphere.

Avatars of male student wearing VR goggles next to female student sitting on books and looking at laptop
The topic of this workshop was collaboration. Collaboration or collaborative learning the practice of breaking students into small groups to answer questions, work on projects, and learn from one another – has become one of the strongest core philosophies operating in classrooms today.

The concept is not new, but with the growth of technology and the increasing value society places on the ability to work well in teams, collaborative learning has become more common.

SPARC* graphic in black
Prior to covid, collaboration in the classroom may have merely looked like in-class discussions or online discussion boards, but as we made the transition to remote learning and continued to support our online students, many instructors were forced to be creative in how students collaborate. We also have had some really stellar instructors (faculty, TAs, and more) who have continued to be creative in how they incorporate collaboration in their courses, both in-person and online. The bottom line is that there are many ways to incorporate collaborative learning in courses. This workshop, featuring Drs. Harrison, Deviche, and McGraw, had participants thinking about new and creative ways to do so.

Yellowdig and Office Hours: Dr. Jon Harrison

Dr. Jon Harrison showcased how he uses Yellowdig Engage to foster learner-learner interaction and collaboration in both online and in-person courses. Dr. Harrison also cleverly uses Yellowdig to engage learners in "office hours." He has students collaborate on topics, by commenting and "up-voting" different topics they want to see in the course's office hours. He then records office hours and posts them to Canvas for others who were not able to attend to benefit from. In doing this, Dr. Harrison found that students sometimes engage more by accessing the recorded office hours, than actually coming to office hours. Dr. Harrison's experience is an excellent example of creative collaboration utilizing ed tech like Yellowdig to ameliorate some of the previous constraints of online learning. 

Two-stage Exams: Drs. Pierre Deviche and Kevin McGraw

Drs. Pierre Deviche and Kevin McGraw shared their creative collaboration in the form of two-stage exams. Their exams allow for a collaborative two-stage approach where students first take the exam individually and then come together in pairs or groups to take the same exam collaboratively in the same session. The results were outstanding- grades went up, higher-level learning occurred, and anxiety was reduced. Dr. Kevin McGraw shared some fascinating research regarding grades and learning outcomes when implementing two-stage exams.

Missed the workshop?

Missed the workshop but would love to learn more? Check out the full workshop recording and PDF slides for more detailed information about how these professors reimagine collaboration in their courses.


Christy Jersin Woods, M.Ed. is an Instructional Designer Associate for the School of Life Sciences at ASU. She leverages technology and inclusive teaching pedagogy to assist faculty in curriculum and design of their courses. She has several years of experience teaching and in curriculum design in higher education and continues to stay up to date in literature and best practices.


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