Designing for Active Reflection: A University Virtual-Classroom Case Study

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Online Forums 2012 - January 27, 2012
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Peter Finn

Adjunct Faculty
Northwestern University

Jeff Merrell

Associate Director, MSLOC and CLOC
Northwestern University

How do you leverage virtual-classroom technologies to extend the reach of a successful on-campus university program? In 2009, Northwestern University’s Master’s Program in Learning & Organizational Change (MSLOC) began making its on-campus courses available through a format combining two-day intensive on-campus sessions with 10 weeks of virtual learning. As a result, the program now draws graduate students — working business and nonprofit professionals with an average of 11 years’ experience — from across the U.S. This program requires students to use their organizations and experience as the focus of classroom discussions and research projects; this requires a lot of active reflection on their part, and becomes especially challenging when much of the course is virtual.

Participants in this session will learn about MSLOC’s approach to identifying the virtual tools and instructional techniques necessary to maintain the rigor of its on-campus courses. You’ll see the process undertaken by faculty and administrators to develop a virtual experience that exceeds student expectations. You’ll also hear about lessons learned and how the program has benchmarked the success of its  virtual offering with its on-campus course. Finally, you’ll examine the pitfalls and challenges in engaging students in course concepts, providing room for dialogue, creating spaces for active reflection, and coordinating team learning projects.

In this session, you will learn:

  • About a comprehensive, effective approach for developing a virtual educational program
  • About tools you can use to support a virtual program
  • Techniques for creating lively engagement and reflection among students
  • About conceptual complexity in a virtual environment
  • About strategies for continually improving your virtual program

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