Facilitating Remote Discussions: a guide for transitioning from in-person to remote class discussions

Roger Louis Martinez-Davila's picture

Dear Colleagues,

I understand we are all stretched very thin and our nerves are quite frayed. Whether it is those of us who are already under an "estado de alarma" (like colleagues in Spain) and required to shelter at home -- or -- those of us who are watching this wave of illness roll toward us, it is easy to be consumed by anxiety and real disruptions. It is difficult to do our work.
A substantial number of us are teachers who lament the opportunity to encourage, coax, provoke, and draw our students into miraculous discussions that opens minds and hearts. Without discussion our scholarship and teaching wither.
To encourage you along your way, I am sharing work I've prepared for our faculty at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, that facilitates a process for you to think about how to transition from in-person to remote discussions. I do think the process plays to the humanist's strength -- that of observation and evaluation. And, it stretches you to imagine how real world discussions can be emulated in the digital world. What I've learned from teaching 35,000 students using MOOCs is that what works in person, often must be reformulated for the online world. Many of us are moving to video conferencing for teaching. This is wonderful. And we can enhance real-time video conferencing with students by using special digital tools and techniques to emulate what occurs in the real world.
To provide you with a framework for thinking about making this challenging move from the real world to the digital one, I've prepared a Piktochart to assist you.


1. RETURN TO YOUR PLACE OF LEARNING. Whether it is a classroom, the seminar table, a laboratory, the stage, or a workplace -- each physical space conveys how we relate and communicate with each other. Your challenge: Reconstruct the contours of the place to better understand why and how learning occurs.
2. CHARACTERIZE WHAT HAPPENS. Float like an angelic observer over your past experiences with exceptionally-rich discussions. Your challenge: Describe how participants: begin to discuss, interact, engage, slump, understand, debate, resolve, and conclude.
3. IMAGINE "RUPP EMULATIONS"*. "Rupp Emulations" replicate parts of the original item. Because we cannot holistically regenerate the entire item  in the digital world, we must breakdown the item into its essential elements. Next, we can create certain "aspects" of the original item's nature as "Rupp Emulations". Your challenge: Envision how participants in digital worlds and online discussions can: replicate the natural flow of in-person discussions, communicate using verbal and non-verbal cues, and "occupy" a digital space as a community of scholars and colleagues.

4. WORKSHEET: CREATE YOUR DIGITAL WAY. Your Transition from In-Person to Remote Discussions by imagining how real world spaces and discussions are manifested in the digital world.
Y'all take good care of yourselves,
Roger L. Martinez-Davila, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History
University of Colorado-Colorado Springs