Innovative Practices Spotlight

CAE Innovative Practices Spotlight


Dr. Lisa Schreiber, Associate Professor, Communication & Theatre

The Center for Academic Excellence is recognizing a faculty member every month in the CAE Innovative Practices Spotlight to highlight his or her innovative classroom practices and outstanding contribution to Millersville University.

Dr. Lisa Schreiber is being recognized in February for her exceptional use of IT Practices in her Communication and Theatre courses!

Please continue reading to learn more about Dr. Schreiber’s exciting experience and to learn ways to incorporate innovative practices into your classroom…

1. What innovative practice did you incorporate into your classroom?

The innovative practice that has been most worthwhile for me is using D2L to “shrink” the classroom.  In our department, some faculty are assigned to teach the large sections of COMM 100.  In this format, students had traditionally attended two lecture days in a large auditorium and then one small lab/breakout session to do their speeches.  For me, teaching in an auditorium is alienating.  I find it more difficult to get to know students and for them to get to know one another, I believe it interferes with the development of a class identity and the cohesiveness that aids in reducing speech anxiety, and I think the auditorium setting encourages shenanigans that are not present in a smaller classroom setting.  So now instead of the large section, I teach three smaller 33 student sections in a technology enhanced format.  Each section meets for two hours per week (one on Monday, one Wednesday and one Friday) and the rest of the work is done online.

2. When did you implement the new practice into your classroom?

I started teaching in this format about four years ago, and my first semester was a disaster because I did not know how to use D2L very well.

3. Did the students willingly accept the use of the new practice? What were the reactions of the students?

Well, the problem is sometimes students have been registered for the class by someone else and they do not realize they have landed in a technology enhanced class until the first day.  I spend a lot of time at the start of the course explaining to students what is in store for them.  As a student, you have to be disciplined to keep up with the weekly online work, because I have everything set up to automatically open and close.  Most students are comfortable with the technology, and the main challenge is to help them avoid missed deadlines.  I use a very detailed schedule, a clear class organizational structure, and explicit assignment guidelines.  Every week students have the same things to do: 1. Online homework, 2. Homework to complete and bring to class, and 3. A weekly chapter quiz.  The technology helps ensure the work gets done because everything the student needs can be found in one place.

4. How has the use of the new practice positively affected the classroom-learning environment?

Students are prepared when they come to class.  They have taken the chapter quiz before we meet and they can apply the material in class activities.  It takes a lot of time and effort to do the D2L course prep before the class starts, but the payoff is a more relaxed me while teaching during the course of the semester.  I’m not frantically writing quizzes or making copies of assignments right before class – it’s already done and students bring their own copies of things.  Overall, I think students learn more from this format and deliver better speeches.

5How has the use of the new practice affected student engagement in the classroom and the level of participation?

The smaller class size allows us to get to know one another and enables each class to develop its own identity, which in turn reduces their speaking anxiety.  They communicate easily during class activities and also in their online discussions with one another.  Participation is required in this class (it is a performance class) and I don’t have much of a problem with students sleeping.

6. What challenges did you encounter when you were implementing the new practice?

The main challenge for me was getting to know how D2L worked, and making sure I had all of the appropriate boxes checked.  Sorry D2L admin, but I still find D2L clunky and it feels like you have to complete 100 steps just to post a simple assignment or add a drop box.  But, I am not a detail oriented person so that is probably what vexes me.  Today I am much better working in D2L – but it takes practice and I still make mistakes sometimes.

7. What resources are available if you are thinking about creating a technology enhanced class?

When I was first getting my courses online I worked with Al Unrath who gave me a number of really great ideas that I still use today.  For instance, in many of my classes I give chapter quizzes (randomly generated from a bank of questions) which have to be completed prior to the class when we cover the material - so we can apply it in class activities.  Al suggested I allow students three attempts at the quiz and not provide them with the answers along the way.  This annoys students, but it forces them to look up all of the concepts and work with the material more as they are working through their quiz attempts - resulting in greater knowledge and ultimately higher quiz scores.  Marie Firestone has also been of great help to me.  I have attended several of her D2L sessions and I regularly contact her when I mess something up in D2L. [Lisa: "Marie, why won't my quiz work!?" Marie: "Because you have the dates set to last year."  Lisa: "Doh!"]  The help desk has also cleared up issues for students and myself.  At the end of the day, even people who do not often use technology can find resources on campus to help them get a technology enhanced class off the ground.