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STUDENTS CORNER AND ACTIVITIES


The most crucial, yet memorable days of one's life need the right kind of support and guidance to lead to a successful career and an enriching life. Though studies form a major part of a student’s life, it will be unwise to be indifferent to numerous other potentials and talents that lie dormant in each of us. This section attempts to bring together elements to allow all round development of student life, exploring the limitless possibilities of extra-curricular stimulation, while giving due importance to academic pursuits.

This corner is exclusively designed for students, right from the primary education to the level higher secondary education.




Three Ways to Discover Interests


1. Thumb Ball
The Thumb Ball is an interactive way to get students talking. Use it as a starter, energizer, getting-to-know-you or Circle Time activity to stimulate peer relationships and discover student interests. The basic principle is to throw the ball to a member of the group and get them to respond to one of the categories under their thumb when they catch it – hence the name. The ball is covered in categories relating to a central theme such as ’skills’, ‘hobbies’ or ‘personal qualities’ and can easily be adapted to fit virtually any curriculum area.

2. Learning Chips/Cooperative Cards
These work in much the same way as the thumball. Questions are written on each chip/card and offered to students. The student takes one and responds accordingly. These are also a nice group activity – split students into groups of four and have them work through a selections of chips/cards by themselves to build team spirit and encourage students to discover more about each other. Cooperative cards can be made using index cards and are also available ready-made in the ‘Relationship Builders’ pack mentioned above.

3. Suggestion Box
Have a cardboard box on your desk and invite students at the end of a session to give you some information about their interests. “On your way out please write your favorite hobby/team/band/sport etc. on a piece of paper with your name on and leave it in the box on my desk.”

Examples of Student Activities

1. Beginning-of-course activities
2. Case studies and problem-based learning
3. Collaborative activities
4. Communications
5. Projects (general)
6. Quiz-like assessments
7. Research assignments
8. Virtual (or real) field trips
9. Virtual tools
10. Writing activities

Beginning-of-course activities

Student bios
At the beginning of the course students are requested to post a brief bio to a bulletin board area to introduce themselves to the rest of the class and also to familiarize them with the course technology. The bio can be guided by several questions for them to answer.

Student home pages
Students are asked to create a home page for use in the course, where they let the instructor and fellow students know a little about themselves. Instructors can guide this activity by providing students with a template to follow. At the World Campus, we often use an on-line form to facilitate the creation of these home pages. Students fill out the form and submit it in order to generate their home pages.

Personal collages
Students collect, pictures, objects, etc. that reflect who they are and share those with other students along with an explanation of why they chose each item. In residence this might be done by pasting items onto a poster board. For distance delivered courses, students could create collages by finding digital images (with permission, of course) or scanning new ones and creating a collage in the form of a Web page. This is great for introverts who may not express themselves in words!


Case studies and problem-based learning

Case studies
The instructor provides a scenario (a "story," often real life) that is relevant to course material and students are asked to structure a report or respond to questions based on the materials. The most well-known of these are probably the "Harvard Case Study models. The focus here is on analysis...being able to critically analyze, "pull about," and learn from the scenario.

Problem-based activity
The instructor presents students with a detailed problem (a scenario or "story line") and students in teams try to solve it. The focus here is on problem-solving skills...learning HOW to solve problems is every bit as important as the actual solutions generated. Resources they'll need to complete the activity may be provided and/or students may need to determine on their own what resources they'll need. For example, in an Instructional Systems course on designing computer networks for education, students worked in teams on a case study where they were told that they were part of a technology team working for a school district and were charged with designing a district-wide computer network. The case study materials included a story line and a library of resources designed to aid the students. They also needed to drawn upon previous course materials, as well as information and research they located on their own.

Interactive case studies using "Quandry"
This idea comes from Half-Baked Software, the makers of the popular free quizzing tool "Hot Potatoes." According to their Web site, "Quandary is an application for creating Web-based Action Mazes. An Action Maze is a kind of interactive case-study; the user is presented with a situation, and a number of choices as to a course of action to deal with it. On choosing one of the options, the resulting situation is then presented, again with a set of options. Working through this branching tree is like negotiating a maze, hence the name 'Action Maze'."

Collaborative activities

Teamwork where teams report out
Students are divided into teams with a leader designated for each team. They apply course concepts to solving a problem the instructor has given them and report to the back to the instructor and/or the entire class. Other students may or may not be encouraged to comment on the final solutions of other teams. Bulletin boards, e-mail, chat, and even telephone could be used to facilitate this at a distance.

Peer assessment
Students may be asked to complete an assignment that will be assessed by their peers through a tool such as the course bulletin board or e-mail (i.e., in Electrical Engineering students are given three problems to solve. Answers involve the use of mathematical equations and several variables. Answers are turned in to the instructor for grading and passed on to another student for comment.) This is an effective learning assessment tool when conditions are such that there is "no single right or wrong answer", when several methods may be used to solve a problem or address an issue.

Reading and collaborative discussion
Students are asked to read certain material and then come up with a set number of questions. They are directed to post the questions to a bulletin board or chat site and then to collaboratively address the issues. They can be split into teams or work on it as a whole. The instructor usually monitors this type of collaborative discussion lightly. The instructor can redirect if students need to refocus, or settle disputes, or add a comment to lead them in a new direction, or simply encourage them. If enrollment is large team captains can be chosen. The team captain position can rotate according to which lesson they're on, or sometimes a person will captain for a number of lessons and then switch, according to how many are enrolled.

Mentoring
Students are matched up with an expert who is local to them. (The mentors are approved by the course instructor.) That expert then serves as a mentor to the student, facilitating an instructor-designed learning experience. For example, there might be a counselor education course where students need to experience group counseling firsthand. By being paired with a local psychologist, the student could participate in such an environment in a way that would otherwise be difficult to simulate at a distance.

Networking
Students are asked to contact or describe someone they admire in the field, and the assignment is structured so they learn how to make contacts and report back on their experiences. On a more simple level, students could network with other students in their class to learn more about the rich experiences they each bring to the course.

Jigsaw
Jigsaw is good for teaching complex concepts that have a number of pieces. For a basic Jigsaw activity, you would separate students into "expert" groups. Each "expert" group is assigned a different piece of the concept to present to the rest of the class. The class first meets to discuss their individual learning needs. Then each group member goes to his or her "expert" group. In the "expert" group, the students work on ways to present their piece of content effectively so that the rest of the class "gets" it. Once their presentation is ready, the "expert" groups teach their concept to the class. You can assess this learning activity through peer review or through a quiz that shows the success of the individual presentations within a group. Jigsaw is a good way to ensure individual responsibility while using collaborative learning.


Communications

Guided discussion forums
This is structured around a bulletin board or chat tool. The instructor can come up with various topics of discussion and post them at strategic points in the course timeframe. Points are allotted for class participation. Instructors are encouraged to monitor lightly and sum up key points at the close of discussion. Role playing or debate can be useful frameworks around which to build discussion.

Interview
Students are asked to interview an expert in the field of study and draw up a report on it. They can post the report to a bulletin board or chat area, they can turn in hard copy, or they can be guided to collaborate on their findings. The interview can be guided in various ways by the instructor, i.e., preset questions or suggestions can be introduced. The interview can be by phone, e-mail, or face-to-face. (Permission waivers must be completed by the interviewee.)

Guest lecturer
The instructor invites a noted expert to speak at a designated time in a "conference" session. For example, an expert can be asked to monitor a bulletin board session for as long as a week, engaging once a day for an hour or two, or whatever time frame suits. Topics can be sent to students ahead of time or discussion can be guided by other parameters.

Pen pals
Students become pen pals with someone outside of the class and communicate regularly with that individual, either by handwritten letters or e-mail, in order to learn more about the other person and his/her experiences or to gain practice communicating in this manner. Such activities are especially popular in foreign language classes where students get to practice their language skills and also learn more about each others' cultures.

"Ask an expert"
Students are asked to write a letter (handwritten or e-mail) asking a question of someone of influence in the field, i.e., a government official, an editor at a publications company, etc., using concepts and ideas relevant to the course. A copy of the letter, and the expert's response, is submitted to the instructor.

Open forum
Students attend an open forum area and share their opinions and experiences on an "unmonitored" basis. Points may be given for class participation.

Students-as-teachers
Students are given a simple teaching assignment that does not require a degreed or certified representative to teach. The concept of teaching is built into their assignment in such a way as to make them actually apply the methods they've been studying.

Polling, debates, and fishbowls using "CourseTalk"
CourseTalk is a Web-based tool for course discussions (similar to a news group or bulletin board). The tool can be used for specific instructional purposes (such as polling, hotseats, and fishbowl exercises), or for general classroom communication. Users participate in discussions by posting messages via the Web. The Web-based conversations are organized and monitored by faculty or assigned moderators.


Projects

Design projects and prototypes
Depending on the design of the course, students may be asked to design and/or build a model that illustrates the concepts they're learning, For example, Infant and Child Development students are asked to design a day care center, complete with floor plan and accessories like furniture, games, books, toys, and schedule. Often these designs can be rendered on a computer using special software. Other times students might build physical models that are shipped to the instructor.

Simulations
Students are asked to create a simulation showing concepts or themes they are studying. For example, in an Architectural Lighting course they were asked to create a small model to run lighting simulations on. Many types of "virtual instruments" can be created and used to simulate various applications of course material. This can often be done on computer.

Build-as-you-go project
Students are assigned a project that they will build as they progress through the course and turn in towards the end. They are given either partial instructions along the way or complete instructions up front. This might be a written assignment, organization of material (dissertation or thesis proposal), a structure they build, or some other item they put together.

Modifying graphics
Graphics can be designed as a template for students to build on and submit back to the instructor.

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