When Associate Professor of Sociology Kendralin Freeman teaches her senior seminar — a research practicum and overview of the discipline — she asks students to visit a store to experience how cashiers ask customers if they’d like to apply for a charge card. The activity is part of a discussion of organizations’ literature, about how companies use scripts to guide customer interactions.
In the age of coronavirus, that activity had to change.
As part of the shift to online learning, Freeman enlisted the help of student facilitators, and they were instrumental in developing a digital version of the activity: students were asked to conduct shopping with an online retailer.
“Students were able to share their experiences of online customer service and reflect on the similarities and differences between that and our reading,” says Lukian Maratovic ’20, one of the student facilitators. Ideas for virtual activities often came from the answers students provided to questions posted in online discussion boards.
The senior seminar was one of three courses Freeman shifted to remote learning in the spring semester — and she took a different approach to make each class work.
In the 300-level seminar “Race and Education,” students were required to solve two problems in 48 hours, which they did collectively using online discussion boards. When the whole class met virtually to discuss reading assignments and projects, Freeman again used student facilitators to guide discussion.
“I was nervous to be the first person to facilitate remotely,” says Chandler Lane ’22. “But after creating a plan with Professor Freeman in her virtual office hours, I had a good idea of how it was going to work. The discussion ended up being similar to any other class.”
Freeman’s 200-level elective “Kids in Contention” course explores the sociology of childhood. Because several students were located on the West Coast, the spring class was conducted completely asynchronously.
Students turned in weekly reading notes and met in small virtual groups to discuss their readings. Freeman returned her thoughts to them in weekly recaps. “This let me see their ideas and then provide feedback, along with some additional resources,” she says. The inclusion of virtual office hours allowed her to meet with students individually as well.
While she didn’t anticipate teaching her courses remotely, Freeman was pleased with how things went with her virtual classes and is considering continuing some of the strategies — such as the collective problem solving in her “Race and Education” class — when she teaches again in person in the classroom.