The Importance of Ending Well: A Virtual Last Class Workshop for Course Evaluation and Evolution
Keywords:student voice, participatory design, metacognition, online learning, pandemic pedagogy
The last class session of the academic term represents an excellent opportunity to solicit meaningful feedback from students who have just completed the course. To capitalize on the students’ first-hand knowledge of their own experiences with our course and maximize the impact of the last class for our Canadian graduate-level genetics course, we have used and optimized a workshop first described by Bleicher (2011) as a means of obtaining real-time, in-person course evaluations, and driving course evolution. Presented as an empowering opportunity for student activism, students are asked to contribute collaboratively to improving future iterations of the course. This approach stimulates thoughtful discussions, generates honest and useful feedback, and requires only nominal preparative work on the part of the instructor, whose primary role during the workshop is as a facilitator. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve assessed student perceptions of two virtual models for the Last Class Workshop—one using Google Docs, a free web-based word processor, and another using Miro, a collaborative whiteboard platform—to identify whether or not the Last Class Workshop can be effectively translated for a synchronous online learning environment. Student responses to the virtual workshops have been highly positive, and participants overwhelmingly preferred the Miro adaptation. We suggest that this is an effective way to access the expert knowledge of our students to develop innovative adaptations, updates, and evolutionary change at the end of a course, and conclude with a proposal for maintaining this virtual tool after in-person learning resumes.
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