The Importance of Ending Well: A Virtual Last Class Workshop for Course Evaluation and Evolution


  • Erin B. Styles University of Toronto
  • Elizabeth J. Polvi University of Calgary



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.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Erin B. Styles, University of Toronto

Erin B. Styles is the director of the MHSc program in Medical Genomics and an assistant professor, teaching stream in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto (CA).

Elizabeth J. Polvi, University of Calgary

Elizabeth J. Polvi is an instructor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary (CA).


Ahmmad, Amana, Imaan Moughal, Cristina Adriana Alexandru, and Aurora Constantin. 2021. “Systematic Review of Online Collaborative Whiteboard Platforms for Higher Education.” Poster presented at the University of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference, June 15.

Blankstein, Melissa, Jennifer Frederick, and Christine Wolff-Eisenberg. 2020. “Student Experiences During the Pandemic Pivot.” Ithaka S+R.

Bleicher, Elizabeth. 2011. “The Last Class: Critical Thinking, Reflection, Course Effectiveness, and Student Engagement.” Honors in Practice - Online Archive: 130.

Borch, Iris, Ragnhild Sandvoll, and Torsten Risør. 2020. “Discrepancies in Purposes of Student Course Evaluations: What Does It Mean to Be ‘Satisfied’?” Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability 32 (1): 83–102.

Bovill, Catherine, Alison Cook‐Sather, and Peter Felten. 2011. “Students as Co‐creators of Teaching Approaches, Course Design, and Curricula: Implications for Academic Developers.” International Journal for Academic Development 16 (2): 133–45.

Brandao, Emilio, Marco Adelfio, Shea Hagy, and Liane Thuvander. 2021. “Collaborative Pedagogy for Co-Creation and Community Outreach: An Experience from Architectural Education in Social Inclusion Using the Miro Tool.” Edited by Daniel Raposo, Nuno Martins, and Daniel Brandão. Advances in Human Dynamics for the Development of Contemporary Societies, Proceedings of the AHFE 2021 Virtual Conference on Human Dynamics for the Development of Contemporary Societies, July 25–29, 2021, USA 277: 118–26.

Cook‐Sather, Alison. 2006. “Sound, Presence, and Power: ‘Student Voice’ in Educational Research and Reform.” Curriculum Inquiry 36 (4): 359–90.

DiSalvo, Betsy, Jason Yip, Elizabeth Bonsignore, and Carl DiSalvo. 2017. Participatory Design for Learning. Edited by Betsy DiSalvo, Jason Yip, Elizabeth Bonsignore, and Carl DiSalvo. New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Edström, Kristina. 2008. “Doing Course Evaluation as If Learning Matters Most.” Higher Education Research & Development 27 (2): 95–106.

Eggleston, Tami J., and Gabie E. Smith. 2002. “Parting Ways: Ending Your Course.” APS Observer 15 (3).

Google. 2021. “Accessibility Products and Features; Explore Some of Google’s Accessibility Features and Products.” Accessed July 13th, 2021.

Harper, Gary W., and Leah C. Neubauer. 2021. “Teaching During a Pandemic: A Model for Trauma-Informed Education and Administration.” Pedagogy in Health Promotion 7 (1): 14–24.

Hoogerheide, Vincent, and Fred Paas. 2012. “Remembered Utility of Unpleasant and Pleasant Learning Experiences: Is All Well That Ends Well?” Applied Cognitive Psychology 26 (6): 887–94.

Johnson, Christopher M. 2001. “A Survey of Current Research on Online Communities of Practice.” The Internet and Higher Education 4 (1): 45–60.

Jonassen, David, Terry Mayes, and Ray McAleese. 1993. “A Manifesto for a Constructivist Approach to Uses of Technology in Higher Education.” In Designing Environments for Constructive Learning, edited by T. M. Duffy, J. Lowyck, and D. H. Jonassen, 105:231. NATO ASI Series (Series F: Computer and Systems Sciences). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.

Kahneman, Daniel, Barbara L. Fredrickson, Charles A. Schreiber, and Donald A. Redelmeier. 1993. “When More Pain Is Preferred to Less: Adding a Better End.” Psychological Science 4 (6): 401–5.

Kolb, David A. 2014. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Second Edition. Upper Sadle River: Pearson Education, Inc.

Laurillard, Diana. 2002. Rethinking University Teaching: A Conversational Framework for the Effective Use of Learning Technologies. London: Routledge.

Li, Qingchuan, Jiaxin Zhang, Xin Xie, and Yan Luximon. 2021. “How Shared Online Whiteboard Supports Online Collaborative Design Activities: A Social Interaction Perspective.” Edited by Evangelos Markopolous, Ravindra S. Goonetilleke, Amic G. Ho, and Yan Luximon. Advances in Creativity, Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Communication of Design, Proceedings of the AHFE 2021 Virtual Conferences on Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Human Factors in Communication of Design, July 25–29, 2021, USA, 276: 285–93.

Lutsky, Neil. 2015. Oxford Clinical Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Maier, Mark H., and Ted Panitz. 1996. “End on a High Note.” College Teaching 44 (4): 145–48.

Martens, Samantha E., Stephanie N. E. Meeuwissen, Diana H. J. M. Dolmans, Catherine Bovill, and Karen D. Könings. 2019. “Student Participation in the Design of Learning and Teaching: Disentangling the Terminology and Approaches.” Medical Teacher 41 (10): 1–3.

McAlpine, Iain, Tony Koppi, Jan McLean, and Elaine Pearson. 2016. “Course Developers as Students: A Designer Perspective of the Experience of Learning Online.” Research in Learning Technology 12 (2): 147–62.

Miro. 2021. “Miro Accessibility; Learn How We’re Making Our Platform More Accessible for All Users.” Accessed July 13th, 2021.

Mitchell, Kimberly. 2021. “Disruptive Innovation: Designing a Shifting Pedagogy for Creative Disciplines in Higher Education Learning.” Edited by Christine Leitner, Walter Ganz, Debra Satterfield, and Clara Bassano. Advances in the Human Side of Service Engineering, Proceedings of the AHFE 2021 Virtual Conference on The Human Side of Service Engineering, July 25–29, 2021, USA, 266: 233–39.

Oermann, Marilyn H. 2017. “Student Evaluations of Teaching.” Nurse Educator 42 (2): 55–56.

Oliver, Ron, and Arshad Omari. 1999. “Using Online Technologies to Support Problem Based Learning: Learners’ Responses and Perceptions.” Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 15 (1): 58–79.

Reeves, Thomas C., and James R. Okey. 1996. “Alternative Assessment for Constructivist Learning Environments.” In Constructivist Learning Environments: Case Studies in Instructional Design, edited by Brent Gayle Wilson, 191–202. Englewood Cliffs: Educational Technology Publications.

Rodenbaugh, David W. 2015. “Maximize a Team-Based Learning Gallery Walk Experience: Herding Cats Is Easier than You Think.” Advances in Physiology Education 39 (4): 411–13.

Schwartzman, Roy. 2020. “Performing Pandemic Pedagogy.” Communication Education 69 (4): 502–17.

Shay, Jackie E., and Cathy Pohan. 2021. “Resilient Instructional Strategies: Helping Students Cope and Thrive in Crisis.” Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education 22 (1): 1-8.

Stanton, Julie Dangremond, Amanda J. Sebesta, and John Dunlosky. 2021. “Fostering Metacognition to Support Student Learning and Performance.” CBE Life Sciences Education 20 (2): 1–7.

Stone, Garrett A., Gwynn M. Powell, and Francis A. McGuire. 2020. “‘Beginners Are Many But Enders Are Few’: How to End a Course Well and Why It Matters.” SCHOLE: A Journal of Leisure Studies and Recreation Education: 1–7.

Uhl, Christopher. 2005. “The Last Class.” College Teaching 53 (4): 165–66.

Wegerif, Rupert. 1998. “The Social Dimension of Asynchronous Learning Networks.” Online Learning, Formerly Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 2 (1).

White, Dennis. 2010. “Foreword.” In Fires in the Mind: What Kids Can Tell Us about Motivation and Mastery, by Kathleen Cushman, ix–xi. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Woloschuk, Wayne, Sylvain Coderre, Bruce Wright, and Kevin McLaughlin. 2011. “What Factors Affect Students’ Overall Ratings of a Course?” Academic Medicine 86 (5): 640–43.

Xu, Jingyi. 2020a. “Development and Application of the Teaching Tool of Design Thinking Collaboration Based on UCD Methods.” 2020 18th International Conference on Emerging ELearning Technologies and Applications 00: 780–85.

Xu, Jingyi. 2020b. “Research and Applications of Classroom Group Collaboration in the Design Thinking Online Tool.” 2020 IEEE 6th International Conference on Computer and Communications: 2135–40.

Zhou, Qi, Wannapon Suraworachet, and Mutlu Cukurova. 2021. “Different Modality, Different Design, Different Results: Exploring Self-Regulated Learner Clusters’ Engagement Behaviours at Individual, Group and Cohort Activities.” CEUR Workshop Proceedings 2902: 28¬–40.




How to Cite

Styles, Erin B., and Elizabeth J. Polvi. 2022. “The Importance of Ending Well: A Virtual Last Class Workshop for Course Evaluation and Evolution”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 10 (August).