We had a fabulous time at the Teaching & Learning Symposium yesterday!  If you’re like me, it is going to take a few days just to sort out all of the great ideas I heard from our ISU colleagues.  Even though I was exhausted by the time I got home last night, my mind was spinning with all sorts of possibilities.  A sub-theme I picked up on throughout the day was that all too often we plan our courses from the wrong end–we start from a position of what we are going to teach our students and then plan everything else around it.  But we end up painting ourselves into a corner with that approach.  Let me share with you what our keynote speaker, Dr. Michael Wesch, told us in an early session about how he goes about creating a course that enables him to take advantage of the new media landscape.

  1. Is there a real or relevant local/world problem?
  2. Create a community of learners working to solve the problem
  3. What tools are available to help students solve this problem?

For one of Mike’s anthropology courses (I’m sorry, I forgot to write down the name of the course) students will be living in a local retirement community/home on a rotating basis to see if they can create a local solution to help the residents of that community overcome their sense of boredom and other issues related to loss of mobility.  The class won’t start for another two weeks but his students are already getting involved, have already come up with a whole-class-created course research agenda using a Google document, and have created a schedule for when each student will live in the home. 

Mike jokes that the students have already assigned themselves 5 books to read in one month–and if past experience holds true, they will read them–whereas if he had assigned the same books, the students would have rebelled.  It should be noted that the students still have to write papers, create products, and take exams. But the students see the course information as a means to helping them solve a problem instead of something to just memorize for a test.  Students Helping Students is a video that shows a course project from 2010 and how it evolved into something larger:

One of Illinois States’ core values is Civic Engagement.  Many faculty have expressed to me that they aren’t sure how they can shoehorn civic engagement into their courses.  They are going about it the wrong way.  Instead of asking how they can fit it in, they should be exploring a real or relevant problem in the community that their course can explore and/or help resolve.


CTLT Coordinator, Faculty Development, Julie-Ann McFann, Ph.D.