Friday, July 17, 2020

Teaching Defence and Security Online: Learning From Others

This week, the Canadian Defence and Security Network held a Teaching Workshop.  It really isn't in our mandate, but we have the resources, the time, and the desire to help facilitate collective action, so more than 20 scholars from civilian and military (Canadian Forces College) institutions came together.  It was a very fruitful afternoon, although I am learning that running these kinds of workshops requires multitasking and a heap of energy. 

What did I learn?  [Not going to give credit to any individuals--we didn't say it was Chatham but we didn't say it wasn't]  This is pretty rough, so if you have suggestions, put them in the comments, please.

  • General Tips
    • If you can, take an online class so that you can see what works, what doesn't.  Few of us have experienced online classes, but we learned to teach by watching profs lecture well/poorly and run seminars well/poorly.
    • Rely on outside experts to pop in as a change of pace and a dose of expertise.  The CDSN will provide to its members with access to a spreadsheet of scholars and their special expertise so that folks can arrange interviews, Q&A, etc.
    • There was some debate about synchronous vs asynchronous.  If you want to do synch, you really need to survey your students to see if you can make it work--do they have quiet places (something I didn't think about), do they have adequate internet access, what time zone are they in, etc.  This study suggests both are effective and that students prefer synchronous.  Carleton's survey from the winter's less than wonderful experience (fast transition by folks with little experience) indicate students prefer asynch or hybrid.  
      • I am teaching mostly asynch for larger classes and synch for classes under 20.  I will not be going the full three hours for the latter but will have some hybrid stuff going on.
    • For discussion boards, make it clear that participation, not content, is what is assessed so students don't get paralyzed by figuring out what the prof wants.
  • Hard to create the social aspect of classes, which is an important ingredient to making things work
    • One way to do this is to have students create a playlist on spotify with each adding a song and explaining how it relates to the theme.
    • Break groups into smaller subunits, including using breakout rooms, so that students get to know each other.
    • Require students to meet with the prof early in the term for chit chat so that some trust can be established.
  • Tools
    • For teaching prisoner's dilemma and trust in IR, is a very cool online utility.
    • Feedback Fruits is good for fostering peer review.
    • Slack was mentioned by several as a more friendly platform than course learning systems for facilitating communications between students in a class and for sims.
  • Podcasts
  • Simulations
    • Best to have another actor be an evaluator--hard to play a role and evaluate at the same time.
    • Zoom and its ilk have breakout room tools so that one can have subgroups and private meetings for the various actors in the simulation.
    • CFR has a simulation tool:
    • is good for simulating negotiations
    • The game diplomacy is available online (although be careful since betrayal is baked into the game, it can undermine trust among the students)
    • CSIS (the US think tank, not the Canadian intel agency) has a project on nuclear issues that might be useful.
  • Resources

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