Expanding a Short Course at NYU through Trusted Sharing
A Case Study

CHALLENGE

Professor Robertson Work desired to provide his students with a way both to get to know each other before the class and for student teams to communicate in person between sessions. Since the course was only a month long, the pre-class use of asynchronous intros allowed the class to get a jumpstart so that students said they were eager to come to their first class and meet all their classmates that they had had already interacted with online.

Professor Work was aware of a few tools that connected professors and classrooms through online conversation hosting. However, each was in some way unsatisfying. One university’s platform is illustrative of the online conversation landscape: forum comments are listed showing only commenters’ names, so readers must first click on each individual commenter’s name in order to read their reply. Professor Work sought a more seamless experience for his students. He ultimately chose the conversation platform Trusted Sharing.

WHAT Graduate course on Organizational and Managerial Development 34 graduate students

WHEN Spring Term 2015 Class met for 5 hours per day for 5 Saturdays

WHERE NYU Wagner Graduate School

WHO Robertson Work | Adjunct Professor 16 years as principal policy advisor of the UN Development Program and over two decades as a facilitator of international development projects as Country and Regional Executive Director with the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA)

METHOD

Trusted Sharing supports many approaches to conversation hosting, such that hosts may structure conversations threads in phases and/or sub-topics of a conversation or through the use of a facilitator.

Robertson created a first Trusted Sharing conversation for the course several weeks before the first class. Through separate threads, or host posts, within the conversation he asked students to 1) introduce themselves, 2) share their course expectations, and 3) describe an organization they’ve been a part of that could serve as a team project for the class. Student teams were given the option to create Trusted Sharing Conversations as a means to manage their communications between classes. Students had the option to create private conversations – open only to team members and the professor. In all cases, the use of Trusted Sharing was optional.

“...a really nice way to virtually meet my fellow classmates! Trusted Sharing gave me a glimpse of what to expect in class before even stepping foot-- it made the first class effective and efficient. The platform is a good way to share lots of information between many people… definitely a step above.”

Christina Collette | Student

IMPACT

Through all three classes in which Robertson used Trusted Sharing, students found it easy to navigate and all students responded actively to the three host posts prior to the beginning of the class. Since the students shared their introductions, hopes for the class, past projects they’d done and learnings from them, the group had already become a learning community several weeks before they entered the classroom. Furthermore because all posts were available to read, they all knew each other and the process maximized interaction.Since thestudents knew a lot about each other before the class began,they were able to jumpstart the class and smoothly organize themselves into eight teams necessary for the class’s central project and student teams used Trusted Sharing for their ongoing conversations during the course.

One student commented that the Trusted Sharing App was an excellent tool to conduct online flex conversations and that it’s role was pivotal in engaging and coordinating among the students and the professor for the class.

FEEDBACK FROM STUDENTS:

Trusted Sharing served as a good vehicle for allowing students to have all their documents in one place along with conversations about the documents. Students also really enjoyed having the conversations archived with pictures so they could identify all 40 some people in the class with their previous projects. Students said that asynchronous Trusted Sharing conversations were also a great way to “break the ice” so that they could enter the class already knowing a lot about their fellow students. Students observed that these prior asynchronous conversations prior to an in class meeting allowed people to use the in-person time more effectively.

One student commented that she learned more about students that she had taken several classes with because these asynchronous introductory conversations allowed for a more in-depth exchange. One student who is usually skeptical of online tools admitted that she found it useful and was excited when it came time to meet the people she had been reading about for several weeks.

“For my project management class this summer, I will make the teamwork more of a conversation. This course is only two classes, six hours a day on two Saturdays. I can have them respond a week before, during, and after, so I can turn a one week course into a three week course.”

Robertson Work

SUMMARY POINTS: FOR USE IN AN EDUCATIONAL SETTING

  • Trusted Sharing (TS) proved be a good platform for students to introduce themselves before a class, seeding the work in the class ahead of time. Through three sets of students it was consistently used and appreciated.
  • TS can be used for students to share their hopes and expectations with a professor before the class begins.
  • TS offers a seamless approach to responding to comments.
  • Comments can be organized so they can be nested under one thread or as a general reply, so groups can refine their ideas throughout the conversation
  • The flex time arrangement can extend the power of a class before and after the commencement of it.
  • TS is a useful tool for online teamwork that requires conversations and a creative synthesis of ideas to create an effective product.
  • TS allowed students a place to keep all their conversations and documents separate from their general e-mail so that they didn’t have to scroll through old e-mails to find their teammates’ conversations or documents.

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