Graduate Students Explore Remote Learning During COVID-19
Graduate students in the College of Communication and Information spent the second half of the Spring 2020 semester applying course material in real time as they examined how classrooms were adapting to new ways of learning during COVID-19.
In the seminar course Communication in an Information Society (offered in the School of Communication Studies), the students had been reading and discussing literature on the effects of communication and technology in our world. When educational institutions across the country shifted to remote instruction in mid-March, it became clear that technology was going to play a larger role than ever. Assistant Professor David E. Silva guided the students as they courageously opted to meet the challenge head-on by researching how educators and students were using technology to adapt to remote learning.
“As the instructor, their energy encouraged and motivated me through finals week,” Silva said. “I was just happy to be along for the ride.”
The students’ work culminated in full article manuscripts. Summaries of three of them are shared below.
An Exploration of Flipgrid & TikTok
by Katia Nieto Salizar and Jessica Woodson-Moss
Kent State students Salizar and Woodson-Moss explored the popular video sharing social media app TikTok and the ways it was being used as an educational tool, and Flipgrid, a video-based discussion platform that prioritizes use in the classroom.
Based on their research, “we think instructors will find more benefit from Flipgrid than TikTok. TikTok is designed as a social media platform. As such, is less directed and not educationally focused. The universal language of fun and creative expression is wonderful for students, but this feeling comes at a cost to education.”
Flipgrid, on the other hand, “allows students to create educationally driven videos with the same features, length and process as TikTok, without overwhelming them with distractions and opportunities for disengagement. ... TikTok should be a place for students to just have fun. Flipgrid offers features that students are familiar with, but keeps schoolwork organized, safe, and productive.”
COVID-19 Misinformation on Reddit, Slack & Discord
by Nathaniel Adams, Ryan Barnabi, José Couceiro, Jiewen Feng, Miranda Fothergill, Tia Myers-Rocker
The team of Kent State students researched the lesser-studied digital discussion platforms Reddit, Slack and Discord to discover how misinformation and conspiracy theories spread and are regulated.
On Reddit, they found that because its content is primarily user-generated, it “can contain a lot of misinformation about COVID-19. Even on the official COVID-19 subreddits there are places for misinformation to be communicated, such as in the comments sections, in the daily discussion or question threads, and even in the main posts. However, dedicated subreddits have been created to distribute and discuss misinformation.”
Slack, which does not have open forums, is organized by “workplaces,” which restrict access to those who are invited or ask to join.
The group examined the workplace CoronaHub, “an online meeting place for people dealing with the coronavirus.” There, users can share resources and advice on preventing cases. Yet, they found, “it can be a bit unclear how the information is reviewed, sorted, and confirmed, to prevent the spread of any misinformation. There is no clear information on who the organizers for this workplace are, what their roles are, or any academic information and health expertise.”
In studying Discord, a server-based social platform, which has become more popular during the pandemic, the team found that there have not been any major cases of misinformation reported and that “Discord itself has not taken action to address the risk of misinformation that may occur in its servers. In the end, Discord leaves the job of handling misinformation and conspiracy theories to the admins and moderators in each server.”
Which LMSs Meet Student Needs? Blackboard vs. Google Classroom
by Abby Achauer, Christa Jones, Shannon Lowmiller, Brenda Schreffler, Mandy Wagner, and Ying Zhu
This team, made up of educators at high school and college levels throughout Northeast Ohio, wanted to discover which features of online learning platforms were best meeting student needs.
In looking specifically at two learning management systems (LMS), Google Classroom and Blackboard, “this study found that both platforms had their positive and negative aspects. Google Classroom was a familiar format that students were able to adopt quite easily making the switch more streamline, while at the same time the newsfeed nature of the platform made it so that material was often lost or buried after a short time leading to students not seeing important information. Blackboard gave the instructor more control and enabled students to access information in a more structured way, but its design was not as intuitive, and it is not free to use.”
Their main takeaway? Any LMS should be user-friendly, easily accessible to students and financially sustainable for academic institutions, but it’s ultimately up to the students and teachers to ensure a successful remote learning experience.