Title: Student interactions in a fusion course: Negotiating Fusion-Pairs, Ghost Helper, and Micro-Interactions

Author: Pawel Orzechowski

Theme: Hybridity reimagined: Teaching experientially in outdoor, indoor and online places; Challenging accepted ways of thinking

We ran Edinburgh Future Institute’s first fusion course: Text Mining for Social Research. Fusion courses involve both in-person and online students. This style of teaching requires at least two instructors – one that provides the content and one that looks after the interaction. Since there were four of us we had the bandwidth to play with interaction. Here are things we found that worked:

Negotiating Fusion-Pairs – We iterated assigning students in same-mode pairs (room-room or online-online) or mixed-mode pairs (room-online). It was important to do this as we wanted the whole class to feel like a single cohort. We changed the setup every hour, student pairs had to negotiate: how they work together, who leads, how they interact with instructors.

Ghost Helper – In an in-person class students can request help from the in-person teacher. In a fusion mode, an in-person pair can do the same. But if one or both of the students are online the helper must be online. For a student in the room, this can come as a surprise, when the person they have just interacted with appears in their ear, like a friendly ghost. This requires a cognitive shift and can divert attention. During mixed-mode pairwork we consciously switched to online helpers only, so students were initially spooked by the ghost but they found it friendly. Boo!

Micro-Interactions – Small moments of joy and frustration are when learning can happen. We used:
1) Relentless feedback: Asking for hourly snap feedback using a whiteboard to take the temperature of student learning.
2) Chat blast: asking all students to type something small, a micro contribution, into the chat at the same time.
3) Amplification learning: all student questions were repeated in front of the class during each debriefing session or students could disseminate their own solutions through the chat.