Let's Blab about Jazz Composers!

Student-Generated Content
Author Information
Bethanie L. Hansen, Kim Jacobs, Cathy Silverman, and David Whitehouse
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
American Public University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

The effective practice was implementing a group project in an online general education course--music appreciation--designed to better engage students with the curriculum content, help them get to know class members better, and feel part of a community. Students became leaders, team members, and contributors. By participating in groups, they gained more in-depth knowledge of a curriculum topic while working together. The project encouraged exemplary work, because students were graded on their own contributions but given extra credit for doing more than what was required, serving in a team leadership role, or helping in some other way above and beyond while working with their group. Faculty scores on end of course evaluations improved in the areas of student feelings of engagement and their overall satisfaction with online learning in these classes.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

In the music appreciation course, a group project was first piloted in one instructor's classes (Bethanie Hansen's). After discussion and review of the outcomes, the project was improved and added to by other faculty members (Kim Jacobs, Cathy Silverman, and David Whitehouse). Next, the group project was implemented in all general education music appreciation courses school-wide. During an eight week music appreciation course, the group project was introduced in the syllabus and week 1 course information. In week 2, teams of 8-10 classmates were assigned. Each team was given their own discussion form to plan, assign roles, and combine their work into a PowerPoint project focused on a specific music topic. During weeks 3-6, teams were minimally guided and reminded to work together by the instructor, while left alone to work in their forums without much instructor interaction. At the same time, other course discussions about curriculum content took place each week of class unrelated to the group work. At the end of week 6, groups submitted one copy of their combined project to the forum coming up in week 7, and one copy of their own individual contributions to the project to their assignment area. The week 7 forum was called "Let's Blab About Jazz Composers!" During week 7, all class members viewed the group projects as the week 7 discussion and posted commentary. The project topics were approved in advance to relate to the material to come in week 7, so the projects themselves supported the learning objectives of week 7--jazz music. The entire experience was finished before week 8, during which other curriculum content was discussed and the course was concluded.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Student comments in the forums were informal evidence of the group project's success. After several runs of the course, some students entered the class already knowing about the group project, because the course had been recommended to them by friends. Comments following the projects posted in the discussion often included statements like "thanks for putting the right students into my group. It was a pleasure to be able to complete a project with complete strangers that never met each other, only by words typed (i.e. weekly forums and group project). I truly enjoyed this project and would have loved to meet each of the group members in person too." Instructors formatively observed that most students participated more in the non-group forums and were better able to discuss the week 7 topic due to the group work.
Formally, students posted feedback comments on end-of-course faculty evaluations sharing the group work as one particular positive aspect of their experience in the general education music appreciation course. Some comments posted by students include the following: "The group [project] and forum were fun, engaging, and facilitated phenomenal student interaction," "Discussing course content with my classmates was valuable in helping me appreciate different perspectives," and "I really enjoyed participating in the group forum for the power point assignment. I've never been in an online group like that and learned a lot!"
While it should be acknowledged that not all students specifically enjoyed the group project, it appeared from informal observation to have increased forum interaction and overall engagement in the course. In addition, fewer students requested course extensions and positive comments increased on end of course surveys. These observed changes led to the conclusion that the project was an effective practice that increased student satisfaction in taking music appreciation online.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

This practice increased student engagement with both the content and their peers, allowing them to create something new while working socially. The project increased student satisfaction in taking the online class and in their learning experience overall. Therefore, this practice relates to student satisfaction. This pillar is particularly important for new and first-year online college students in order to prompt them to continue their education after the course is over.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

This practice does not require expensive equipment. The only items necessary are a clear description of the assignment, online group forums for discussion, and rubrics to grade the work.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

This practice does not appear to have any specific associated cost above the time needed for faculty members within a single subject area to collaborate and develop the group project, then implement it in their online classrooms. The key to success is consistent implementation by all faculty members teaching the same course.

References, supporting documents: 

Assignment Instructions:
Class members are assigned to a group for this project during Week 2.
During weeks 2-6, students work together with their groups each week in Group Forums to prepare the final project. All participation is included in the final grade for this project, as well as individual contributions (slides & extra technology).
The final project, which is due at the end of Week 6, should be submitted as an attachment in the Week 7 forum, is to be a PowerPoint Presentation. If the project is too large to post, contact your instructor for assistance.
The requirements for this PowerPoint Presentation are posted in the assignment area of the classroom.
Working with a group, students will create an informative presentation designed to educate others about one Jazz composer not covered in the week 7 course e-text.
Presentations will be compiled in PowerPoint and will consist of 8-10 PowerPoint slides.
Individual group members must complete 2 slides or more for the final presentation and contribute to the title and sources slides.
There will be a discussion forum designated to each group during Week 1, in which starting Week 2, you will discuss your projects and prepare the final project throughout the term. All group project discussion should occur in Group Forums.
Please refer to the assignment description for a list or required slides for the presentation.
To make our presentations fun, interesting and interactive, each member of the group should incorporate at least one online technology into your section of the project. Some examples include:
If a group member cannot access these online technologies (for example, if you are serving overseas and have limited internet access), it is acceptable to submit information that another group member compiles for this person. In this is case, please add a note to the end of the presentation explaining what accommodations were given to team members to ensure all members receive proper credit.
The Group Project grading rubric will be used to evaluate this assignment.
This project is due by the end of Week 6 and should be posted in the “Let’s Blab about Jazz Composers” thread in Forums. Students must also submit a brief explanation of your individual contributions to the project in Assignments, including which slides you completed in the project. We will discuss everyone's presentations during Week 7.
Please contact your instructor with questions or concerns about working with your group by sending a "message" within our classroom.

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Dr. Bethanie L. Hansen, Instructor
Email this contact: 
Effective Practice Contact 2: 
Kim Jacobs, Program Director
Email contact 2: 
Effective Practice Contact 3: 
Cathy Silverman, Course Lead