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Student Knowledge Shines Online

HIS 315L The United States Since 1865 Video Assignment

When speaking with students a few years ago Dr. Jeremi Suri was taken aback to hear that many had never delivered an oral presentation in any of their courses. Suri feels strongly that helping students build confidence speaking publicly serves them well both on and beyond the Forty Acres. His conversation with students revealed the difficulty in providing space to build verbal communication skills in lecture courses with enrollments of several hundred students. Finding ways to make such large lectures more engaging by facilitating greater student interaction rests at the heart of Suri’s work with the Dev Studio to produce HIS 315L “The History of the United States Since 1865” starting in Spring 2016. The relative rarity of opportunities for public speaking in a class this size led Suri and the Dev Studio to explore how to integrate student presentations into the course.

Together they have created a video lecture assignment that helps students to develop digital literacy, practice public speaking, and think critically about primary sources from the course. Students enthusiastically tackle this assignment that guides them to think critically about how historical developments inform American society today. The short video lecture marks the culmination of three cumulative assignments that ask students to annotate, analyze, and critique a primary source from the course. Students relish the chance to showcase both their knowledge and personality and many take the opportunity to poke good-natured fun at Suri and his team of teaching assistants. Near the end of the semester, exemplary videos are presented and student creators are interviewed in the studio during class. Students share behind-the-scenes accounts of the production process and discuss honestly their experience writing, rehearsing, and delivering a mini-lecture. This project promotes student engagement and a sense of community even in a large course delivered synchronously online. Furthermore, it ensures every one of Suri’s students leverages various technologies to produce presentations and practice speaking publicly.

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