End of Semester Reflection.

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Date: Sept. 2020
From: Journal of Faculty Development(Vol. 34, Issue 3)
Publisher: Magna Publications, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 723 words
Lexile Measure: 1400L

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How Strategy Worked in a Traditional Ground-based Class Setting

To commemorate the end of the semester, instructors can have students write a letter to themselves in the last week or two of class, responding to specific prompts related to the course themes or as an open-ended, self-reflective letter. In a traditional ground-based class setting, the instructor can hand out paper and envelopes and ask students to seal and address the envelopes to themselves. Depending on the student population and the nature of the course, the instructor can decide how long after the end of the semester to send back the students' letters.

How Strategy Can Work in a HyFlex/ BlendFlex Class Setting

There are a variety of ways the instructor can have students complete and submit a letter to self. During class, the instructor can explain the activity and the value of reflecting on one's learning at the end of a course, and then post the writing prompt in their slides or on the chalkboard; in either version, the slide or chalkboard should be visible and legible to the online students. Alternatively, the instructor can give the in-person students a handout to fill in, and for online students the instructor can post the handout in the course site for students to download or they can email it to students. The instructor can ask students to include their permanent email address on the handout.

In-person students can write on paper as usual, and online students can complete the activity by handwriting their response, typing on the handout or a separate document, or typing in a designated place on the course site. The typed letter or a photo of the handwritten document can then be emailed to the instructor or uploaded to the course site. After the course is complete, the instructor can individually email each student their letter.

How it Can Work Asynchronously

This end-of-semester active reflection activity can adapt easily to an asynchronous setting. Depending on the learning management system's (LMS's) tools, asynchronous students can type the letter to themselves directly into a text box in the LMS as a journal entry, or they can upload a typed document or smartphone photo of a hand-written document into the LMS as an assignment. If the instructor would like the class to share some or all of what they wrote with each other, this can be done as a discussion forum.

When it's time for the instructor to send their former students their letter in the future, the instructor can simply send an email to the group of students with a link to the assignment in the LMS. Alternatively, if the instructor has more time to dedicate to this activity, the instructor can send individual emails to each student with their letter copy-pasted into the email body or attached as a document.


We did this activity during the final class of the semester with live students who attended either in person or via web conferencing. The Columbia University School of Social Work calls this synchronous hybrid model "remote live participation" (Marquart et al, 2018). For in-person students, we shared a handout with the writing prompts "1) What learnings would you most like to remember from this course? 2) What actions would you like to remind yourself to do?" We collected the completed handouts and then scanned them to email the students later. The online students downloaded the handout from the LMS and uploaded their completed letters. We recommend encouraging students to focus their reflections on the course rather than general life, as we had graduating students who told themselves to find jobs, which made it awkward to send the letters back later when we suspected that some students didn't have jobs yet.


Marquart, M., Englisher, M., Tokieda, K., Samuel, V., Standlee, J., and Telfair-Garcia, A. (2018, November 16). Can online students be fully integrated into residential courses via web conferencing? Lessons learned from two pilot courses at Columbia University. Workshop presented at the Online Learning Consortium Accelerate Conference, Orlando, FL, and also streamed for a simultaneous virtual audience via Sonic Foundry's Mediasite. Materials deposited in Columbia University's Academic Commons: https://doi.org/10.7916/D8M91SK7

Elise Verdooner, M.S.S.W., is a Teaching Associate at Columbia University School of Social Work.

Matthea Marquart, M.S.S.W., is an Assistant Dean for Online Education and Lecturer at Columbia University School of Social Work.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A651906887