How Strategy Works in a Traditional Ground-based Class Setting
Community agreements have many names, including "class ground rules" or "group contracts." Examples include: one speaker at a time, be respectful, maintain confidentiality, etc.
To set community agreements collaboratively with students in a ground-based class setting, a common approach is for the instructor to write the students' ideas on the chalkboard; the class then votes on the completed list. In subsequent weeks, the instructor includes the community agreements in the class slides for review.
How Strategy Can Work in a HyFlex/ BlendFlex Class Setting
In a synchronous hybrid setting, community agreements can be completed collaboratively. The list of agreements can be typed on a slide that is being viewed through screen-sharing so all students can see changes being made to the agreements. Alternatively, the instructor can stream a video of the chalkboard as they are writing the agreements; in either version, the slide or chalkboard can be visible and legible to the online students.
The instructor can create space for both groups of students to actively contribute, edit, and comment on the proposed ideas as they are being created. When discussing each proposed agreement, it is important to consider how the agreement will be adhered to in-person versus online. Instructors can explore what each idea means in both settings; for example, how to maintain confidentiality if there are other people around a student that is videoconferencing. Once the list is complete, the instructor can ask all students to commit to follow the agreements, which can be done through a show of hands.
How Strategy Can Work Asynchronously
For students joining the course asynchronously, the instructor can solicit ideas from this group first, via email or a discussion forum. The instructor can create a list of the students' ideas, group related ideas together, and then use this initial list as the starting point for the activity in the synchronous class. The synchronous students can build off of the list created by the asynchronous students.
Once the synchronous students have added to and discussed the community agreements, the instructor can post the full list to the course site and invite questions or additions from all students via discussion forum or email. After students' questions have been addressed and additions have been submitted, the instructor can post the final list in the course site so that they are easily accessible to all students. If the instructor would like everyone to actively commit to following the agreements, the instructor can create a quiz in the course site with the question "Do you commit to following these community agreements?" and the answer choices yes or no.
We have created community agreements with students in a synchronous hybrid course, in which students could join either in person on the ground or live via web conferencing. Asynchronous attendance was not an option. The Columbia University School of Social Work calls this model "remote live participation" (Marquait et al., 2018). In this model, all students attended class live, so the list of agreements was generated together and then voted on immediately. In lieu of writing on the chalkboard, the agreements were typed into the class slides, which were visible to students via projection in the room and via the web conferencing platform so that the on-the-ground and online students could see the list being generated in real time. Students agreed to follow the community agreements by raising their hands, either in the room or on webcam. We revisited the agreements at the start of every class.
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
Matthea Marquart, M.S.S.W., is an Assistant Dean for Online Education and Lecturer at the Columbia University School of Social Work.
Elise Verdooner, M.S.S.W., is a Teaching Associate at the Columbia University School of Social Work.