Interview with Jui Ramaprasad of McGill
Jui Ramaprasad teaches courses in Informations Systems at McGill University, including The Business of Music and Youth Cultural Entrepreneurship.
On experimenting with social platforms as a means of promoting collaborative learning in the classroom:
So the classes this semester that I was teaching— I like to have a very collaborative sort of stance in the classroom. My goal was to make [the] sort of outside-the-classroom and inside-the-classroom experience consistent and a bit seamless. So If we had a good conversation or a good conversation topic that came up in class, we could continue that conversation—not just a one-way discussion but a two-way conversation among the students themselves. And not even me [as the] existing solicitor sometimes. I didn’t really want to jump [into] the conversation. It was a way to create interactivity among the students themselves. I think [it went] well with the type of classes that I was teaching this semester which had students from diverse backgrounds, in terms of academic background. We had one class that we had students from law, from music, from management, from education—all in one class— so to have those students to sort of feel as [though] they are part of a community— I felt like I needed to do more than what we had in those three hours of class.
Did you have any kind of hesitation or any kind of doubt from previous experience?
I didn’t have any hesitation or doubt. It was sort of an experiment for me as well. How is this going to work? Are students going to actually participate? How do I incentivize them to participate? I don’t necessarily want to have to give them extrinsic motivators. But it’s a class—sometimes you have to kickstart the process. So I was just curious how it would unfold. One of the questions I see on here is have I tried to use other platforms? I have, in some way I used [a] discussion board in one of the courses last year. It just didn’t get the traction that I was interested in.
The case against Twitter in the classroom:
I used Twitter before—three or four years ago—and the hesitation with that is that people are hesitant to sign up. If they don’t already have an account they don’t want to learn about Twitter. They don’t want to be [a] part of Twitter. [Whereas] in Yellowdig—because it’s an educational technology platform—I got a lot less resistance and a lot of desire to sort of try it out. The barriers to get people to join Yellowdig [seemed] to be a lot lower then to get students to interact using Twitter. For some reason there was something [about] that—why are you making me use a Twitter account was negative, but there was none of that with using this platform.
On how virtual discussions are an organic process:
I don’t know if it surprised me? Or made me happy that I tried it and there was actually interaction that happened. There was also—maybe this is also organic—not everyone got into it, right? So there was a part of the class that was active and loved it and used it a lot. I noticed the people who didn’t get into it never sort of took that jump and got into it. I think what that means [is that] I would have to get more people onboard.
[It was] my experiment with the first year not making anything mandatory, except for posting [the] reading responses.
I wanted to see the nature of the classroom conversation to make people say, “Oh, I want to continue offline”, but people have to feel that they are part of that community. Some people are naturally inclined to do those things and try it all out and some people need little bit of support.
On keeping up with modern students using present-day technologies:
The technology I came across [which] the university implemented seems to be how people kind of interacted two or three years ago or five years ago, right? And it’s not keeping up with the changes on how people interact online today. And [I] think for me that’s the gap. We have to figure out how to communicate with our students, right?