Interview with Karina Arzumanova of Strayer
Professor Karina Arzumanova teaches Criminal Justice courses at Strayer University and maintains her practice as an attorney in West Palm Beach, Florida.
On her experiences with Yellowdig:
Every week I post a question-- I call it a primary question that they have to answer. [Then] students can add content that’s relevant to that material-- they can add videos, articles, even excerpts from a blog-- as long as it’s relevant to that week’s context. And I interact with them and encourage them and try to inspire and motivate them, as well as add additional content, additional questions throughout the week.
On student engagement throughout the semester:
Usually the toughest week is the first week, maybe even the first two weeks, because a lot of students are not familiar with Yellowdig and then when they start getting zeros in the grade book, that’s when they start paying attention and say, “Ok, I better figure this out.” I would probably say that the first two weeks have the lowest engagement, then it drops during midterm but picks up again.
On memorable Yellowdig discussions:
I [try] to go along with virtual learning and the social environment that Yellowdig [presents]. So what I started doing was posting educational videos like case studies that would relate to the content we were covering. And a lot of times, students would post things that are credible and relevant and will expand that topic even more. And it’s incredible because I have been learning from them about resources that I didn’t know were available and it’s really been great. Because some of them surf the web better than I do and they just find these really outstanding resources that I can use with my other classes to share with my other students.
On the debates that arise virtually from criminal justice topics and news cases:
Criminal justice is a very hot topic now and I had two students who got into an altercation with one another on Yellowdig, like they might on Facebook. It rarely happens because they feel more responsible for what they’re posting. And I had to send out an announcement to explain how we are in an environment where we need to respectfully express our opinions.
And now what I do, I just practically post an announcement in the beginning of the course explaining how [Yellowdig] is still an educational platform and it’s the opportunity to express opinions in a courteous and considerate manner. We engage in a lot of subjects that provoke very strong emotions. So, I haven’t had any issues so far. But the first time I used Yellowdig, I did have that issue. But it’s been good so far. I haven’t had any complaints.
On emotional comments versus logic-based comments and critique on the Yellowdig forum:
Honestly, a lot of topics we cover are emotionally-charged. And when you get students to critique one another, they would have to tie their own biases and perceptions and emotions into it. And I just feel like it’s going to open up a can of worms for more arguments between them.
So I do something like [critiques] with peer reviews in my research methods class. [The topics] are more cut and dry. The students pick a subject that they research, it’s a graduate level course. They pick a subject that they research. A lot of times it’s not a subject that they feel particularly emotional about.With Criminal Justice, we just have so many emotionally-charged topics now so it would not be a good idea to do [critiques].
I wouldn’t want students to call out other students on whether or not their biases and emotions or analysis of certain issues are correct because there’s no straightforward answer to a lot of questions we see in Criminal Justice. So emotions do come into play because you see a lot of gray area.
Every single person has their own bias. So I want that to be accepted and respected rather than criticized. A recent number of cases were on police brutality and cases that they thought were racially motivated. And students, especially minority students, felt violated and discriminated and they felt very strongly about how wrong it is. And other students, whether minority or not, they are like: Well, we have police do the best job they can and follow protocol and people usually get the treatment they deserve. And that definitely opens up room for a lot of emotional explosions. And that’s where I have to step in and say, “Listen, each and every one of you has a point. We just have to remember to respect each other.” Because each student can always benefit from another perspective, because [all the students] do have legitimate points. But sometimes it’s very difficult for them to comprehend it, they don’t want to hear it.