Collaborative Note Taking for Language Classes
Imagine this document more like a live class. A 50–minute class laid out on a collaborative document.
Throughout the semester, students collaborate with each other and the instructor on the instructor-made class notes to create a collaborative learning note – this works as an alternative to the traditional PowerPoint slide-based lecture format.
The intent of maintaining collaborative class notes throughout the semester is to:
- Improve students’ in-class experience. In addition to allowing students to more clearly see the relationship and connections between different portions of a given class session, it also reduces pressure on students to write down everything they see presented during class, allowing them to focus more closely on active participation and practice. This is crucial for a language class, while also increasing student engagement.
- Encourage participation during online or in-person class. Students could be answering questions or raising questions simultaneously. This also allows students who are shy to speak in public the same opportunity to participate. Some students also raise questions in class notes.
- Provide instant feedback. When students are involved in practice on class notes, instructors or TAs can provide instant feedback to students individually.
- Improve the efficiency of online teaching sessions involving breakout rooms. If every group working from different breakout rooms can access the same shared doc, instructors can effectively support each group without having to go from room to room.
- Allow teaching staff (instructors and TAs) to communicate between themselves and more easily monitor students’ progress on course objectives throughout the term, by centralizing in-class work into a document that can be reviewed at later points.
- Improve students’ knowledge of the target language, Mandarin, including their skills in speaking, writing, listening, and reading
- Develop students’ Chinese competence in regards to their cultural and intercultural understanding
- Develop students’ interdisciplinary competence
Level of Difficulty: High
Course: CHIN 131 005/008, “Basic Chinese I: Part 1 (Non-Heritage)”
Number of Students: Small lectures
Yield: Active student participation and class engagement, instant and ongoing feedback
Time: 1 full course length or 1 intensive course length
Keywords: collaborative group work, online notetaking, peer discussion, questions, instructor feedback, student engagement, language courses
Learning Activity | Collaborative Notetaking
- Set up document(s) containing class notes ahead of time
- Keep in mind the logistics of granting all students access to the document in order to avoid technical issues, providing reminders on how to access the document/document folder and suggesting they bookmark it for ease of access in the future
- Prepare small group or individual activities for students to complete in-class using the document
- Use a tool such as OneDrive or Google Docs to create a collaborative document that students and instructor/TA(s) have access to
- Ask students to work in small groups and add their thoughts or answers to the document as appropriate
- This activity is primarily formative in nature – students’ contributions to the collaborative document provide insight into their progress during classes and throughout the course, as well as allowing opportunities for the instructional team to provide recurring feedback or participation marks on students’ in-class work.
- There are multiple tools that provide the ability to share a live collaborative document, allowing freedom of choice. This may include OneDrive or Google Docs (however, note that Google Docs is non-FIPPA compliant).
- The collaborative document can be left in an open format or structured further. For example, can there be included space in the document specifically for students to make further notes, as well as for instructor additions?
- The workload for maintaining both the collaborative document and sets of conventional lecture slides in PowerPoint is high. To keep things manageable, PowerPoint slides may be removed altogether and the collaborative class document can serve as “slides” in their place.
- The collaborative document can potentially be used to allow students to reflect on their progress as the semester draws to a close.
- The basic concept of a collaborative synchronous document can also be used in other ways by instructors to facilitate teaching and learning. For example, the online document format may be used to share class materials between different instructors for collaboration or review.
Additional Resources: Organizing Canvas Materials for Easy Student Navigation