Documentation:Teaching Challenges: Online/Case Studies

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Case Studies

Case Study 1

In this exchange, Susan (a rather naïve young woman) offers her first response to a course reading about the challenge of determining and protecting the ‘rights of citizenship’ in a multicultural society:

Susan: Citizenship as solidarity suggests citizenship provides a solid ground that people can identify with. THere is a lack of solidarity due to multiculturalism. In an era of globalization where people move freely throughout the world, it is difficult to form solidarity anywhere.

In N and k article they argue there is a common complaint of groups demanding multicultural rights that in many ways the dominant group is often favored. The first question this brings to mind is who is the dominant group? Whoever the dominant group may be I don’t feel they are favoured because in Canada for example all people have freedom of speech. All citizens have the same rights. At the university we have a women’s room, a gay room, a native room are these the dominant groups because in my mind these are the groups that are favored. And at the same time choosing to segregate themselves.

I don’t think solidarity can be found within our globalized world.

…and then Brian, a rather ‘combative’ learner, joins the discussion, ostensibly to answer Susan’s question. He writes:

Brian: I’ll tackle this question, if no one else wants to.

Let’s take a look at UVic, for example, as a typical university. “Equity in hiring of the regular faculty hires during the past nine years, 102 have been men (46%), 120 have been women (54%).” ( So which gender would be dominant at UVic (in terms of faculty hiring), from a historical perspective, you would say Male, over the last 9 years, Female. “Student enrolment (2006/07): 19,475 (including 2,514 graduate students); 60% female, 32% part-time students; 72% of undergraduates come from outside Greater Victoria. Full-time equivalent students: 14,442”. ( So again you could ask which gender is dominant in university (in terms of enrolment numbers), probably from a historical perspective you would say Male, from a 2006/2007 perspective, Female.

In terms of segregation, I would say personal attitude has a large part to play. I’m classified at UVic as a student with a disability, I went to the disability room…once. I didn’t feel comfortable being segregated, I see myself as a student who has to overcome a certain amount of adversity, but don’t we all. I didn’t think I deserved a ‘special’ room and I don’t understand those who wanted one. I thought of creating a ‘mature’ student group, we might have some interesting things to share, but I wouldn’t ask for special resources. Why the ‘Chinese chess club’, what’s wrong with the chess club (well unless you are playing chinese chess).

Circle question.png Questions for Reflection:

  • Why do you think the online facilitator found this exchange challenging?
  • How would you respond to Susan? What assumptions or misunderstandings does she seem to express, and how would you explore them with her?
  • Are Brian’s arguments valid? Why might he have presented the statistics that he has chosen, here? How would you respond to Brian? Should you respond at all?

Case Study 2

Peter is an older learner in a group that by chance is mostly composed of younger participants. Having taken early retirement, he freely admits that he is taking an online course to fill up some of his masses of free time, and learner tracking statistics quickly show that he is logging in to the course up to twenty times a day. Moreover, it quickly becomes clear that Peter is extremely comfortable in the online milieu. He tells the group that he participates in numerous online discussion forums where he is regularly involved in debates about political issues. In the first week or two, most other participants are hesitantly coming online, and struggling to become familiar with the new environment and style of communication. Peter, however, is peppering all available discussion forums with messages, routinely posting messages 8-10 times per day, although he often responds helpfully and in a thought-provoking manner to classmates. In response to a gentle first request from the facilitator to perhaps ‘go easy’ a little until others had caught up, Peter responds publicly with:

“I have to say that as someone who has recently taken online courses in Humanities (philosophy) and Fine Arts (film studies) this course has an emerging culture to it that is a more controlling and restrictive. I don't know if that is something specific to Sociology or just this course but it's manifest in the structure and the instructor feedback… I'm very passionate about freedom of speech and freedom of thought and it will be difficult to "hold my tongue" but I will make a concerted effort.”

Circle question.png Questions for Reflection:

  • Why do you think the online facilitator found Peter’s online communications challenging?
  • Might Peter’s communication practices have an impact on other learners, and if so, how?
  • Why do you think Peter posted his response publicly?
  • How would you communicate with Peter about this?
  • Should anyone else from the department or institution be involved in this conversation?
  • What outcome would you seek from these communications?