This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.
Benefits of “Face-to-face Instruction”
On March 10th, 2020 Miami University suspended all face-to-face instruction in favor of remote instruction due to Coronavirus and three days later decided to extend this through the rest of the spring semester and send students home. Integrating all of my classes online has been a particular challenge although some have been worse than others. Most of the difficulties for my classes have been with professors who struggle to use technology as part of their teaching methods in general and were given very little time to figure this out.
However, the Prosecution Project takes advantage of many different online technologies and the transition to remote learning was much smoother than other classes. All of our class materials are online and we mostly work in pairs which can easily continue over Facetime or Skype.
Noticing the ease of this transition, I started thinking about what the benefits of face to face instruction are in a class that is driven by technology and working on computers. Some answers seemed obvious such as being able to communicate as a whole group and to make sure issues are being addressed by someone easily. These problems could be addressed with technology and we have tried to do that with project management softwares like Trello. Another obvious benefit is the ability to have meetings with experts in different areas relating to our project such as Seamus Hughes, Dr. Erin Kearns and Dr. Richard Rubenstein. These meetings were all conducted by Skype and could be made into group Skype calls, although this would be slightly more complicated. Even though face to face instruction would be easier, it is possible to conduct this class virtually without losing many of the basic fundamentals of the course.
There are some more meaningful benefits to this time that we spend all together in one room that I would feel lost in this project without. In the introduction for their book, Handbook for Team Based Qualitative Research, Greg Guest and Kathleen MacQueen write about what it takes to have a successful research team. “Because the work is not about any one person, it is also important that each team member feel a sense of commitment and responsibility to the work of the group and not just his or her own particular focus” (MacQueen, 5). For coders like myself who have not been in the project very long we spend the majority of our time just doing the partner coding process. The only way we know about the other aspects of the project that people are working on is to hear about them in class when they are discussed.
These include projects like analyses for outside groups or presentations to conferences. These projects show the bigger goals of the Prosecution Project and give coders a sense of what they are working for which makes them more invested in the project. Without this bigger picture it would be easier to be sloppy and coders would not be invested in the project for a long time. Natasha Mack, Arwen Bunce and Better Akumatey write “Without team members who think of themselves as working toward a common goal, the benefits for the project of putting minds, hands and talents together are much diminished” (Mack, 61). They write about the benefits of face to face meetings even in international projects where these meetings are much more difficult. Currently there are many students who have been with the project as long as they are in school and even beyond school instead of just doing it for one semester and moving on. This dedication shows how students feel connected and invested in the work they are doing which leads to a better project because they take pride in their work.
Finally, face to face instruction solidifies respect and trust with our project members. As MacQueen and Guest write “Respect is key, trust essential” (MacQueen, 5). The Prosecution Project deals with many sensitive topics and being able to work together face to face allows us to deal with these topics in a much more human way than if we had to interact over technology because of the emotions we can portray face to face. We are able to see each other’s work in person and are able to trust that everyone is working towards the same goal in a safe environment which leads to a better, more cohesive project that takes everyones opinion into account. The decision the University made was the right one and I am in no way questioning that. However, I am grateful for the time we had to work on the project face to face and believe the smooth transition to remote working is only possible because of the time we had in the classroom.
MacQueen, Kathleen M., and Greg Guest. “An Introduction to Team-Based Qualitative Research.” In Handbook for Team-Based Qualitative Research, edited by Greg Guest and Kathleen M. MacQueen, 3– 19. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2008.
Mack, Natasha, Arwen Bunce, and Betty Akumatey. “A Logistical Framework for Enhancing Team Dynamics.” In Handbook for Team-Based Qualitative Research, edited by Greg Guest and Kathleen M. MacQueen, 61–97. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2008.