Vicky Murillo

Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs

Vicky Murillo shares her experience working with the CTL to transition her course to an online format.  

I taught POLS GU4461-Latin American Politics: Inequalities, Democracy, and the Rule of the Law which is a lecture class for undergraduates and MA students and has two lectures with powerpoint presentations, including discussion segments, and one discussion session and some asynchronous movies. The class had 49 students.

The CTL was very helpful in the transformation to remote as I took its asynchronous course and had a one-on-one tutoring on revising my syllabus, goals and strategies. During the semester, I benefited from a class observation and related conversation about my pedagogy including advice on what to improve and what to continue doing. 

Based on those lesson, I used several strategies to establish a relationship with students: I posted an introductory video in CourseWorks before the start of the class, asked them to fill a survey to learn about their location and time zone, internet situation, year/major/school, and why they were taking the class, used the chat tool for ice-breakers, and established extended office hours the first two weeks of class to allow me to have 10 minutes with each of them at the start of the semester. Seeking informal interactions with them, I opened the class ten minutes early and closed 20 minutes late and used that time for informal conversations. 

The students were in different time zones but the attendance to lectures was synchronous and they would let me know if they could not come and use the video recording. Substantively, I divided the course into 6 modules that allowed me to fulfill the 3 goals of the class: a) understanding of social science concepts and theories that can be used for comparative analysis, b) developing the ability of assessing social science theories using empirical material, and c) to be able to interpret political debates in contemporary Latin America with a critical view that considers their complexity as well as connections with similar phenomena in the US and other parts of the world. The lectures and class activities included breakout groups using videos or short articles geared to develop these skills. I summarized the main points of the general discussion at the end so that students had a clear take away and had a review session before the five evaluations (I also considered class participation and gave the student 2 extra bonus assignments). Each of the evaluations used different ‘evidence’ including novels, movies, short videos, descriptive statistics, a real policy evaluation, and a meme. Additionally, I had another survey mid-course to evaluate what the students wanted to change or continue doing and to assess the different methods of evaluation.

The students were very engaged, they did the reading and commented on the contemporary news I sent to them linked to the topics of the class. They attended office hours and we keep track of those who were struggling academically or personally due to the pandemic. I had never seen so many undergraduate students in my office hours and talked about such a diverse array of issues. I had movie recommendations and conversations about their post-graduation plans.

Tell your story. Learn from others.

What is it like to teach and learn at Columbia in 2020-2021? Share your hybrid/HyFlex or online teaching and learning experience.