Most online classes are usually focused on reading books, communicating asynchronously, writing papers and taking tests, but Human Development 205 is not your typical online class.
HD 205, Communication in Human Relations, is a life-skills enhancement course and is designed to help students learn how to communicate effectively while improving their teambuilding and leadership skills. In the fall 2008 semester, the class was offered online for the first time.
“It was an experiment,” said course instructor Becky Dueben, “to learn if it was possible to offer such an interactive and experience-based course in an online environment.”
One of the challenges of the class is that students meet together for two hours online every week. “The simultaneous meeting time did take a little getting used to for some students,” Dueben said.
“WSU’s goal is to allow for online students to have the same education as those on campus,” course instructor Becky Dueben said. “This class is a way for online students to gain experiential interaction as well as for us (in the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences) to see if an online experiential class could work.”
The overall theme for the class was getting students to communicate with others whom they normally would not while taking a step outside of their comfort zones.
“We want students to do any activity that pulls them out of their comfort zone and supports their evolution as communicators,” Dueben said. “It is only after you get out of your comfort zone that you learn and grow.”
The class follows a research-based, experiential model in which students learn through participation. Students practice communication through a series of assignments designed to bring what students are learning in the class into their day-to-day lives. Students then reflect and discuss these assignments and experiences with other class members.
One assignment asks students to take time to actively listen to someone in their lives. Students then told the speaker what they heard him or her say. “It was amazing how many relationships were improved by this exercise,” Dueben said.
In one instance, a student reported talking to a five year old who came into her care after the child’s house burned down and the child’s mother was taken to the hospital.
“He really opened up to me like he did not before. He kept talking to me about anything and before he was really shy. Because I listened to him he feels like he can trust me,” the student said.
This fall was the first time the class was offered online and 25 students took advantage of the opportunity. For the spring 2009 semester, 40 students have signed up to take the class.
“There have been a few struggles at times, but the response from students has been great. I had positive evaluations from last semester,” Dueben said. “Like everything else, I feel that the class will only become better the more experience I get teaching it.”
By Mitch Sieber
WSU CAHNRS Marketing, News, and Educational Communications Intern