Putting Current Events in the Classroom

Figure with bullhorn next to bold text: "Engage" to signify that instructors should incorporate currents events in their lessons

As instructional designers, we spend weeks or months working with subject matter experts and programs to ensure that courses have everything students need. We work on alignment and learning outcomes, and we carefully construct modules so that the content is current, robust, and presented in the clearest way possible. What happens though, when a portion of the course content is affected by current events? For example: What if the person or company, featured in a case study, suddenly faces serious allegations while the course is still live? Or worse yet, the content itself could become irrelevant or unusable. In these cases, students need to understand what is happening, and why.

Adding Current Events to the Curriculum

If you find yourself in this situation, here are some things you can do to incorporate current events through the “Announcements” tool in Blackboard:

Give students a synopsis of the issue

Students may not be aware of what has happened. Reassure students that you are aware of what is happening. You could even incorporate the unfolding event into the course, through a discussion or otherwise.

Share videos

Sharing videos and articles in the announcements for the course is one way to keep students informed. If the issue is high profile, like the Facebook data breach, you can likely find numerous articles and videos to share.

Read more: How does an online course work at UNE Online?

Create “Just-in-Time” videos

There are several free video creation tools that instructors can use, for free, to create videos in a short amount of time. If you think it would be helpful for students to see what you are seeing, screen sharing is likely the way to go. A few tools we like include Screencast-o-Matic, ScreenCastify, and Jing. If screen sharing isn’t necessary, one idea is to turn a PowerPoint into a video.

Thoughtful and ongoing communication about evolving content illustrates to students that instructors have a pulse on what is going on in their fields, and can provide valuable teaching moments about checking sources, staying current and continuing education. And for students, these situations can be excellent ways to explore the dynamics of changing perspectives.

Don’t forget that there is a button in every course for reporting emergent issues involving content; sometimes, a current event necessitates changes in the course’s design, which can be made (in some cases) immediately or noted for revision the next time the course is refreshed.

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