November 27, 2018

Ready, Set, Connect! Pedagogy and Multidisciplinary Collaborators

This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

As technology has become ubiquitous in the workplace, college students have to learn different forms of communication and acquire technology skills. In 2017-2018, Lisa Deguire and Marie-Sophia Grabowiecki, engaged their students and themselves in a cross-campus and cross-discipline project to meet those objectives. Thanks to the support of the ECQ and the Virtual Team Teaching Network (VTTN) students from the Cégep de Jonquière and from Vanier College were introduced to the concept of collaborating at a distance in a simultaneous live cross-campus collaborative debate. The project was aptly dubbed “speech and debate isn’t just for arguing” and was presented at both l’AQPC and RASCALS conferences in June 2018.

The students in Lisa’s second language course in Jonquière were paired with Marie Sophia’s students in an introductory sociology course in Montreal. Even though 2 totally different disciplines were concerned, this interdisciplinary pedagogical project was possible as both courses shared certain similar learning outcomes:

  • Examine social issues
    • For the sociology students, to investigate current social issues
    • For ESL students, social issues that relate to their field of study
  • Be able to debate
    • Demonstration of student’s ability to defend a point of view
    • Showing of openness and respect
  • Develop Skill 4 of the ICT Profile for College Students: working in networks
    • Use various remote communication tools
    • Share content
    • Collaborate and contribute to the completion of the project

Students working on cross-campus and and cross-discipline project (Photo by Lisa Deguire)

The inside story

These are the communication platforms or apps that were used during the virtual team teaching project:

  • Skype for business for live debate with the option to record for follow-up evaluation. (Free online meetings for up to 10 people without a subscription.)
  • Facebook (private groups and messenger app) as networking and communication tools
  • Google docs for collaborative argument prep
  • Texting between personal cell phones (including the teachers’)

Here are other apps and platforms to consider. Social media can be very helpful in setting up collaborative relationships and connecting students:

How did the students prepare for the first meeting?

  • Brainstorm topics in each class
  • Share ideas from respective classes
  • Initial grouping of students according to preferred debate topics

What happened during the students’ first get-together?

  • Introduced themselves
  • Signed into Office365 in order to access email and create a “debate team” email list for the purpose of exchanging articles as well as information leading up to the debate
  • Confirmed reception of initial email by all group members
  • Discussed the pros & cons of the debate topic
  • Created their own private groups on Facebook to communicate via messenger as well as exchanged phone numbers for direct texting

After the students’ first encounter work continued. Students shared sources and prepped arguments during class times across campuses via Facebook or Skype whichever was easiest for them. Students were asked to:

  • Find reliable current news sources related to topic
  • Add them to the team’s Google doc
  • Determine and chose arguments that would be used during the debate
  • Formulate arguments

The DEBATERS but not quite as funny!

The format of the synchronous cross-campus collaborative debate is loosely based on CBC’s the Debaters.

  • Each group has 1 minute each to present fact-based, logical, succinct and compelling arguments in favour of their position
  • This is followed by a 2-minute bareknuckle round in which each group must disprove the arguments presented by the opposing team
  • The debate wraps up with 1-minute summation of main points per team

How was the project evaluated?

Each student received an individual assessment that focused on:

  • Preparatory work
  • Research
  • Formulation of arguments
  • Debate activity

Virtual social learning’s powerful benefits

The key skills and behaviours that were developed during this project and that students will be able to use on the job:

  • Verbal and written communication for effective communication in the 21st century
  • Online etiquette to interact effectively with their virtual classmates
  • Structured critical use of online and mobile tools


Positive Elements

The students enjoyed meeting people from another college and the English second language students were happy for the opportunity to converse with native speakers.

The students also mentioned that they preferred the virtual debate activity to the more traditional research assignments and that they felt more involved as they had a say in the topics. The collaborative building of arguments was very appreciated.

Hi Miss, just wanted to let you know I have nothing but positive remarks about the activity we did in class. It was a huge learning experience for me and I had fun meeting new students and interacting with them! The group work in class was always fun, and overall it was a well organized and interesting project and I’m happy I had the opportunity to be apart of it.

English second language students had the opportunity to converse with native speakers. (Photo by Lisa Deguire)


The class sizes varied greatly which meant that the students from one college had to pair up with a larger group of unknown people from the other college. The equipment used posed another challenge. In one college the students had access to adapted labs, reserved bandwidth, quality headphones with microphones and integrated webcams whereas in the other college the students were working with laptops and ear buds. This difference in equipment resulted in poor connection at times.

Ready, Set, Connect!

Marie-Sophia and Lisa’s innovative virtual debate project required students to collaborate, problem-solve and use their creativity. This is exactly the type of project needed for students to prepare for increasingly complex work environments.  What say you?

Lisa is always looking for other colleges to connect with, “Presently, we are particularly interested in business course student collaborators.” Please leave a comment below or get in touch with Lisa Deguire.

About the author

Susan MacNeil

She has had a busy career in education. With a M.Ed she taught all levels from kindergarten to university. However, most of her career was spent at the college level teaching ESL. She gave Performa courses, lead workshops at SPEAQ, RASCALS and l’AQPC. She served at the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur where she contributed to the evaluation of the general education components. She received grants from L’Entente Canada-Québec for various
research projects. Susan is also the recipient of the AQPC Mention d’honneur Award. Having retired from teaching she became a contributor to Real Life Stories of education technology integration at Eductive. Chinese ink painting helps her relax and travel keeps her energized.

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