Teaching Online: Tips and Activities for Political Science

Smart phones with digital network icons and "Online Learning"
Political Science
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Author: Emily Farris, Texas Christian University

I’m trying to convert my lectures online and come up with some activities for students to engage the content with – to replace some of the discussion in my lectures typically. In working on Interest Groups and Lobbying this week, Stefan Kehlenbach, a PhD Candidate at University of California Riverside, noticed my activity with Open Secrets and offered his own (which is far superior than my own!). Kehlenbach has taught introduction to American Politics online before and has generously offered to share his four activities for students.

The Open Secrets Site

In his Interest Group assignment, he has students research interest groups using the Open Secrets website to explore how much money an interest group spends and what they spend that money on. Students look to see if their interest groups employs any “revolving door” lobbyists and see what kinds of laws they lobbied for. They write up the research in a blog post for their colleagues in the class to also see.

This assignment, along with other assignments on the Declaration of Independence, Bill Tracking, and Ballot Exploration, are great options as you think about moving your classes online. Kehlenbach wrote up his tips for teaching online after doing so for a few years. As he mentions, these exploratory assignments are actually a benefit of teaching online:

Online classes do have some advantages, you can have your students go to other places for learning materials. I create “exploratory” assignments to help provide some self-guided learning. Students have to go to websites to track the progress of a bill into a law, for example. You can also provide optional material for students to explore. – Stefan Kehlenbach