Humanizing the Virtual Classroom: Extending the reach of team-based learning from in person to online at University of Michigan

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This session showcases how the University of Michigan leverages InSpace, a virtual video conferencing platform, to maintain the integrity of high tech team-based learning classrooms amidst constantly shifting student preferences for learning modalities and AI/ML innovations challenging today’s educational experience.


I am an educator with a passion for creating joyful, engaging, and empowering learning experiences. I have over ten years of classroom teaching experience with a demonstrated history of working with diverse students. As a Teach for America Corps member, I taught English Language Arts and English as a Second Language. I have also worked as a curriculum developer and teacher trainer with both domestic and international education-focused NGOs. In my current role, I am a Learning and Teaching Consultant at University of Michigan College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts (LSA). My research interests include culturally responsive teaching and leadership practices, single gender teaching and learning, team-based learning, and embodied learning.

Extended Abstract

Team-based learning is an instructional strategy in which students participate in highly structured teams and follow a series of activities, from reviewing the content before class, to demonstrating knowledge of that content both individually and as a team, followed by related application and assessment activities (Michaelsen, Knight, and Fink, 2004). Team-based learning (TBL) classrooms at University of Michigan are classrooms with unique features, including moveable furniture, writing surfaces, and student technology. These spaces support a variety of active instructional strategies that require higher order thinking skills, such as problem solving, analysis, and construction of knowledge.

With the rapid development of AI/ML technology, more instructors at University of Michigan are shifting to a TBL approach that is inherently skills or competency based, rather than purely content based. Instructors teaching TBL classes are challenged to provide students with the flexibility in learning modalities that they now expect while maintaining the integrity of the teams. The efforts around providing a blended TBL course were grounded in the belief that the most innovative course experiences should not exclude students who struggle to access the physical classroom space. While instructors have relied on Zoom to provide remote learning experiences in lecture-based settings, Zoom proved unable to facilitate ongoing connection and active learning experiences essential for team-based learning.

As a solution to this challenge, University of Michigan partnered with InSpace to find a way to preserve the integrity of Team Based Learning pedagogy while allowing for a blended learning approach, with some students in the physical classroom and others remote. With InSpace, remote students never lose sight of the other students in the classroom. The overlapping audio allows for more natural discussions among student teams. Unlike Zoom, where remote students were together on a Zoom call with one student whose team role was to open a Zoom room for any remote students, all students log into InSpace and are in the space with their remote team members. This increases the sense of connection and belonging of the remote students with their in-person peers. 

The main limitation of this format was the location of the instructor, as instructors in TBL spaces do not usually teach from the podium, rather they prefer to move around the room from team to team. We are still testing creative solutions to this challenge, which include using an Owl Camera to track the instructor and project the classroom image inside InSpace for remote students. 

Our session will outline the way a blended TBL course was structured within an onsite classroom. To conclude, presenters will share the benefits of using InSpace to allow for a blended TBL approach, as well as continued areas for improved design.

NOTE: This presentation proposal was accepted at OLC Innovate 2023 in Nashville. The presenters chose to prioritize OLC Accelerate to allow additional time for our pilot instructors to provide findings and feedback.