Using Role-Playing to Increase Engagement in Online Classes

Andrea Hunt
Sociology and Family Studies, University of North Alabama

Role-playing is a special type of case study where students are presented with a context and specific situation, and they take on the perspective of others. It is similar to problem-based learning in that students may be working towards a solution to a problem or issue within their discipline. In online classes, role-playing may be particularly useful in increasing student engagement and interaction with the course material, peers, and the instructor. This presentation will provide an example of role-playing in an online class where students play the part of stakeholders in community board meetings. The students become members of a community and are presented with current social problems. The students must decide on a course of action for their community and vote on policy issues. Students examine the issue from multiple perspectives and assume the role of different professionals and civic group members. In doing so, students are exposed to different viewpoints and ways of addressing a situation. The presentation will address the advantages and disadvantages of incorporating role-playing in online classes. The presentation will also provide a preliminary assessment of student evaluations of the pedagogical technique and address whether role-playing helped meet the student learning outcomes for the course.