Crandall University and University of Saskatchewan

Seminar Summary

On Friday February 6, 2015, the undergraduate students from Sam Reimer’s course in advanced research methods at Crandall University linked via webinar with the undergraduate students from Cathy Holtmann’s course in methods of social research at the University of Saskatchewan. The purpose of the hour-long exercise was to inform our undergraduate students about recent research in the sociology of religion, provide an opportunity for them to deepen their learning about research methods based on two different research projects, and to use existing technology to interact with a professor and students in a similar course from another part of the country.

Prior to the class, the students were asked to read two articles based on contemporary sociological research on religion:

  • Perry, S. 2014. “More like us: How religious service attendance hinders interracial romance.” Sociology of Religion 75(3): 442-462.
  • Kraus, R. 2014. “Transforming spirituality in artistic leisure: How the spiritual meaning of belly dance changes over time.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 53(3): 459-478.

The students were also provided with a list of questions to guide their reading of the article.

We used Blackboard Collaborate, the webinar software supported by the University of Saskatchewan and were grateful to have had assistance from Tyson Brown who works with ICT as well as from Srijita Sarkar, a doctoral student in the Sociology Department.  In each classroom, one computer equipped with a web camera and microphone was linked to a projector so that the webinar images were projected onto a large screen.  Once logged on to Collaborate, people from both classrooms were able to see, hear and speak to one another.

Sam began by introducing his students (N=12) in Moncton to the class in Saskatoon. Using PowerPoint slides, Sam explained the results of the regression models that Perry had used. Using data from the 2007 Baylor Religion Survey, the research showed that interracial romance is hindered by the moderating variable of endogamy, or embeddedness in a socio-religious community, rather than by regular religious attendance directly. The students from the University of Saskatchewan asked Sam questions about the impact of religious similarities and differences within couples. Then it was Cathy‘ turn to introduce her students (N=25) and lead the group through the qualitative methods used by Kraus in her longitudinal study of spiritual change among belly dancers. Students from Crandall were interested in hearing more about the study of spiritual change and the differences in spirituality between ‘dwellers’ and ‘seekers’. Sam wrapped up the class by reviewing what had taken place and inviting the students to check out the Religion and Diversity Project website for more information on religious diversity.

Student Comments

The students’ comments on the experience were mostly positive:

  • “I found the class really interesting and I liked being able to see kind of back-to-back reviews of qualitative and quantitative research. I noticed there was a box where messages could be sent back and forth and maybe the class could have been more interactive if we could have utilized that instead of dealing with passing microphones around/repeating questions?” (University of Saskatchewan)
  • “I thought the interaction with the class from Moncton was awesome. It went rather quick, but the experience was great. It’s not every day we can interact with others from afar. Sometimes the ‘real time’ learning has its benefits over reading from notes. It would be neat to experience more of these in the future.” (University of Saskatchewan)
  • “I thought it was a good experience and helpful to hear from another sociologist.” (Crandall University)
  • “I really enjoyed the linked classroom that we had yesterday. The article that Dr. Holtmann picked out was intriguing and quite different from other academic articles that I have read regarding religion and spirituality. I actually really enjoyed the subject of both articles. The linked classroom and the articles caused me to think a lot more about the differences between spirituality and religion, how they work together, and how they can be completely separate things but still have a major impact on people’s lives.  I’m not sure what else you may be looking for in regards to feedback, but I enjoyed the linked Classrooms (and especially enjoyed that I was not the one in front of the camera! 😉 ). I think it would be a great idea to connect classrooms to discuss articles again. Maybe at some point two classrooms can review the same article and see if there are similarities between the observations of the two groups.” (Crandall University)
  • “I thought it was interesting. There were points at which the format distracted me a bit, but that was probably because I’d never had a class like that before.” (Crandall University)
  • “I don’t have too much to say because I thought that it went fairly well overall. There is obviously still some issues with the technology, but that is something that is out of your hands, and I think it was good with the current technology that is available. The only thing that there could have been improvement was more interaction from our class, which includes myself as well. That may have been due to our class being larger than the other one, and people feeling shy (I’m fairly anxious myself). It was the first time I witnessed a conference style skype session, so I thought it was an interesting experience.” (University of Saskatchewan)