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Robby Ratan

TC401-731: Science Fiction, Communication & Technology
Best Blended
“Synchronous video conferencing and collaboration.”
- Robby Ratan -

TC 401 examined the ways in which science fiction portrays the use of communication technologies. Themes from works of science fiction (mostly films, but also one novel) were critically analyzed in an effort to relate them to our world, facilitating realizations about how to guide our own communication technology use in our personal lives and society writ large.


The Zoom video­conferencing software was the primary technology in this course, lending structure to students’ time use. Beyond simply needing to attend class at a specific time, students were also compelled to attend to class because the format gave everyone a “front row seat.”

With Zoom, the instructor could tell in a glance whether students were engaged in the class or were multitasking (which was against the course policy). Also, during discussions, questions were posed that every student answered. Students are called on in the order in which their faces appeared on the screen. This provided a predictable structure to the course conversation and helped students anticipate when they would speak. Further, students were encouraged to use Zoom’s text chat feature for back-channel communication during the film viewing and class discussions. This allowed the students to engage with the material in real time through interactions with each other.

Eli Review

The course utilized the Eli Review system to facilitate the peer review process. While not as essential to the course structure as Zoom, the platform played an important role in facilitating student interaction outside of class meetings, which was essential to increasing student engagement in the course in general.

Evidence of Effectiveness

Student feedback and the course SIRS forms indicated that students enjoyed using the Zoom platform and one student even shared deeply personal stories with his classmates regarding a disability that he may not otherwise have shared.

Technologies included in this course: