I posted an announcement, which I also emailed students over the weekend, inviting them to check out the course. I will also post weekly announcements reminding them about what's coming up.
I made the course inviting by posting my picture under staff information. It's the same one I use for my blog. Hopefully they'll see that I am human and that English doesn't have to be that scary or painful. Since I'm adjunct and I pretty much never check my voicemail, I included a cell phone number. We'll see how this goes. I tried this with College 3 and so far, the privilege has not been abused.
To mix things up, I added two teaching assistants to my staff list: my six-year-old son and his two-year-old sister. I added fun notes from each of them, which I hope fill add personality to the course. I want my students to see me not only as an expert in writing, but also as a person who cares about theirs. What better way to do this then to add some fun features that distinguish my online course from another?
My son Alex, aka Mr. Busypants "writes": My desk is situated right next to my mom's in our office. I work with her constantly and interrupt her whenever necessary. You can read about me at The Adventures of Mr. Busypants. I post my best artwork on Mondays. Click on the slideshow on the right to see examples of why I'm called Mr. Busypants.
As for my daughter, Jorie, aka Miss Chattyshoes, she "writes": If my mom isn't answering your emails, I am probably the reason. I demand attention all day long and if I even think I might not get it, I will throw myself on the floor and scream. You can read about me on The Adventures of Mr. Busypants every Tuesday in my supposed-to-be-weekly column Tuesdays with Jorie.
The primary work of week 1 was to participate on the discussion boards. The first board asked students to introduce themselves. I made sure I had a post as well and checked in several times a day to see who accessed the course. I also tried to respond to each student with some kind of connection, whether it be to the town they live in or a personal interest of theirs--I looked to make a connection.
The rest of the discussions assigned for that week had to do with completing exercises for the reading. Mid-week I noticed no one had yet tackled the first exercise, so I did the exercise myself and posted my thoughts and additional encouragement and pointers. As students started to post their assignments, I again looked for ways to acknowledge or encourage them. I didn't reply to every response, but I made an effort to respond once to each student.
Now I must admit, I'm addicted to podcasting. It's so fun! So far for the course, I've recorded three podcasts: the first went step-by-step through my Blackboard site; it was about twelve minutes long. The second went through the course introduction, which included an explanation of all the week 1 assignments, and was three minutes long. The latest podcast, also three minutes, discussed the first project, which will span over weeks 2, 3 and 4.
In my podcasts, I made sure I encouraged students to manage their time against their work, school and social schedule and to look ahead to the next project so that no assignment sneaks up on them. There are weeks where projects overlap (for example, I told them to look at project 1 this week so they could start thinking about a research topic), so I want to make sure they're aware of this. There will also be portions of the second project that may take time to execute (like scheduling an interview with an expert), so I don't want that part of the assignment to catch them by surprise.
Not only do I plan on posting a podcast for each project, but I also plan on posting weekly check-in podcasts to stay in touch. I have a tab called Podcasts on Blackboard and I also post each podcast on the Announcements page with a link, which is also emailed to each student.
Late Log Ons
By Thursday of week 1, I noticed that one student still had not logged on (you can check a student's last access through the grade book on Blackboard.) I emailed that student to find out what the problem was and encourage him to drop the course if he wasn't going to pursue it. I heard back from him within 24 hours. He was trying to access Blackboard through his old school account. Since the school recently switched over to a new system, his Blackboard account with his live classes came from a different log in. I am happy we resolved this issue so quickly and it was in part because of that personal connection.
One thing that I find to be difficult with working at several different colleges is email. It's time consuming to have to regularly check several accounts, several times a day.
To help with this, I created personal gmail accounts for each college, and forwarded those accounts to my primary email. In my primary email box, each email I receive is labeled with the address it is sent to, so it's really easy to see what emails come from which college.
For College 2, I went into my school email address and set up "rules" for forwarding certain email. For example, all email from important people in my department (like the dean, her assistants, key people from the library and other areas in the college) and with specific subjects (like English 1102), to my Gmail. That way, if something important pops up in that email account, I get it a little more quickly than I would otherwise.
Well, that's about it for Week 1. I'm looking forward to an excellent semester and will keep you posted on the ups and downs of English 1102 online.
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