Monday, June 29, 2009

Week 3 for English 1102 on Blackboard

Well, we're a third of the way through the class already. Summer is sure flying by. I'm used to teaching in 10- or 12-week chunks, but 8 is pretty crazy.

And yet, I'm feeling pretty lonely this week when it comes to my online class.

As I look at the curriculum, I wonder if there are just too many short assignments and if the workload from week to week fluctuates too much. When teaching online, consistency from week to week has been the key to success. If students know that every week will involve a reading, a discussion, and an assignment, there should be no problem. Right? This class takes on a different approach than anything I've ever taught online before.

As I elaborated on and tweeked the course shell I was given for the class, I naively reminded myself that anyone who registered for this class should understand that the six hours a week they're not spending inside the classroom should be applied to their own schedule online throughout the week.

I think the class is intuitively laid out. Students are brought through the course item by item, so you'd think they'd just move through the curriculum and not miss a beat. Yet there are so many outstanding assignments, it's hard not to be discouraged. Where are my students? Why aren't they online six hours a week?

How is a student supposed to function within an online class unless they're, well, online. Student's attend class through their participation, and so while the traditional large chunks of time that a shortened, face-to-face class demand (like Tuesday and Thursday morning from 8 AM 'til noon, and no, there is no bathroom break), an online class demands shorter chunks of time with greater frequency of attendance (say, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week--and that's just being online to participate in discussions.)

I've had the entire week to think about this as I also wondered if students my are gauging the point value of this week's assignments with the value of the overall class. As an educator, it's annoying to think that students are cutting corners and not taking in the depth of my knowledge and preparation, which undoubtedly, if taken advantage of, will yield a group of excellent writers ready to tackle any research project, paper, or essay exam that comes their way.

But then I think of my own college days, when I'd look through the syllabus to see how many classes I could cut without being penalized and weigh that against the busy lifestyle of the 21st century college student, who likely works more hours than I did and may possible have kids and other distractions/obstacles or whatever you want to call them interfering with their ability to get everything done.

After all, as a mother of two little kids who is teaching five classes at three different colleges this summer and maintaining two blogs, how can I not relate?

And that's education in the 21st Centruy . . . and week 3 of my 1102 class.


Beth L. Gainer said...

This is an excellent post, and it's clear to me that you rock as a teacher because you are thinking and rethinking the issues of pedagogy -- especially with an online class.

Today's students have challenges that I didn't have in college. They work full-time, have kids, are taking care of other family members, are in crisis, work full-time, and also go to school.

While I'm not condoning they cut corners, at the same time, they are so pressed for time, I can understand why they do it.

I guess there's no solution for it, and an online class is harder because that face-to-face interaction with students isn't there.

You're a great teacher, Jeannie. Keep up the good work.

This is an excellent posting.

Jeannie said...

Thanks Beth. It's definitely a challenge. But the main research project is now underway, so students will need to step up if they want to succeed in this class. There isn't any margin left at this point.

Anonymous said...

I agree, excellent post!! Teaching a 16 week course in 8 weeks is tough for prof and students. I tell my students the following and encourage them NOT to take a summer course if they can't do these things:
(1) a 16 week course requires 9 hours of time every week -- 3 in-class hours and 6 hours of homework (and actually that's a little shy of the undergrad hours in class times 3).
(2) Online means 9 hours of time every week for 16 weeks.
(3) Online actually takes even longer because reading and typing takes longer than talking and listening.
(4) Cut the semester in half to an 8 week course and you're going to be spending a minimum of 15 hours a week (and some weeks a bit more) in my class to make an A.

That's it, pure and simple. If they can't do that, they should wait and take the class during a regular 16 week semester.

I do not lower the standards or cut content or decrease requirements simply because they're taking the class in half the time. I make sure they understand that upfront.

Some don't believe me! LOL And so they continue for a week or so and then drop out.

I have 5 students in each of two summer classes right now and the ones who stuck it out are making A's and B's. They're great to work with!

Jordan said...

This post is basically exactly what we talked about also during our conference. I know for me this is difficult being 19 years old, working almost 40 hours a week and it being the summer time, the biggest issue is trying to get all this work in while still getting enough sleep and being able to hang out with my friends, its hard to balance out all my time. Where as if this were a class on campus that i had to go to, it might be a little easier just knowing that something was due at 8am rather than.. oh I can do it later.

Jordan Shorner said...

One time I decided to try and take 3 online classes as well as taking 1 in school. Guess which class I did more work in? The online classes are great if you are trying to work full time and have other responsibilities, but I can say from first hand experience that online classes really bring out the weakness in some people. I love the idea of not having to drive to class, but it also makes me sometimes lazy and I will usually say like "Oh, I will get to it later" and then later might never get there. So yes, I guess you could say its a little of laziness and the fact most of us probably work full time.

But I agree with your points since we all need to finish this class strong and that is tough since finding enough time sometimes just isn't there.

Now I know our project is almost due and I must say, I have put more thought into this paper than I have into a lot of my other papers while using your simple little ideas to help me along the way.

Casey said...

Online classes saved me from taking a year or two off with my pregnancy, birth of my daughter and health issues I have experienced. I noted taht you made comment with "a lot of small assignments". It does seem that way to me, but when you take it down, it doesn't seem like much. With me, I work in spurts. So you will see me hand in multiple assignments because I had a day when Brooke wasn't home and I was able to get things done. I really like the part of this class where we discussed online "chat". That is one thing I miss about internet classes; the offering of opinions that get you to see things different or understand more.