Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Weeks 4, 5 and 6

Wow! Is it really week 6? It seems like just yesterday I was lamenting over week 3. So why haven't you hear from me since week 3? That's easy: I'm stinking busy!

The past three weeks have been a balancing act and in some respects, I seem to be on the losing end. I have 20 students between two sections for College 3 and it seems as if the workload is heavier than it was last time I had 20 students. The grading for this class is extremely time consuming and at times, tedious. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do for this class. It's just that when I'm in a time crunch, it's hard to enjoy the process.

Meanwhile, only about half of my English 1102 class is on board. This keeps grading at a minimum, but it almost seems harder to work with fewer students. I put so much mental energy into re-orienting myself to what's going on in the class, only to have a few assignments to grade.

There's been quite a learning curve here, even though I've been teaching online for five years at other colleges. The actual course I'm using was laid out differently than how I typically put classes together, which perhaps makes a difference in how students approach the class.

For example, typically I organize the class by week; whereas, this class is arranged by projects. It seems like a no-brainer to enter each project and complete the steps, and yet, it isn't happening. I think some of this may be because if a student gets behind, he or she gets lost. I thought I headed this off with an "Assignments" tab that lists all the assignments that need to be complete, but since I'm not seeing the results I'm expecting, I have to take into account that students might not be getting it.

Another thing I'm considering is that at College 1, online classes are a way of life and students tend to take them every term, so they have more experience. At College 3, I'm working with masters-level students, so they're just more academically mature.

At College 2, however, it seems like most of my students do not have experience with classes that are exclusively online. Couple this with the fact that most are transfer students trying to get the class "out of the way at the local community college," and that pretty much equals: Care about this class? Not so much!

I sent out an email last week expressing my concerns about the lack of work I was receiving and magically those blessed green boxes started to appear in the grade book, so it's becoming apparent who is serious about the class and who is wasting tuition money.

Summer school is tough.
Shortened classes are tough.
Online classes are tough.

Combine the three: crazy/tough.

We're all hanging in there together. There are a lot of things I'd do differently next time.

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Jordan Leigh Baker said...

I completly agree with everything about summer school being tough, online classes tough. Both of these are true because there is so much going on to fit these in. I'm taking this class at C.O.D. over the summer so that I can concentrate on other class during the fall and spring semesters. It is not that I dont care about this class because I still need a good grade, my issue is that there is so much going on for me right now that it is hard to keep up. I am taking this class now because I did not do so great during the school year so I want to get out of the way what I can now.

Anonymous said...

Ditto everything you said. Very nicely stated. Organization is the key to success for many students. I think that many pre-designed courses are not organized for the most efficient use of students' time. And they do get "lost" if there's not a clear week by week progression.

I am experimenting with a "topic" or "unit" organization for my fall courses. However, within those units I have created weekly assignments and due dates which are, with a few exceptions due to holidays and exam schedules, the same days of the week every week.

I used to make a color-coded weekly assignment schedule in list/chart format. This time I'm using a calendar format for the first time. I have the course calendar set up for the three months of the course and then, in the unit overviews, I have the list/chart assignment format for each unit.

My hope is that with both formats, I'm getting the left- and right-brained folks :-) It was very difficult for me to transfer my list schedule to a calendar format -- I'm totally and completely left-brained! That process made me realize how lost some of my right-brained learners may be working off a list (of course they could transfer the info to a calendar but most students wouldn't take the time to do so). A little extra work for me but hopefully it will help my inexperienced and not-so-motivated younger and new online learners.

Jordan Shorner said...

I agree completely about Summer classes being a ton harder than having taken the class during the regular school year. Now combine the summer class with online and that makes it even harder. Now the reason I decided to take this class over the summer was just to try and get another gen ed done for Benedictine without having to spend an insane amount of money to take it there.

Now don't get me wrong, you seem like a great teacher and keep us updated weekly which is nice since I used to have a couple online classes where my teachers didn't update anything and never emailed you back.

Now class is tough, but I try and turn a couple assignments in at once, which by reading your post, you'd rather have one at a time so its not such a huge workload on you. Sorry about that and I will try and send them out on different days just to split things up.

Now about the online set up, it is a little confusing to start using right away since there is a ton of different tabs to look through, and that might scare some students away since they might get frustrated about not being able to find certain items. Now I understand if you were actually doing the work in class navigating through the links is easy, but if you haven't been keeping up, that makes it that much harder since they see all this stuff on the website and get overwhelmed. It's just a thought, not sure if its true at all lol.

Casey said...

One class in summer school is more difficult than 4 classes during fall or spring. It kind of reminds me of a poem my Mom used to say to me when I would complain when I was little about going to bed (when it was light):

In winter I go to bed at night
and dress by yellow candlelight;
In summer, it's quite the other day, I have to go to bed by day.
I have to go to bed and see the birds still singing in the trees;
and I would like so much to play
but have to go to bed by day.

Well, for summer school, substitute "do school work" for bed. In the winter...you dont' mind, it's dark. But the summer has so many things to do! It is difficult!

John Vogel said...

As far as managing time goes, I don't have much issue with completing the assignments on time. I think the way and timing that the assignments are posted is very fair and manageable. The only issues I have had are with the blackboard site itself. I find it hard to navigate and difficult to be sure I have completed everything necessary that week. Other than a few mild issues with the site though, I think this English 1102 works well as an online class as long as the time and effort is put forth.