The five pitfalls of all classes can be summed up with the question of how to sustain momentum. Usually we do this by having students in class; now we have to do by not having them in class. One thing that always troubles me is the midterm slump, which can last from the third to the eighth or ninth week, when students arrive exhausted from all-nighters, and sit, glassy-eyed, present physically, mentally absent.
With fewer class periods and more structured activities, I’m hoping students will arrive with definite objectives, ready to engage and move forward on the project we’re all working on.
One of the things we’re tinkering with this class is having a mid-week check in, when homework is due, rather than having it be due the day of class. A week is a long time between classes, homework that isn’t due for a week can get pushed to the end of the to do list.
Another way to sum up the pitfalls is to recognize that multiple contacts and assignments that link and connect can build a resilient online community. Resilient communities are able to withstand disturbance. A class needs to be a web of connections, with multiple points where students can interact, with me, and with each other. The stronger the web, the more opportunities for learning. That’s chaotic, so I’m going to have to be aware that I need to sustain my own momentum, as I build a class that that I hope will be a learning experience for everybody.
Carmel, I appreciate your idea about the design of a course needing to allow multiple entry points for students. This idea sounds so easy but for me, is so difficult. It requires me to anticipate or make an educated guess about how a specific group of students might access a course: through inquiry/ Readings? Group activities? How can we anticipate what will resonate with our students. Despite my best efforts to do this, I find it consoling to think of lessons much like attending a church service. The priest moves through the ritual and delivers a well prepared, short, homily…in hopes that all will listen attentively and resonate with the whole sermon. In all honesty though, I have found that often one aspect of the sermon may resonate with me and I find myself toning out the priest (I said in all honesty 🙂 and taking my own personal reflective journey…it is a personally rewarding journey inspired by the priest’s early points.
I am always curious about how students “make sense” of what is offered by the teacher, and what intellectual journeys they take as a result of my classes.