Online Course Design Pitfall #5: Ignore the ways students learn from each other.
WR 324 is already heavily collaborative: students read each other’s first drafts and write peer reviews, which are keyed to specific learning outcomes for each writing assignment. They meet in small group workshops to discuss their evolving stories (again, I give them specific questions and guidelines that connect to the learning outcomes and assessment guidelines for that assignment). I put them in pairs and groups for a variety of other tasks and activities, too. So avoiding this pitfall is something that’s already built into the nature of this course.
But… a challenge in “hybridizing” 324 will be to figure out “what goes where,” as Cub’s mini-lesson on “Successful Hybrid Design” points out. “If it works as well online as in class, consider putting it online so you can reserve limited class time for what works better face to face.” Never having taught online, I’m wrestling with this question. What will work as well online? How to divide up the usual group activities between classroom and online (while also developing new approaches that will make the best use of the online format)? And how to best integrate and connect face-to-face and online learning?
In thinking about the workshop process, I have a couple of ideas. Online workshopping would work great for the first assignment, which comes early in the term, week 2, before students really feel comfortable with each other. For the second assignment, I could break the workshop process into two parts: they respond to each other’s drafts online, and when they meet in class, each writer brings in a plan for revision based on the group’s feedback (and mine). These would be debriefings, not additional workshops.
This is something we never have time for: students usually do the workshop, go off and revise their stories, and then turn the final draft in to me. They don’t get the chance to discuss how the workshop comments aid in their revision process. (There could even be an online follow-up, where they have the option to read each other’s final drafts—though I want to be careful not to add more work/create a course and a half!)
For the third assignment, maybe I’d move the workshop into the classroom space?
For non-workshop activities, I like this point from Elizabeth St. Germain’s “Five Common Pitfalls”: “Include assignments that require students to share ideas and resources and present topics to each other.” Assigning pairs or groups of students (online) to cover particular points in a textbook chapter, or questions on an assigned short story, would be a great way to prepare them for class, so we could jump right into discussion. I’ll want to be sure that these assignments aren’t too laborious or time consuming. The idea would be that once they’ve done the reading, they should be able to respond to their group members with their particular topic or idea in ten minutes or so–the same amount of time we’d spend in class on this task.
I love the idea of asking students (individually or in groups) to do short presentations to each other about assigned reading. I rather enjoyed the assignment that Cub gave us for our first meeting, for instance. Knowing I had to present something made me think about the material I was reading much differently. Must this happen in class to be effective or can it be done online? Is video the right medium?