Inside the Nutshell: Keeping the Nut From Cracking

Focus, focus, focus. That is what I am currently trying to do, on this one blog, on this course design, on this new hybrid course, considering all the things that need to fit, how to balance online content with classroom content, learning outcomes, assessments, linkages, etc. I have to admit, I feel more comfortable with this process than any other time in the past, yet still question whether I am doing this for myself or for the students. I am both instructor and student, leader and follower, master and apprentice. The course, Anth 210 Comparative Cultures, in its new guise, covers a multitude of topics, including worldwide cultural practices, gender designations, health care, religions, political powers and human migration (and more!). Sounds like a great class, eh?

It is or will be! This particular class is referred to as a Bacc Core class in Perspectives: Cultural Diversity, created primarily for non-anthro majors. In the past and most likely to continue, multiple sections are offered each and every quarter, with most of them taught by Graduate Teaching Assistants in our Applied Anthropology Master or Ph.D program. High turnover in students; high turnover in GTAs; a constant rotation. Only one constant: me.

Students registered for this class are typically in their first two years of higher education, though some upperclass students trickle in from time-to-time. Most have never taken an anthropology course prior to this one.

Nuts and shells of the course: As a hybrid, students in this course will meet f2f once per week for 80 minutes at which time they will be involved in differing, linked activities, such as small group discussions, debates, presentations, etc. Ideally the preparation for the meeting times will be prompted online, in a weekly module that gives the student a chance to know what the expectations are in the f2f portion of the course.

Most of the content will be from one main textbook/e-book, with assigned chapter readings each week and online lectures. Additionally, students are expected to use a “fun,” interactive, low stakes, publisher program that gives them a chance to review material from the assigned readings. There is also a chance to use Review Quizzes online (open book, un-timed) to further reinforce the textbook content. Another part of each module  will include a prompt that prepares each student for the classroom meeting. For example, one prompt asks students to carry a notebook/electronic device and note particular establishments that they encounter every day that are cultural in context (e.g. synagogue, mosque, church), then bring the notes to class to share with their peers. This is one of the ways the online content will connect with the classroom content.

The assessments used in this design are the publisher’s interactive program, the review quizzes and attendance/participation in the class. One consideration is whether to have a final project/presentation or a final exam. I have not decided on this yet.

Picturing myself as a student in this hybrid course, I’m trying to make sure that I do not make too many assignment/assessments that are unnecessary or take too much time outside of the classroom. Students figure out rather quickly which assignments are necessary and which they can miss; some will be high achievers while others will just aim at passing the class and checking off the Bacc Core category. I suppose I have no control over those decisions, yet don’t want to overburden students with a course and a half.

Okay, that’s it. Time to Blog Off and get to work.

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3 Responses to Inside the Nutshell: Keeping the Nut From Cracking

  1. Sue says:

    FOCUS–yes! This is my challenge, too. There seem to be so many elements and possible elements, and they are multiplying like those chocolate candies on the conveyor belt in that famous I Love Lucy episode (yes, I am old).

  2. Inara Scott says:

    Hello! I can appreciate the focus challenges, having them myself as well! One question I had after reading your blog is about assessments. You mentioned the assessments are publisher’s interactive program, the review quizzes and attendance/participation and are wondering about a final project or final exam. Will the publisher program and review quizzes be objective questions (i.e., multiple choice/T-F) and therefore likely lower on the Bloom’s taxonomy? If so, is there any way to build in a summative assessment that includes more upper level thinking–application, synthesis, etc.? You might have that in more extensive essay questions on the quizzes, not sure. But if your assessment is all at the basic level, then a final project or exam where you assess some of those more higher level cognitive skills could be great.

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