Know your online teaching habits..

I’m teaching about 75% of my load online this semester… and so far, it’s been good.

I think the reason it’s been working for me is that I taught several semesters’ worth of “hybrid” classes, so I’m comfortable with the online learning system my college uses.  More important than that, I know my online teaching habits.

Let’s face it, we don’t like to change… and we generally don’t change things, we only fight against our current habits.

I know the general arc I want my students to take, so the question is how to meet their needs while not making myself crazy.

I know I’m a procrastinator when it comes to grading discussions — I’ve finally figured out a way to avoid having to grade them all — thanks to a brilliant colleague… for now, I tell my students that late responses will get no grades and then I plan to grade in kind of a binge every couple of weeks.

I also don’t want to answer the same question many times — so I set up a discussion area for general class questions and let the students answer one another.  So far, so good – that, and demanding that they include their class information before I’ll answer a question has greatly reduced my e-mail load.

I’ve found that when I “participate” in a class discussion online the rest of the discussion stops — so, I started writing my philosophy class blog and link it to my courses via a feed… they get to see what I’m thinking about their topics and I don’t have to write the same thing in every section of my courses.  Win win – plus, they can go back and see what I’ve said from previous semesters… not bad, eh?

I also want them to work together, and for me not to have to write individual comments on every single paper, so I have them do a couple of group papers and give those papers intense comments.  That way students are really reading and assessing each other’s work before it gets to me — and I can give more detailed comments to 7 papers rather than 40.  At the end of the class they turn in an individual paper and I’ve found so far that the individual papers are significantly better in courses that have the group paper than those that don’t.

My class isn’t the most entertaining or interactive class possible, but I think it serves the needs of my students without making me crazy — I suppose their midterm answers will tell me more, eh?


On Being a Student Again..

Sorry it’s been quiet around here… things are good, I’m suddenly not feeling all that bloggy…

Andy and I are taking a photo class in the Art Department.  Photography 1 involves using actual black and white film and the dark room.

As folks who have mad academic skills, the knowledge part of this isn’t difficult for either of us, but the darkroom skills are proving to be a bit of a challenge.

Those challenges remind me of what it’s like to be a student — one of my students may be a dark room whiz, but not good at philosophy…. and now I understand how that feels.  Your skill set isn’t exactly helpful in another context..   Between us, we made every mistake in the book — from messing up with the timers, printing on the wrong side of the paper and (my favorite) printing the contact sheet backwards… all of them.

The lab techs and our instructor are very pleasant and wonderful — we just have some pretty high expectations of ourselves.  My inner Lisa Simpson came out in full force yesterday, “I want a grade — a GOOD grade — I want to be the best… at EVERYTHING”.. You know the drill.

On a related note, my Andy is on the Dean’s list at school AND in Lake Superior Magazine — check him out!  I’m proud to say I have many Andy originals (and the original Andy) around my place :).