Chapters 4 and 5: So many questions!
Chapters 4 and 5: So many questions! avatar

This week’s readings prompted a lot of thought about the logistics of the online discussion, syllabus, and organization of an online class in general. I realize all my questions don’t need to be answered right now, but I appreciate any insights you all have!

Warnock’s Chapter 4 (and also Tony’s video) made me realize the #1 thing I should be looking for when setting up my class in a LMS are the collaborative spaces. The areas in which students can “talk” and see their classmates’ ideas are going to be key in designing an online course. These are areas of Canvas I haven’t used much at all teaching on-site (except Google docs). The discussion board section, the place that will replace the in class whiteboard will the of utmost importance in an online class. This leads me to wonder: what are those spaces in Canvas? And how many different spaces like that do you utilize to keep the class interesting and dynamic, but not so many to make it annoying or gimmicky?

Also, Warnock recommends using chat features for synchronous textual conversations (32).  I understand how chat works when you’re signed in to Google, but what about Canvas? There isn’t chat there, right? I think Zoom has the chat option, but could you or would you use it without also using video? Warnock also mentions “whiteboard” technologies (34). What would be an example of that (besides Anna’s imagined LMS). Maybe when he wrote the book the tools were going in a different direction…?

When thinking about planning a lesson or series of idea-generating elements (like Tony demonstrated in his video) the stages or steps become really important, since the instructor has to wait for everyone to get a chance to respond asynchronously. Warnock recommends to “pose simple, direct questions to students initially, and then during the week, work toward a more complex learning goal” (31-2).  I’m wondering about the logistics of this type of back-and-forth. How many due dates per week do you all give students? (I haven’t taught more than a two-day-a-week class, so I’m unsure if it’s appropriate to assign more items due in a week than that.) In an onsite class, a few steps can be worked through in one class period, since you’re all together. 

In Warnock’s blog, in his “Online peer review writing groups” entry, he discusses some of the challenges with f2f peer review (similar to the issues Anna mentioned last week), and how much better peer review is in an online class. He says the reviews are cumulative, so each new peer reviewer needs to account for and comment on the previous reviewers’ comments, whether they are agreeing with them or contradicting them, and the student writer could then check with the writing center or the instructor to feel more confident in the “right” answer. He also mentions student are more apt to trust each other’s comments when they’ve been reading their writing all semester as a way of communicating online. I can’t imagine that cumulative reviewing will solve all/any problems Anna mentioned, like peers not trusting each other’s feedback, and not having the skills or confidence to do a helpful review, but I appreciate his optimism.  Making a consultation with the instructor or writing center a final step of the peer review process seems like a good idea to me. I always encourage students to do this, but very few of them take advantage of the additional help.

In Chapter 5, about the syllabus, the one note that struck me was accessibility. For my f2f students, I answer emails as long as I’m awake, pretty much immediately because they email me so infrequently. In an online class, I am afraid I would feel the same urgency to answer and then it would feel like I was always working. I relate to Warnock’s point (somewhere in there) that student availability might be very different from mine, since I wake up early and go to bed early. Most of my student’s work comes in when I’m asleep. So do I give them hours I’m available to answer emails like 9-5? Or should it be a few hours a day? And of course if I’m working from home (which means also parenting) my actual hours I’m answering emails will vary daily and are quite unpredictable (try telling a 3 year old you can’t find her lovey because you are working). What do other instructors do about their hours of availability?

Lastly, and this is a bit of a tangent, but Warnock mentions video games as a new space for teaching. I’m not into video games, but I am into art, and the game element got me thinking about an immersive art experience my friend just visited in Santa Fe called Meow Wolf. It’s a house you can walk through and interact with, and there’s a mystery to solve of some missing children and a devilish uncle, and some magical elements like portals and afterlives. The house is full of clues to put the puzzle together, in the form of letters, newspaper articles, family photos, websites, articles about portals, etc. There’s a lot of texts to “read” along with the physical interaction. I started to wonder if there was a way to make a class like this. It would be almost like a game, with a problem to solve at the beginning, and clues provided throughout. Each unit gets you deeper into the puzzle and readings are about various aspects of the puzzle. Student essay assignments could be themed around some element they’ve figured out, or a theory they’re responding to. An online class seems to be the most natural way to go about it. The only challenge is that I’m not a writer or an artist! I also realize the topic would have to be expansive enough to keep everyone interested the whole semester, but my friend spent 8.5 hours in Meow Wolf, so it’s definitely possible. If only I could “borrow” all the materials they’ve already prepared 😉 Perhaps choosing a real-life topic, like that podcast “Serial” that built a story over the course of many weeks with research and talking to witnesses and so on. What do you guys think?! 

Thanks for reading!