WritingwithMachines Discussion: Design Engaging Experiences in the Online Writing Class
curry mitchell

In our October WritingwithMachines discussion on equity-minded teaching, Jade offered an analogy of a tree to illustrate her approach to “being intrusive, relevant, race-conscious, community-centric, and relational”: first, she designs activities around a solid and reliable trunk that then leads students out onto diverging, pliable branches.

In my attempt to design engaging online courses, I rely on a different but related analogy: first I build narrow corridors that then lead students into wide-open yet enclosed spaces. When I’ve talked with Chad about course design, he offers a balanced abstraction: it is essential to design defined space and it is essential to design space to be explored.

In our November discussion, Tony, Jason, Chad, Jim, Donna, and I explored further analogies, philosophies, and practical approaches that allow us to design interesting spaces where students find compelling reasons to engage–even play–with reading, writing, and thinking.

Watch the archive of the discussion:

Questions we explore:

How do we design our online courses so they are navigable yet surprising?

How do we encourage participation that is compelling and not compulsory?

Topics we discuss:

Defined navigation and instruction | Undefined navigation and instruction

Linear modules | Explorable spaces

Prescriptive assignments | Open assignments

Isolated spaces | Community-centric spaces

Required participation | Provoked participation

Podcasts we reference:

Nicholas A. Holt’s emphasis on play suggests we should increase the dialogic interactivity of our course design and bring students into greater degrees of contact with each other (maybe) and ourselves (definitely).

Laura Gibbs‘ digital storytelling course design sends students into individualized blog spaces initially and then equips them to share, exchange, and collaborate as a group later.

Listen to the audio of the meeting only:

Review our notes from the discussion and more resources from our S2019 FLEX Workshop on Course Design with Billy Gunn