To watch “Reimagining My English 202 Online Design” video, please follow the hyperlink via Canvas.
My future English 100 dream course for my MiraCosta College face-to-face class would focus on having students begin their essays on-site, by augmenting technology use in the classroom. Students would continue to write a Narrative Essay and a Rhetorical Analysis (Essay #1). Instead of having students visit the library or cafeteria to practice the art of narration, by observing and writing about their environment, I want students to tap into their memory and use Chromebooks diligently and begin writing a potential setting, dialogue and characterization . . . they would consider embedding in their narrative essays. (In the past, my English 100 students wrote their practice narrative writing, by writing a free-write entry in their in-class Metacognitive Journal Entries in their Green Books). This new approach would allow students to not waste valuable writing time in the classroom and begin the revision process (since students would receive a grade for this low stakes assignment) before submitting Essay #1. For English 100, to meet MiraCosta College’s elements of research requirement, my students also write a Proposal to Solve a Problem Essay (I moved away from traditional “The Research Paper”); students can focus on any problem at the local, state, national, or global level. For Palomar College, this semester my English 202 students completed a library activity and wrote a paper in a group, and surprisingly the students who worked in a group did better than students who worked alone. I want to adopt the same methodology for English 100. In this dream course, I would encourage students to write a Proposal to Solve a Problem Essay as a community of writers, by sharing research, accessing, and working on the same document, using Google.docs or Word. The semester will end with presentations in the classroom or cafeteria highlighting their solutions一and inspiring classmates and, perhaps, the campus to take action. Lastly, for Essay #3, students write a lens perspective essay, by analyzing a film, Black Panther (2018), Roma (2018), Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) or a film of their choice, compiling observations, and making connections to their feminist theoretical framework in a Google.docs; the class can access the compilation via Canvas. This approach also allows all students to access in-class work, which can allow them to develop their application paragraphs on their own. For my English 100 Fall 2019, I created a two-page step handout for students to prepare them for Essay #3. The handout requires that students reflect/hand write their potential introduction(s), specifically a lead-in strategy, background information, applications paragraphs, and conclusion(s). While I do believe the handout served its purpose this fall semester, my future students would benefit from typing their notes in their Chromebooks, by cutting the work time and having students record potential responses in preparation for Essay #3. Instead of typing their hand-written answers, students could copy and paste their work from the handout to their essays. These changes in the classroom, I believe, would benefit first-generation college students who have not explored college writing. This English 100 dream course experience would serve as an essential stepping stone tool to write for academia and beyond.
What follows is a list of assignments written for WritingwithMachines 2nd Certificate Sequence, facilitated by MiraCosta College professor, curry mitchell:
Unit 1: Feedback and Assessment: “Warnock Says Professors Can Burn Out from Grading—Good to Know It’s Not All in My Head!”
Unit 2: Collaboration and Group Work Online: “The Power of Community in the Face-to-face and Online Environment”
Unit 3: Equity, Accessibility, and Universal Design: “Teaching in the Time of Socialbots”
Unit 4: Course Design and Organization: “Reimagining English 202’s Online Design”
In Reaching Underserved Students through Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning in the Online Environment, Dr. J. Luke Wood highlights the “Five Equity Practices for Teaching Students of Color Online.” Professor Wood emphasizes the following practices professors should emulate as online instructors teaching people of color: be intrusive, be relational, be relevant, be community-centric, and be race-conscious. And in “A Position Statement of Principles and Example Effective Practices for Online Writing Instruction (OWI)” allows professors to reflect on principles of universal design and how their online class can facilitate a good online experience and retain students, specifically of color. Luckily, I joined online teaching at a time when Blackboard was fading out and Canvas was being adopted at the 3 out of 4 colleges, where I teach: Mt. San Jacinto College (MSJC), MiraCosta College, Palomar College (CSUSM uses Moodle). Universal design stresses the following: equitable use, technological equality, flexibility in use, simple and intuitive use, perceptible information, tolerance for technological error, tolerance for mechanical error in writing, low physical effect, and size and space for approach and use (The Conference on College Composition).
On Being a Metiche (Intrusive)
I learned about being an intrusive/helicopter/metiche professor from Dr. Harris and Dr. Woods’s Teaching Men of Color in the Community College Certificate Program a few years ago, so I now practice this approach in my fully-online MSCJ class and my f2f classes, by emailing students who do not submit a major assignment or students who are missing in action. I also tell students if there is anything I can do to help, writing an email as follows, “Where’s Juan? How can I help you?” Once students reply, I remind students they have my support. My forte is being “a metiche,” nosy. I know that for many students mental stress when they do not talk about their problems and/or mental health problems exacerbate at the end of the semester. I do my best to reach out to potential crisis students to discuss how they can tackle the problem. Another pair of ears from someone like myself allows students to see me as a human being and not a socialbot. At Mt. San Jacinto College, more students experience problems related to poverty, manifesting in mental health. At MSJC and at the San Elijo Campus, students struggled with mental health and suicide. I can reach out via Metacognitive Journal Entries, Canvas email, and my cell phone to ensure I retain students.
Learning to Be Relational
During my first year of teaching (I started teaching in Spain and taught GEW at California State University San Marcos). One day I noticed one of my Latina students was continuously late, and I wanted to address the concern in an upcoming conference. The day of our meeting I noticed her knee was bleeding, so I asked her what happened.
My student confessed she was afraid of me.
I was, obviously, not expecting that response. As the student confided, she fell because she was trying to get to our meeting on time. After much thought, I had many questions and revelations:
- What did someone like me represent to a student (of color)?
- How was she used to seeing women (of color) like me?
- Did I remind her of a grandmother or her mother?
- How was I performing teaching?
- Was I acting like all my English professors who were mostly white?
- Did I want to be perceived as my white “grammar Nazi” professors?
It is at that moment that I began to work on Professor Sonia Gutiérrez being relational and approachable. I believe I am naturally a people person, as a poet professor, I care about people and the world, but teaching throughout my life had been modeled by white professors. Yes, they were knowledgeable, but they were strict, concise, and to the point. (And so was my Mexican father). Luckily for me, I snapped out of it. I am at point where I love teaching, and I love students, and of course, that includes my online students. This year I have returned to feminism, and although one of my fully online male students is experiencing cognitive dissonance, I enjoy the discussions.
Hashtag What? #! LOL
When I first started teaching, the material that I taught got me in the public eye (in trouble). And that was not a good thing for a professor who had just started teaching. It seemed as if everything I wanted to teach was problematic. The Autobiography of Malcolm X aggravated students. According to North County Times article, I was teaching pornography in the classroom, and on top of that I was an unfair grader. I was teaching Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, Brokeback Mountain, bell hooks’s “Selling Hot Pussy: Representations of Black Female Sexuality in the Cultural Marketplace” among other risqué material. (I, of course, do not have a problem discussing these “controversial topics.”) Because of those early teaching experiences, I decided not to teach Freshman Composition and instead focused on teaching introduction to composition and critical thinking and writing. (I learned a small minority of white male students and Latinos/Chicanos had a problem with the material I selected.) Years later, I have decided to move away from required textbooks and instead do the passionate Sonia. Black Panther through a bell hooks and Du Bois, Roma through triple oppression theory, and Ralph Breaks the Internet through a feminist lens perspective are topics I teach in the class. (Four of my students were published in Tidepools 2019). At MSJC, students do not have to write five papers anymore, so I dropped the research. In retrospect, the material that I select is always relevant and affects my students’ lives and the world as I ask students to analyze topics and encourage students to select their topics at the local, state, national and/or global level.
Community-centric: “We got this!”
A few years ago I learned that if I asked students to work individually I would lose first-year experience students. I, of course, did not want that. Since that revelation, I incorporate a lot of group work. For any material that I wish my students to grasp, I craft a group assignment/paragraph//application paragraph. With the belief that once students work in a group, they will know how to address the assignment on their own. The most important community-centric activity that is the glue of all my composition classes is Whole-class Workshops. My face-to-face students and online students recognize that writing and reading stories are important for their development as critical thinkers and writers.
Through an Equity-minded Race-conscious Lens
Because I was born and raised in the United States, I cannot help but see the world through a race-conscious lens. All the voices in my classes are important, and through their lived experiences, they write narrative essays and rhetorical analyses of their work, analyze popular culture, and reflect on global issues through a problem-solution approach.
Equity-minded Universal Design
For MSJC, I have been teaching for several years now, so I have had an opportunity to explore Canvas.The greatest challenge in online teaching is making sure, online courses are ADA compliant. Next semester, I will be teaching a fully online CS 140: Chicana Thought and Cultural Expression for Palomar College; my goal is to take into consideration tolerance for mechanical error: “Although grammar, mechanics, and usage need to be taught, evaluation should focus primarily on how well ideas are communicated and secondarily on sentence-level errors” (The Conference on College Composition). In writing classes, I do not give As to students who present too many grammar errors and hold my online English students to the same f2f standards. Is that wrong?
What follow are screenshots of my online classes that, of course, did not look as follows when I started teaching online using Blackboard:
In “Chapter 14—Collaboration: Working in Virtual Groups,” Warnock writes about the many ways OWCourses can incorporate group work in the online setting. As I mentioned in “Warnock Says Professors Can Burn Out from Grading—Good to Know It’s Not All in My Head!” I am not a fan of peer editing in small groups. I do agree with Warnock when he writes, “a workshop-style can develop” (149) in online classes since that is what I have witnessed in my fully online class(es), where I adopt Ian Barnard’s Whole-class Workshops. When I started teaching online, I knew I would have to figure out a way to migrate my face-to-face Whole-class Workshops activity as a communicative teaching methodology into the online environment.
I learned about Whole-class Workshops during my graduate days at California State University San Marcos when Ian Barnard, professor of Rhetoric and Composition and scholar, visited our campus. Since then, I have adapted Barnard’s approach to the community college student. As a professor, I learned I did not want to deal with excuses: “I didn’t read,” “I was absent,” or “I didn’t get the attachment.” After learning about Barnard’s Whole-class Workshops, I decided my future classes would adopt his methodology but would have to adapt to the needs of community college students: 1) We would have to distribute and workshop student papers on the spot. 2) In pairs using different colored pens, students would learn to diligently read and mark up their peers’ work (for about thirteen minutes). 3) The entire class would provide feedback out loud. 4) Scheduled classmates (the workshoppees) would join the discussion with any lingering questions.
Writing Workshops Face-to-face Approach
For freshman composition and critical thinking and writing classes, I have had to design an approach that works best with my face-to-face classes. What follows is a rough ROUGH outline of my approach to Whole-class Workshops in the classroom:
1. Craft a schedule that includes all the students in the class. (The workshops will take three weeks of the semester. Assign “Adapted from Ian Barnard’s ‘Whole-class Workshops: The Transformation of Students into Writers’ for English 100” at least three weeks in advance. Below you will see a screenshot of a sample Whole-class Workshop schedule. (I used to print out the schedule, but now students can easily access the schedule on Canvas.)
2. For freshman composition courses, introduce students to Ian Barnard’s Whole-class Workshops: the role of the facilitator, the role of the workshoppee (I made this word up), the timekeeper, and critics (Everyone becomes the professor).
What follows is a list of steps I take to familiarize students to Whole-class Workshops and allow them to visualize the class sessions:
- Discuss creative whole-class workshops (during my graduate days creative writing professors used the same model): “Let’s pretend you’re the poet, you’re the novelist . .
- The setup (a large circle). Visually, this large class circle arrangement brings the class together. I always make sure we close the gap and ensure students never give a fellow classmate his, her, or their back if a student trickles in a bit late.
- Tell students about the number of copies they must make (11-14) and being ready (stress accountability). In graduate school, we printed all our classmates’ work.
- Discuss the importance of attendance and participation. (During workshops, I take notes on who arrives late and who responds during the workshop.)
- Discuss the types of questions we will address during Whole-class Workshops.
- Food—writers love treats. We talk about the food we will be sharing and eating during these workshops—Starbuck’s coffee and tamales . . . fruit
- Discuss four memorable unfavorable/strange Whole-class Workshop scenarios (The time a student facilitator’s pupils were dilating (Palomar College), the time a student fainted (MiraCosta College), the time students had a giggle attack (Palomar College), the time a student presented a paper that presented one logical fallacy after another (A long time ago at Palomar College)
- Answer any muddy thoughts about Whole-class Workshops
3. Whole-class Workshop Reflection and Grade
- In my f2f classes, when we conclude our writing circles, students write a Metacognitive Journal Entry about their Whole-class-Workshop experience that includes the students grading themselves.
Fully Online Whole-class Workshops Approach
1. Create a Whole-class Workshop Module (Students read the Whole-class Workshop introductory material at least three weeks in advance), assign “Adapted from Ian Barnard’s ‘Whole-class Workshops: The Transformation of Students into Writers’ for English 103,” introduce students to the Whole-class Workshops Schedule, and assign a Whole-class Workshop Quiz. Below you will see a screenshot of a sample of a fully online Whole-class Workshop schedule.
What follows is a list of steps I must take to ensure we have successful Whole-class Workshops in my online classes:
- Students participate in one Peer-editing Free-write Discussion Board Forum to discuss previous peer-editing experience—positive and/or negative.
- Share a list of questions students can address during Whole-class Workshops.
- For every Whole-class Work Week, I must create 7 to 8 Whole-class Workshop Discussion Board Forums. Students must attach and copy and paste their essay to their designated Whole-class Workshop Discussion Board Forum (In case a student’s paper looks off, students can access the attachment.)
- Students must post their essays by Wednesday, and classmates must critique and reply to their classmates’ essays by Sunday.
2. Online Whole-class Workshop Reflection Assignment
- Students write one Metacognitive Journal Entry about their first Whole-class Workshop experience after the first week of workshops.
3. Similar to a face-to-face class, if students are absent, they get 0 points for participation, and their grade is negatively affected. (Students who test me, meaning, perhaps, if they don’t participate, I won’t find out, write to me right away to inform me they misunderstood the assignment when they notice their grade significantly dropped.) I, of course, allow online students to add their feedback. In my face-to-face classes, as stated in the syllabus, students cannot make up missed Whole-class Workshops.
Whole-class Workshop Failures and Successes
In my few years of teaching online teaching, I have only had three or four memorable negative Whole-class Workshop incidents: 1) The white male student who did not think his fellow Black female classmate should write about racism 2) The white male student who would not address his classmates by name. 3) A female Latina student who claimed in a Metacognitive Journal Entry (private message) her fellow classmates’ feedback was not strong. I responded to the student that, perhaps, it meant she was a high caliber writer; I also shared my not so favorable college peer-editing experiences. Not surprisingly, when it was finally her turn to receive feedback on her paper, her classmates did provide constructive feedback.
Students in my face-to-face class and online classes get to share an essay that they are proud of or a paper that they are struggling with (I do not decide this—this is the pattern I have observed). At the end of each workshop, students leave a workshop with more than a handful of ideas they can apply to their essays (In my classes, revisions are due at the end of the semester). Students comment on how much they appreciated reading their classmates writing styles. Over the years, I have enjoyed being part of these discussions, and judging from students’ body language in my face-to-face classes, they too enjoy Whole-class Workshops since these workshops allow students to grow as writers and thinkers. And students know it!
Scott Warnock’s “Chapter 10: Peer Review: Help Students Help Each Other,” “Chapter 11: Give Lots of Feedback without Burning Out,” and “Chapter 12: Grading: Should It Change When You Teach Online?” allowed me to reflect on my online teaching, specifically my fully-online English 103: Critical Thinking and Writing” for Mt. San Jacinto College (MSJC) and my hybrid English 202: Critical Thinking and Composition for Palomar College. Critical thinking is a subject I love teaching, but reading Warnock allowed me to ask myself an honest question: Can I improve my online teaching methodologies?
Similar to Warnock, when he writes, “I am an active respondent to my students’ messages” (122), I can’t help myself—I’ve tried not to comment so much. I comment on all my students’ assignments; my comments focus on proving feedback that will allow them to grow as writers and thinkers. As the class progresses, my comments become less and less about superficial errors. Writing feedback does not feel overwhelming (now that I am using an iPad and an Apple pencil).
To be honest, about two years ago I talked to my partner, Paulino Mendoza, to tell him, “Hon, I think I’m going to have to retire from online teaching.” With a concerned look, he asked, “Why?” I explained that providing feedback was draining me. He looked for his iPad and said, “Here, try this.” When I looked at the screen, it was a student’s assignment I could easily write on with an Apple pencil. I wrote a comment as I do for my f2f classes and voilà the stress that made grading unbearable, which I had never experienced in all my years of teaching f2f, went away. With my new magical Apple pencil I began commenting on my online students’ work, and I was happy teaching online for MSJC again. (I’ve only had one student email me a screenshot of my penmanship to ask me what my writing said).
Warnock asks if grading online should change since students do spend the majority of their time in discussion board forums. He writes, “I have found that the informal assignments in my on OWCourse—message boards, peer review, mini assignments need to be boosted to about 30 to 40 percent of the grade” (135). (Participation in Warnock’s OWCourse is 5%—interesting.) Prior to reading “Chapter 12: Grading: Should It Change When You Teach Online?” I had not thought about participation points for an online class. I will reflect on how I will disperse grades in the future since Warnock makes a valid point I will definitely address this coming spring 2020.
What follows is a list of assignments and technology I use to facilitate student learning in my online and hybrid classes:
- iPad and Apple Pencil: To grade Metacognitive Journal Entries, I use my iPad and apple pencil to mark student writing and present constructive feedback when students upload a file. I present prompts that allow students to reflect on their writing and growth as thinkers. (I just discovered I can change the color to aqua blue turquoise. How exciting.)
- Quizzes: To administer Quizzes, I create quizzes using Canvas’s Quiz tools. Similar to Warnock, my quizzes are not difficult at all. Students have an opportunity to take their quizzes two times. Most students receive a 100% on their first try. (Formative Assessments: Syllabus, Chapter Quizzes, Whole-class Workshops, and Graphic Memoir quizzes.) I craft question for #1-4, and students craft their own Q&A for question #5.
- Timed Writing Essay: For MSJC students must write an essay with writing constraints, so I use the same Canvas’s Quiz tools and create a two-hour Timed Writing Essay. (FYI: In my weekly Announcement, I inform students I am not a fan of timed writing tests; however, we must meet the class’s Course Learning Objectives.)
- Whole-class Workshop (Peer-Editing) Discussion Board Forums: I am not a fan of Warnock’s style of peer-editing; however, I do value and embrace Whole-class Workshops in my f2f and online classes. I had horrible experiences as a student: I could give my classmates plenty of feedback, but my classmates could not reciprocate the favor. Sigh. So instead of crossing my fingers that one or two classmates give constructive feedback for a fellow classmate, I use Ian Barnard’s Whole-class Workshops teaching methodology I have migrated to online classes. I prefer Discussion Board Forums for our Whole-class Workshops since they document students work, and everyone learns from each other’s writing. Over the years, I can say I am proud of the writing community I have created in my online classes. I present a Whole-class Workshop Schedule at least two weeks in advance and a list of questions they can address on a fellow classmates’ essays. That means at least twenty-one pair of eyes read and essay and provide constructive feedback.
- Essays: To grade essays, similar to Metacognitive Journal Entries, students upload their essays, and I can now comment on their essay with an Apple pencil. I do truly enjoy reading and commenting this way instead of copying and pasting comments. Ugh.
- Discussion Board Forums: Using Discussion Board Forums, students post formal response papers and free-writes throughout the semester. I also present a Thesis Workshop using Discussion Board Forum (For f2f classes, I use Google.docs to compile the work instead). I sometimes ask student to reply to one or two students. Most students present their work promptly and present their replies in a timely manner. If they do not, I deduct points.
- Writing Group Discussion Board Forums: I attempted a group paragraph using the Canvas tools similar to the ones I administer in the classroom on paper or Google.docs. Epic failure. I ended up telling students the activity would receive credit if they emailed me to request a grade.
- Phone calls: I give students my phone number. If they have any questions about my feedback, they can text me to schedule a phone call.
It’s That Time . . .
As a class this semester, we explored various topics including tools for online teaching, the gamification of online classes, the migration process and modalities, best practices for discussion forums and grading, and even shared lens perspective assignments and approaches to keeping students engaged and learning/reading in the online setting. English Professors, John Warnock, curry mitchell, Jim Sullivan, and Tony Burman, facilitated these discussions, laying the groundwork for future online teaching. After completing this Spring 2016 sequence, I am inspired us to explore synchronous activities and, perhaps, to resuscitate my online avatar (I used a couple years when I was teaching online introductory composition). Most importantly, I discovered I did not have to comment on ALL my students posts and replies. (I am still feeling nervous about the latter one.)
What follow are my reflections this semester:
“Online Teaching? I Felt Like Jumping Out of a One-story Building” (Unit 1: A Framework for Teaching Online)
“The Locura or the Simplicity of Online Teaching” (Unit 2: Exploring Technology
“So You Do Not Understand the Directions . . . Hmm” (Unit 3: Developing Content)
“There Is Such a Thing as Too Much Feedback!” (Unit 4: Teaching the Writing Process Online)
“Do Online Students Learn? READ? WRITE? YEP!” (Unit 5: Reading and Discussion)
Not bad for a digital immigrant! 😉
|Scott Warnock’s chapters, “Readings: Lots of Online Options, But the Book Is Not Dead!” and “Conversation: Online, Course ‘Talk’ Can Become Writing,” present approaches that produce positive results (and pitfalls) in online teaching.|
This week’s material has allowed me to reflect on the issue I was attempting to grapple two weeks ago: Am I providing too much feedback? Again, the answer that online professors suggest is that too much feedback can muffle students’ voices, and it makes sense. If a student always gets too much criticism (feedback), then why would he or she want to write a response? Hmm Shockingly, Gilly Salmon’s commenting guidelines are the following: “enough, but not to much, intervention” (qtd. in Warnock 76). Warnock then adds commenting “should be not more than one in four messages from you” (76). I do recognize now that I need to back off a bit since I assumed, prior to reading Warnock, that responding to all my students was part of the online teaching methodology.
I was surprised to learn Warnock provides extra credit to diligent and active members of conversations (81). I found that practice a bit troubling.
Shoudn’t all online students be treated equally? What message is being sent to students who do not meet Professor Warnock’s expectations?
On How to Produce Well-Crafted Responses
Warnock’s approach to grading in Teaching Writing Online will be morphing into my rubrics and prompts. I noticed the nonconducive pattern the author refers to occurred this last week in my online class. Warnock provides the following solution to avoid copycat posts: “My rules include posts should contribute to the overall conversation. If I post and opening prompt that asks a question, and seven students simply respond to it in similar fashion, by student seven I am giving 8s, even on otherwise good posts. This is one way students are building on the conversation” (88). My guidelines state that students must present at least five sentences (Recent change). From now on, I will specify “critical” sentences that do not simply repeat their classmates’ comments. I will consider a word count since “Me too!!!” (qut. in Warnock 80), of course, “does not qualify as an ‘official’ post” (80). And surprisingly, students do write these responses under time constraints. For instance, this this past we concluded Whole-class Workshops in my online class. A student wrote three sentences, and one of them was “Great work!” Sigh. (FYI: I overlapped the research paper due date with the last Whole-class Workshop. I will do my best not to replicate that issue.)
No-no in Online Teaching
My goal as an online instructor is for every activity to prepare students for their essays. I might even be crafting assignments that are to closely related to the class’s essay prompt. Because I want students to succeed, I include several application paragraphs for their last essay, since in my eyes, the material can be difficult to grasp. However, Warnock critiques this approach by warning, “If all posts are extended essays in response to my prompts, the message becomes a series of disconnected essays responding to the instructor’s questions than a conversation (82). I will revisit my online discussion forums and will see if my prompts need revisiting since I present rather complex prompts compared to Warnock’s message board one-sentence questions/prompts (86). To be honest, from a critical student’s perspective, I would expect a professor to write more than one sentence (As a student writer, I observed and appreciated my professors’ rhetorical approaches). As a college student, I never took online classes prior to teaching online, so unfortunately I do not know what most online English prompts look like.
Contemplating Synchronous Activities
Another topic Warnock shares in chapter 7 and 8 is an introduction to synchronous approaches even though he prefers asynchronous message boards, which I rely on in the online setting. In the next few weeks, before the start of my summer online class, I will be contemplating at least one synchronous activity I can repeat throughout the semester.
Lens Perspective Writing
For my online critical thinking and writing class for Mt. San Jacinto College, I have to teach five essays. For Essay #5, I present two prompts—one for students who are interested in analyzing a film and the other for students who are interested in writing about two texts. For Option I, students will apply WEB Du Bois’s the double consciousness/the veil to Jennifer Baszile’s The Black Girls Next Door. What follows is Option II lens perspective assignment:
NOTE: I will be returning to film in my f2f classes; that is why I selected this assignment.
In Warnock’s “CHAPTER 4: TEACHING THE OWI COURSE,” he presents a critical comment that I needed to read as I continue to teach online classes. Warnock quotes CCCC OWI Committee Expert/Stakeholder, Rich Rice: “‘A best practice would also be realizing as an instructor you do not have to read every single post or grade every single thing to be effective.'” As an online English professor, I comment on all my students’ work, and I cannot seem to restrain from doing so.
Hmm What to do? HELP!
Christopher Syrnyk, in “Is There a Person in This Text? Synchronous Online Writing Instruction and Personhood as a Collaborative Gesture,” he presents an excerpt that presents an example of a chat exchange with UW-Madison’s Online Writing Center TA, Timothy Johnson. What I found surprising is that Syrnyk does not capitalize the beginning of sentences and even includes fragments. If I am horrified at Syrnyk’s chatting, I clearly take writing too seriously.
Hmm What to do? HELP!
To watch a silly video I produced at the wee hours of the night, follow the link.
Professor Tony Burman models a student-centered approach that will allow professors to design an engaging course content that allows students to develop critical thinking skills they can apply instead of regurgitating information. In Warnock’s “Chapter 4: Course Lessons and Content: Translating Teaching Styles to the OWCourse” and “Chapter 5: The Writing Course Syllabus: What’s Different in Online Instruction” allows potential and OWCourses instructors to reflect and rethink approaches to online learning from the student’s perspective.
The Syllabus and Other Critical Information
In previous WritingwithMachines, I expressed my dislike for Blackboard. However, after reading Warnock, I wonder how much could have been prevented, by following essential steps and providing detailed instructions in order for the professor, me, and students to have a fruitful online experience in those early years of learning to teach online.
As I mentioned before, I have, surprisingly, only had one Q&A post this semester. And it was for a PDF document that would not open for a student, but the document would open on my end. Even that minor discrepancy on the student’s end could have been prevented if I would have included as Warnock suggests the specific software, technology, students will need to use in the online setting.
I found myself smiling while reading Warnock since I practice what Warnock writes about the syllabus in Chapter 5. During the first week of class, my students read their syllabus, “Class Philosophy,” “Course Communication Policies,” “English 103 Glossary of Terms,” and “Required Books for English 103” (These are all Pages I create, using Canvas). In addition, by quizzing students on the week’s material, students will see that I am serious about the subject matter and that they cannot skip material.
Chunking—An Online Necessity to Teach Online
I have found that teaching online has improved my in-class activities because online assignments must be clear for students to follow directions without them feeling confused and/or getting lost. In online classes, chunking allows students to grasp difficult course content or rhetorical approaches. I was part of the generation that was thrown into essays; I do not recall doing specific activities that I could use or expand on in an essay. For this reason, any assignment that prepares my students for essay writing I title “X Application Paragraph in Preparation for Essay #2” . . . . I learned this approach from teaching online classes since I noticed that some students were trying to figure out shortcuts and/ or what to skip and still maintain a good grade. Not surprisingly, when students skipped these critical assignments, they do not do well on their essays. Such was the case of a student I will refer to as Carolina. Students were supposed to analyze a package, using the skills we reviewed in class in an Discussion Board Forum in addition to completing a Working Thesis Workshop, among other activities. When I noticed Carolina did not do well, in her feedback I wrote that we could discuss a revision. I revisited her work and noticed that Carolina had not completed assignments that would have helped her begin analyzing her package’s semiotic symbols. (I allowed Carolina to submit her work, and she did great.) I, of course, know that writing about a package, using a lens perspective is not easy, and I had to craft assignments that would allow students to practice their critical thinking skills and not become receptacles as Freire points out in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Students had to interpret colors, identify fallacies, advertising techniques, and rhetorical approaches instead of summarizing.
But Sometimes Whether I Chunk or Not
What I find fascinating about OWCourses is that similar to f2f classes, every class has a personality. When I first started teaching critical thinking and writing, I was impressed with my MSJC online classes’ critical thinking skills and high caliber writing. However, this is the second critical thinking and writing class, where my students write as if they were in a freshman composition. It is rather shocking when instructions are clear and to the point, and students submit work that does not address the prompt, (which is demoralizing for me as an online instructor) since I take writing very seriously. And do wonder if a small percentage of students believe that online classes are “easier.” Sigh. What do you think? Do students have a faulty perception of online classes? (Write whatever, and you’ll get a good grade. Not going to happen.)
E-mail Guidelines Can Make the Haystack of E-mails Go Away
Unlike Warnock, I only encourage students to communicate via email if it is a private matter. I appreciated how the author requests his students to include specific details in order to identify and organize students’ incoming emails. These minor changes make teaching online a pleasant experience.
At MSJC, professors must open their course shell a week in advance. Before, I would feel overwhelmed as a digital immigrant; however, now I am grateful that my online class is ready to go before the start of the semester, so I can focus my energy on other classes. Several times, I have been on family trips when the semester has started, and it feels great to experience the freedom that comes with online teaching. This semester I answered student questions via email all the way from Puebla. (Had I been teaching a f2f class, our family trips would be shorter.)
How Do I Continue Growing as an Online Instructor—Synchronous Conversations
I am looking forward to seeing how I can add synchronous activities in my online course, since even though I teach online, I have not explored this modern way of communicating with a small group of people. I found Warnock’s practice of opening a chat room before an assignment is due worth exploring (41). I can see myself setting a time for questions, and hopefully a student, such as Carolina, would ask questions and avoid writing essay that lacks an intellectual analysis.
As I read Warnock’s “Tech Tools and Strategies: Use Only What You Need,” I realized how insane it was to jump into teaching online while being a digital immigrant.
Seriously, who does that?
Warnock chapter makes it seem as if teaching online can be “easy” not the nightmare that I experienced using Blackboard. If technology is not a professor’s first language, of course, he or she will feel like jumping out of a one-story building. Such was my case.
Using several LMS, including Blackboard, Canvas, and Cougar Courses, has allowed me to see that teaching online can be simple as Warnock describes in his table that assesses an online class’s use of technology: Pedagogical Need, Technology for That Purpose, Availability, and Training? Your Learning Curve (20-21).
Several years ago if I had read Warnock’s suggestion “use only what you need” (19) teaching online would have been less intimidating.
From using Blackboard, I learned that it is important for a company to continue to improve its product. The Blackboard team, unfortunately, did not fulfill that demand. Although I am grateful Blackboard was the LMS that I allowed me to experiment with OWcourses. I’m glad I no longer have to use Blackboard. Adios Blackboard—never again.
To begin, Blackboard had awkward glitches. At times, I was unable to delete spaces. Spaces. Other times I could not change a font. A font. I would was waste 30 to 50 minutes fixing a silly little error. Locura.
However, what I do miss from Blackboard is the ability to compile journal entries. I want the online experience to be the same for my online students as it is for my f2f students. In my f2f classes, my students compile their journal entries in a Green Book, where they can witness their growth as critical thinkers and writers.
I also miss the Blackboard Wikis tool. Students could all work on a single document and edit their work and all the information would stay within Blackboard. Canvas did away with Wikis, unfortunately. (I will continue to explore Canvas.)
I was going to give up online teaching, but luckily for me Mt. San Jacinto College transitioned to Canvas. The new LMS allowed me to be patient with technology. The awkward Blackboard glitches went away! (Remember I shared that I had two questions since the beginning of this spring semester. I revisited my 24-Hour Q&A Discussion Forum, and it was really one question. With Blackboard, I had quite a few questions . . . .
Canvas has organized my course design and allowed to me easily access student work when I am inputting grades. (I used to open five windows or more to tally up students grades. I no longer have to waste my time doing that. When I access Canvas’s SpeedGrader, a student’s work shows up in one thread. Marvelous!) Canvas has simplified my life as an online professor.
I was happy to see that my online English class does meet the needs Warnock presents in his table with exception of “Create audiovisual materials for students” (I could use more) and “Facilitate group projects.” I used to have an avitar when I first started teaching online in order to avoid seeing videos of me. Awkward. About group projects, how would I approach group projects online? Help.
I used Cougar Courses to teach WMST 350: Chicana/Latina Feminism at CSUSM, and I just went with it. I figured it out on my own. Once you are familiar with one LMS, you simply look for a similar tool. The only issue I had with Cougar Courses was the Gradebook. The Gradebook. I talked to two math instructors about the issue; they told me it was too complicated and, therefore, did not use CSUSM’s gradebook. Ha!
It’s a locura to teach online if you are a digital immigrant. But it is rewarding and simple if similar to students if we professors “make sure that all participants have the necessary skill level with the communications tools” (qtd. in Warnock).
As I have matured in the online setting, what can I imagine or would like to see in an online class?
I would require students to take a free one unit prerequisite course prior to taking an online class. Over the years, I observed that the students who dropped did not necessary lack the skills that an online class required. Instead, students lacked self-discipline. For this reason, I would require students to learn that they must be self-disciplined, self-motivated online students. If students could practice in an online one-unit class what it feels to work, do homework, and engage in an online class, perhaps, less students would drop.
A prerequisite component of the class would allow students to practice taking a quiz, submitting assignments including an essay, and participating in discussions, among other activities.