Friday, November 5, 2010

Hybrid vs. Online Clusters and Workload for Students / Teachers

I just received a memo about rules for hybrid (or online courses), and it resonated with a few ideas I've had with the relationship between online and in-class pedagogy. Simply put, I was wondering if some of my students are being overwhelmed with all our online activities (because they still have to turn in regular assignments or papers!) And it's clear that by blogging and so forth does help them learn (I was WID'ed last year!), it also turns most every class into a 'writing-intensive' one. And, of course, for instructors still using some paper, we spread our energies online as well as in giving feedback to paper documents. (I know some of us in this seminar don't use paper at all. Kudos to you.) I still can't mark up--er, I mean grade--electronic documents effectively, even with my iPad (annotations don't yet work that well), and I've tried most every tool out there for Windows and Mac. I know a few of my students are frustrated with their (lower) grades on our paper-based assignments, when they feel more comfortable with the online writing, which is only about 20% of their course grades. All this is probably my suspicion that being a devoted teacher in both the online and the paper-based side is a bit exhausting. Perhaps when we leap to online courses, some of this dilemma will resolve itself. (My department, English, doesn't seem to have a plan when it comes to online courses, but any issue of the Chronicle seems to suggest many institutions, even community colleges, are jumping right in....) I do feel the experience of this seminar is good prep for the transition to teaching online, but until that is a possibility, I think that all of us--students and teachers--can feel a bit overwhelmed at a 'hybrid' approach. We still have to prepare activities for physical classrooms and all the challenges this entails; meanwhile students seem to prefer the online aspects.... When will course requirements change to allow for blogging to count 'for real' instead of a useful complement to the 'real' work of a class? I will certainly feel better about all this after my teaching observation on Monday (which will not measure in any way any of my online teaching activities. These remain wholly 'invisible' in my teaching record, and yet they seem to consume more and more of my time.)

8 comments:

  1. Rich--a few years ago, when I first started using blogs, I tanked a whole class because I just added the blogs on. Now (dare I say it?) they do not "still have to turn in regular assignments or papers". Everything is on the blog so the blog IS the class and I've had no complaints since. To wit--their essays and assignments are all blog entries of some sort. But, being totally paperless has another whole set of issues which took me a couple of years to negotiate and I am still working on those. I have, of course, been in flat-out defiance of our so-called "policy" of "mark every error" since day one so I feel free to leave students holistic responses with a few pieces cut from their papers as examples as needed. I am now using Google Docs as my gradebook with one document per student which we share. X and Luke are also doing this and we really like it. In any case, I have noticed that my students, with a few notable exceptions, have become MUCH less dependent on me for feedback at every turn as they help one another. Also, I should mention that I have been ramping my 102 up to go hybrid or online so the whole model is based on that approach. I "talk" very little in class and virtually everything I say goes on the class blog somewhere. Overall, except for the set-up time, I now have less work than I did before during the semester as 90% of my prep is done before the semester begins (after the first time I run a course) and the other 10% is just fiddling.

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  2. P.S. I cross-posted your post to my blog! Thanks. This was a great entry.

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  3. Hey Rich--in response to your response to my response on "academic vs. blog writing" I want to share the kind of assignment that Chris Alexander has had his students do before they write the longer papers to get them accustomed to citing, etc.
    http://ethics-of-food-cluster.blogspot.com/2010/04/assignment-response-3.html

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  4. Rich--I am struggling with the same issues and while I think Jason's point about moving to wholly online writing may be a good one--right now my students love to write on line and are laggards about paper assignments...and I have the same issue you do with only being able to respond globally to their writing online...

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  5. Hey Richard, I agree with your post, although I think online/hybrid and networked are not the same animal. I will post as a blog so as not to test the limits of the comment window's text limit. :)

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  6. What you said about the "invisibility" of online work (for both us and the students) struck a chord with me. Until there is larger cultural shift as to what "real" work entails, it will remain undervalued. For instance, I teach online so someone senior to me told me the other day: "You don't teach, do you?" It was an honest assumption, I suppose, but these little things translate into: more tasks should be assigned this person who isn't teaching. Sigh. Back to grading online postings...

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  7. @ Ann--I hear you. What we need--for instance, for this seminar--is more marketing. That's why using public platforms is important--anyone can check our work and guess what, s/he will probably be shocked at the amount of work/energy we spend...

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  8. I can see students getting overwhelmed by the online activities especially when they are doing it for the first time. As far as my own workload, I have noticed that blogging has increased my FSM workload in a sense that I need to monitor students' writing on a regular basis. Traditional FSM has only one "formal" writing assignment (+ mini reflections, etc.) because most topics are processed and discussed in class. Also, because none of the activities are on paper, I cannot utilize my commute as effectively as I have in the past. Thus, I'm doing more reading at home now than ever before. (I work as a counselor so my 9-5 schedule is quite full with appointments, etc.)

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