Teaching Project Management

Until I started this post, I didn’t realize it’s been three months since I’ve blogged. This was partly due to a hectic fall term, so I’m taking advantage of a few relatively quiet weeks to finally write something new. I was inspired, actually, by the fact that I’m doing something different this term: for the first time in three or four years, I took on a course I’ve never taught before. In fact, I’m co-teaching a course we’ve never offered before in our program: Project Management.

Since I spent a few weeks in late December working out the syllabus with my co-instructor, I thought I’d write a brief post about some of our plans for the course. Incidentally, for anyone who might be teaching (or preparing to teach) a course with a project management component, Circuit, the magazine published four times a year by the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec, recently released an issue focusing on project management. Debbie Folaron’s article on what to include in a PM course is very helpful, while many of the others (like this one describing a freelancer’s first experience as a project manager) can serve as case studies in the classroom.

The bulk of the coursework we eventually settled on revolves around two main activities: a group translation project, and a group corporate website. On the first day of class, students formed their groups, which they’ll be working with for the rest of the term. To help them choose their team-mates, I adapted an activity I first heard about from Egan Valentine, who teaches at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières. On the train back from a conference at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona last summer, Egan told me about his online class, where students formed groups early in the term by posting profiles of themselves on the discussion forum in much the same way that translators typically do on websites like Translatorscafe.com. So for our class, we spent some time looking at job ads for translators and project managers and brainstorming about the skills these jobs require. Students then had a few minutes to prepare a brief profile of themselves that we could tape onto the classroom walls (don’t worry–I brought in low-tack tape so we wouldn’t ruin the paint), and then they could walk around and browse the profiles to help them choose team members for their mock translation company. Once they finished, each group chose a name for themselves.

Now, the students spend anywhere from a quarter to half the class each week collaborating on activities that range from preparing a quote for a large translation project to working out a revision and review process for their group to follow. In addition, over the course of the semester, students will have time in class to prepare a functional but fictitious website on wordpress.com. Last week, they worked on their About pages, where they discussed their company’s strengths and posted a profile of each team member. In three weeks, after we’ve had a chance to discuss issues like international standards, they’ll prepare a statement about their quality control process. Two weeks after that they’ll add a blog post describing how they’ve handled their translation project, and at the end of the term, they’ll prepare a FAQ page where they can respond to questions a client might ask a translation company, such as who owns the content of translation memories and whether crowdsourcing is a viable solution for a large, multilingual translation project. I’m hoping that these exercises will help them consider the issues faced by project managers while also making them more familiar with a platform like WordPress in case they need to create their own websites when they enter the professional world.

I’ll write another post about the course once it’s finished and I’ve had the chance to reflect on what worked well and what needs improvement. If anyone else has taught a project management course, I’d love to hear about how you run the class.

Integrating blogs into a Translation Studies course

At the CATS conference in May 2010, I attended a presentation by Philippe Caignon, who talked about his experience integrating blogs into a terminology course. (Incidentally, Philippe has just one of the prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowships, an honour he richly deserves, and which you can read about here). After the conference, when I finally got around to writing a post about Philippe’s presentation, I resolved to add a blogging component to at least one of my courses in the next academic year. I felt that doing so would expose students to a platform they might use after graduation, since they might be maintaining a company blog, translating blog postings, or creating and sharing their own blogs. I also thought it would provide us with more flexibility, allowing students to reflect on the coursework and exchange ideas outside of the classroom. Although I never wrote a follow-up post, I did, in fact, integrate blogs into the MA-level Translation Studies course I taught in 2011. Since then, I’ve taught the course twice more, and I’ve made some changes to the way I incorporate blogging activities. I thought I would share some of the things I’ve learned in case others are considering adding a blogging component to their courses. I’ll focus on three aspects:

  • Blogging platforms
  • Designing the assignments
  • Grading

Blogging platforms

Although Learning Management Systems like Moodle and Blackboard have integrated blogging tools, I wanted to have students work with a platform they’d be likely to use again outside of the classroom. So I asked students to create their own blogs using WordPress or Blogger, and then and send me the URL so I could add a link to these blogs on the course website. This solution has worked out well: the blogs are easy to find (since they’re all listed in the “blogroll” of the course website), students can express themselves more creatively because they can customize the look and feel of their blogs, and I don’t have to deal with emailed assignments and incompatible file formats because every graded assignment must be submitted as a blog post.

So what about privacy then? You might be wondering why students would want to share all their coursework with a) everyone on the Internet and b) everyone else in the class. The answer to the first issue is easy: blogs don’t have to be visible to search engines, nor do they have to be accessible to every Internet user. Once I told students they had to create their own blogs, I made sure to explain how to adjust the privacy settings so that the blog remained invisible to search engines and/or could be accessed by invitation only. Most students chose to make their blogs invisible to search engines, because if they made their blogs private, they would have to email invitations to everyone else in the class. I did mention, though, that they could always change the privacy settings once the course was over, making their blogs as accessible or inaccessible as they wanted.

As for the second issue, whether students might be reluctant to share their coursework with their classmates, I invited everyone to use pseudonyms. Some students liked this option, and named their blogs something like “Translation Studies 5100” or “Glendon Translation Student.” Others didn’t seem to mind either way and used their real names. I also informed everyone that when commenting on their classmates’ blogs, they had to be respectful and constructive, rather than negative. To date, I haven’t had any problems with inappropriate comments. Generally, students have found the feedback from their peers very helpful. In fact, many of the comments offered a perspective very different from mine: details about cultures and languages with which I’m unfamiliar, references to sources I hadn’t seen, etc. And as one student mentioned to me last year, students are able to get a better sense of how they compare to their classmates, in terms of their writing skills, their background knowledge and their familiarity with theoretical texts, which can give them greater confidence in their own skills or alert them that they may need to do some catching up.

Designing the assignments

A big mistake I made the first time I assigned blogging as part of the coursework was not indicating specific deadlines for the blog posts. Although students were required to post five critical reflections on the assigned readings, I didn’t assign a specific due date for each post because I wanted to provide some flexibility about which readings the posts could cover. Unfortunately, most of the students procrastinated and posted nothing until the last week of the semester, leaving their classmates with very little to comment on (more on that in a minute). Ever since then, I’ve assigned fewer blog posts (just two critical reflections this year), and I’ve also set specific due dates for these posts: the first is due on Week 4 of our 13-week course, and the second is due on Week 8. These deadlines still allow students to choose which course readings they want to comment on in their post, but it also ensures they are submitting their posts throughout the semester rather than at the end.

As part of the coursework, students are required to comment on at least six different blog posts over the course of the semester. This means they can read six different blogs and leave comments on each one, or they can leave several comments on just two or three blogs. After my experience the first year, I’ve set deadlines here as well: comments are due by Weeks 6 and 10, though of course everyone is welcome to leave comments at any time. And based on some of the advice Philippe gave during his presentation, I also require students to respond to the comments they receive from their peers: this helps maintain a dialogue rather than a one-way discussion.

Grading

The critical reflections, along with all the other coursework (like an annotated bibliography and the final paper) are submitted via the blog and are all marked in the same way I’d grade a traditional paper: based on the clarity of the argument, the relevance of the examples, the extent of the documentation, etc. I send students an individual email with my feedback and their grade because I don’t feel this is something that should be shared with everyone.

As for the comments, I assign a mark for completion, provided the comment meets the standards I set out in the syllabus (i.e. it offers thoughtful constructive criticism that also highlights some of the argument’s strengths). At the end of the term, I tally up the number of comments and replies, award an A+ to any student(s) who went beyond the requirements, A’s to the students who left the required number of comments and replies, B’s to the students who missed a few, and so on. In total, comments are worth 15% of the final grade for the course (10% for comments and 5% for replies).

Overall, I think blogs are a useful tool to integrate into the classroom. Although this was a graduate course, Philippe’s presentation focused on his experience with an undergraduate class, so blogs can definitely be used in a variety of contexts to achieve multiple learning objectives, include peer collaboration, asynchronous discussions, and critical reflections on the coursework.

Another term teaching online

Now that I’ve had a chance to get caught up on the first few weeks of prep for the courses I’m teaching this term, I thought I’d post a few thoughts about the online course I taught time last term. I’ve discussed my experiences teaching online before, but when I taught Specialized Translation into English again last term I tried a few new things, with mixed results, so I think it’s worth writing another short post about the experience. Here are a few reflections on the two main tools I used to deliver course content last term: Twitter and WordPress.

Twitter

One of the comments I received from students I taught online in 2011 was that they wanted to receive notifications when the course website was updated, new content was added and responses were posted in the homework forum. WordPress does, of course, have an RSS feed, but not many of the students took advantage of that feature, either because they didn’t know about it, or because they didn’t have an RSS reader. So last term, I decided to integrate Twitter into the class. I created new account for the course, and let students know they could follow the feed to receive updates throughout the semester. Of the twenty students enrolled in the class, though, only 1 had a Twitter account. However, I had installed a WordPress widget so that the Twitter feed also appeared on the course website (more on that in a minute), so the rest of the class was still able to see the messages, even if they didn’t get instant notifications. Despite the low participation rate, I would still use Twitter again for the next online course. It allowed me to post not just notifications about new content, but also announcements about events on campus, job vacancies, and graduate programs. Although I had posted those kinds of announcements on the course homepage in previous years, it required more time and effort, since I had to cut and paste notices from emails, PDF files, and websites. With Twitter, I was able to just retweet the announcements I’d received that I thought might interest students, and they could then click through for more details. And the 140-character limit on tweets was actually perfect for making sure announcements were short and easy to read. They usually sounded something like this: “Nov 22: Just posted: videos (week 13), corrected homework (week 13), new homework+discussion question (week 14). Test 3 on Nov. 29!”

I’m hoping in future years that more students will have their own Twitter accounts so we can use it for exchanging questions and answers as well. (I planted the seeds for this last week, when I told my Introduction to Translation students about several Twitter accounts, such as @anglais, that Tweet helpful translation-related tips. Ideally, these second-year students will sign up with Twitter now and still have accounts next year when they enroll in the Specialized Translation course). Kathleen Hughes, a PhD candidate in educational psychology at Carleton University, has a good blog post with a lot of ideas about how to use Twitter in the classroom, and I enjoyed following her Twitter feed last term to see how students interacted with her during class.

WordPress

Last summer, I came across an article in The Chronicle where a journalism professor reflected on some of the mistakes he had made teaching online with WordPress for the first time. Because of that, I thought other instructors might be interested in hearing about how I use WordPress in my online classes, as I’ve generally been happy with the results. Two widgets that proved useful this term were Private Only and Twitter Goodies.

Private Only allowed me to require users to log into the course website in order to view or access any of the content. Last year, I had required students to create user accounts to post material, and I had blocked search engines from indexing the site, but I was looking for a little more privacy, since blocking search engines wouldn’t stop students from sharing course website URL with someone outside the class, nor would it prevent last year’s students from coming back to the course website, since I was using the same URL this year. The plugin worked well for two of my three courses, but it did cause some problems in the online course (a conflict with the video player plugin I was using, perhaps?). Some students–particularly Mac users, it seemed–could log in, but not download any of the content. I ended up uninstalling the plugin, and that seemed to solve the problem. The version I used for the course website, though, was older than the one I’ve mentioned here. So I’m going to try out this new version next year and see if I have better luck.

Twitter Goodies allowed me to post our Twitter feed on the course homepage. I put the widget in the middle of the page, so it would display a rolling list of the most recent tweets, letting students read what updates I had made recently. Another advantage was that I was able to add a second widget that displayed tweets with the hashtag #xl8n or #xl8, so students could also read translation-related tweets posted by Twitter users around the world. A few students complained that the rolling display of the tweets was distracting and/or confusing, so if you agree, you could instead try the Twitter Feed plugin, which just displays the last three (or more, if you like) tweets. This is the plugin I used for the Twitter widget you see in the right sidebar.

So as I said, I had some mixed results with WordPress and Twitter, but overall, I was happy with the results. Has anyone else tried using WordPress in their classes? What plugins have you found helpful?

A Tale of Two Online Courses, Part II

In my last post discussing my experiences teaching two online courses in the Fall semester, I looked at audio vs. video delivery of content, as well as strict vs. flexible deadlines. In this post, I’m going to discuss the various methods I tried for giving feedback to and getting feedback from students, and I’ll also look at some of the suggestions students offered for future online courses. I hope either (or both) of these topics are useful for others who may be preparing to teach an online translation course in the near future.

1. Feedback
Over the past few years, I’ve attended conference presentations by instructors who have integrated online feedback mechanisms into their classes. I blogged about Philippe Caignon’s presentation at CATS in 2010 and Barry Slaughter Olsen’s presentation at the Monterey FORUM in 2011. Both talks were very helpful while I was planning out how I would have students provide feedback to one another in the online courses, and how I would then mark this feedback.

First, the online undergraduate specialized translation course. Student participation marks (25% of the final grade) were broken down into three components: responding to discussion questions (10 marks), posting translations of the weekly homework assignment (8 marks), and leaving feedback on another student’s translation (7 marks). Marks were awarded based on completion, although I did include a few stipulations in the course outline. Students were expected to provide one negative and one positive comment about another student’s translation, and were asked to be respectful of other students when posting comments. I suggested that criticisms be constructive but also highlight something good about the translation (e.g. “I like how you tried to capture the oral nature of the source text, but I don’t think your translation of the word “québécois” works here because it doesn’t reflect the speaker’s separatist leanings”). I also indicated that no marks would be awarded for rude or irrelevant comments. As long as a student’s comments meet these fairly broad criteria, the student was given a mark for participation.

Initially, I did try to suggest specific aspects of the translations students could try to comment on, but as the semester went on and I got busier, I often forgot to provide those suggestions, and students were mainly left to try to find something to discuss when providing peer-to-peer feedback, which can be challenging, as several students noted:

While I understand it’s difficult to measure participation in this class, I didn’t really like the “comment on other people’s work” aspect, because we’re all very Canadian and as such unlikely to really criticize or say anything too strongly (not that anything needs to be said necessarily, but it’s all touchy feely as a result).

I felt that there was a few too many participation marks focused on giving feedback on others’ translations. I felt a bit forced to search through others’ translations and find something wrong with them, and I wasn’t comfortable with that. I also wasn’t comfortable with posting my discussion questions for all to see as I generally prefer to keep some parts of my work private, especially those that involve opinions, reflections and analysis. I personally would have preferred to submit my answers to discussion questions directly to the professor. At the same time, I did like the fact that we posted our homework translations and could see the translation work of others because it was helpful to see the countless other ways that students translated source texts. These, to me, are the downsides of this course and probably many other online courses.

The concept of giving feedback on our peers’ translations was a good one, but I don’t think the method was as effective as it could be. Personally, I feel that some of the comments I received (and gave!) were not that helpful. Perhaps many of us, in commenting, had to search the translation for good/bad elements to report that otherwise would not have stood out to us. I don’t think this method was as effective as our classroom discussions on our peers’ translation (when you showed them on the screen projector via WebCT) because here, there was no obligation for us to read through multiple translations—we found one, commented on it, and forgot about. Also, I never received a notification telling me when someone had commented on my translation, so there was no incentive (or reminder) for me to look back and see what the other person wrote.

Overall, I did feel the feedback aspect of the course worked, although not perfectly. First, it took quite a few hours to mark this aspect of the course. Although I had a teaching assistant to help, she spent about 60 hours over the course of the term adding up participation marks and leaving comments for students who had not received feedback from their peers. I’m very grateful for her help, because that meant I was able to focus on other aspects of the course, but if I’d been doing this on my own, adding up the marks would have been very time-consuming. Second, as the above quote illustrates, the limitations of the forum plugin I was using meant that students did not get notifications when someone left a comment on their homework. Thus, some of the comments may not have even been read, particularly if they were posted four or five days after the translation was submitted. Finally, some students felt a little lost as they were commenting, so they probably would have appreciated more regular guidance from me about what specifically they should look for. Here are some of the suggestions students had for resolving some of the peer-to-peer feedback problems:

One improvement I might suggest is to try a different method for us to comment on other students’ translations. Maybe you could post two discussion questions per week, one would be the same type of question you usually post and the other would be an exerpt of our translation work for the week (from maybe three students). Then, all students could post a comment on this translation in the same interface as we currently use for the discussion questions.
If you retain the current structure for commenting, another suggestion would be to have notification messages sent to us (if possible) to let us know when someone has commented our work. As for the incentive, you could require students to physically click on the response they receive on their translation (if this can be tracked in the current interface) before they receive their participation mark.

This might be difficult to coordinate, but in the future I think it might be a good idea to pair people up to review each other’s work. Let’s say we all get a partner for three weeks and we review each other’s work, that would also give us good exposure to someone else’s style. As opposed to picking a random person every week, which can be a little less personal.

While I like the first suggestion because it would provide a way of focusing the discussion on specific problems, the second suggestion would be a little harder to coordinate. I had considered pairing students up, but I wondered whether it would end up causing too many headaches since one of the partners might not post their homework on time (or at all), which would inhibit the second student from commenting (and receiving their participation marks for the week). Assigning students to groups of 3-4 might help solve this problem, but it would still require coordination on a regular basis–something I’d be ready to do in the future, now that most of the course material has been prepared.

As for the feedback in the theoretical master’s course, it didn’t work out as well because of the deadline problem I mentioned in my previous post. I asked students to respond to weekly discussion questions (10 questions worth 5% of their mark), to leave feedback for their peers on the critical summaries they were required to post on the course website (3-4 comments worth 5%), and to respond to any feedback they received (5%). Unfortunately, because I hadn’t set deadlines for submitting the critical summaries (students were required to prepare 3 of them over the course of the term), most students didn’t post their summaries until the last week of class. This meant, of course, that students didn’t post feedback for their peers (since virtually no summaries were posted) and that it was therefore not usually possible for them to respond to the feedback. To really have peer-to-peer feedback work, I think it requires set deadlines, and significant percentage of the final mark earmarked for the participation. Otherwise, there isn’t much incentive to participate, particularly given the extra self-motivation an online course requires compared to a course that takes places in a classroom.

2. General suggestions for future online courses
While I didn’t get the detailed feedback from my master’s students that I got from my undergraduate, I think many of the suggestions the undergraduates made could apply to various online courses: several students asked whether future students could be automatically notified by email about new posts and other important content. The fact that several of them raised this same point and no one mentioned that they had subscribed to the website’s RSS feed made me realize I will have to more clearly point out this feature in the future. I’ll also have to look for a discussion forum plugin that provides more notification options than Mingle Forum, the plugin I’m currently using.

Another suggestion that came up was for more collaborative homework assignments, such as when I asked students to contribute to a Google Docs spreadsheet glossary one week. These take a while to plan, so I didn’t include many, but it’s definitely an area that could be improved, and it would help take advantage of the online format of the class, allowing students to collaborate on their own schedule.

Another student suggested having students comment on their own homework periodically so they could explain how they were trying to apply the theories and strategies we discussed in class. That would provide a good way to extend the discussion questions for each topic.

Overall, I think the online undergraduate course went well. Most of the student comments about the online experience were positive. Only a few students said they still would have preferred to have had learned in a classroom. The others were happy about the flexibility the online option offered them to fit another class into schedules that already included full- or part-time jobs, family and other courses. The master’s course was less successful, and I think if it is offered online again, I will adapt some of the suggestions and successes (particularly those that apply to deadlines and peer-to-peer feedback) from the undergraduate course for use in this one. Has anyone had similar experiences in the virtual classroom?

A Tale of Two Online Courses, Part I

Now that the fall term is over and I’ve (finally!) finished marking the tests, assignments and essays that were submitted during the last week of classes, I’m ready to sit down and write a few blog posts about my experiences in the (virtual) classroom over the past 13 weeks. Among the courses I taught this term were two that were offered online: one, a practical specialized translation course for undergraduate students, and the other, a theoretical Translation Studies course for graduate students. Although they were designed and delivered in a similar way, I thought the undergraduate course was much more successful. In this series of posts, I’ll be discussing why the two courses had such different results.

In this post, I’ll focus on two aspects the courses: content delivery and deadlines

1. Content delivery: Video vs. audio
As a platform for the two courses, WordPress worked out better than WebCT or Moodle, both from my point of view (creating and uploading the content, managing discussions, organizing information, etc.) and from the student’s (finding information, accessing videos, leaving comments, etc.). In the undergraduate, practical translation class, I mainly uploaded a series of two to five 5-minute videos every week to go over the homework and/or briefly lecture on the week’s topic. In the theoretical master’s course, I mainly uploaded an .mp3 file each week with a 10-15 minute recorded lecture.

Videos
In my last post about tools for the classroom, I mentioned that I was using Screenr to record the 5-minute videos, and now that the term is over, I can say that I’m happy with the results. The videos were easy to record and upload, and with the WordTube plugin for WordPress, I could integrate a video player onto the relevant webpage, and organize the videos into playlists so that each video focused on one short segment of the week’s lesson (e.g. one part of the translation homework, one or two slides from a PowerPoint presentation) and they were arranged in a relevant order. Here’s an example of a video I posted in the first week, describing the requirements for submitting assignments and tests:

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Feedback from students about these videos was generally positive, thought they did point out some shortcomings as well. Here’s what some of them had to say:

I wasn’t a big fan of the fact that the videos were short and that there were many of them. However, as the course went on, I found it less bothersome because if you are trying to go back to a video to reference material within it, it is much easier to find what you are looking for in multiple […] 5-minute clips as opposed to one long clip. I was also glad that the videos were not removed from the course website, allowing me to go back and watch them again at my convenience or if/when I needed them.

I am glad you posted videos because I prefer listening to lessons instead of reading them on a screen. However, I feel like if we had in class time I would have learned more and feel like I was improving more as the semester went on.

What I disliked about the class was the weekly videos. I’m sure they work well for some people but I like having notes I can reference as opposed to go back and listen to the video every time I forget something.

I liked watching the videos because you could always go back and watch something over again if you didn’t understand something too well or if the discussion question was relevant to something in the lectures, it was always a good option to watch it again.

I liked the videos, however, I would have loved to have a podcast option I could take with me anywhere. The videos required both an Internet connection and Flash, which limited their portability. I would have loved to have listened to the audio while following the PowerPoint on my iPad on the train.

If I taught this course again in an online format, I would definitely integrate a podcast option–probably a downloadable .mp3 file. It was something I had thought about but just didn’t have time to implement. But the videos were a good fit for the course, allowing me to verbally and visually illustrate points much more effectively than I could have with just written notes.

Audio recordings
In the theoretical master’s course, I didn’t use the videos because the 5-minute limitation was too restrictive. In addition, I didn’t really need the visuals in this class, since I wasn’t going over homework or pointing out relevant websites. The disadvantage to the audio recordings is that I wasn’t able to see how often they were accessed, unlike the videos, for which I could access viewing statistics. Moreover, I found it difficult to sync up audio with a PowerPoint presentation, so I ended up just providing the audio recordings each week. I don’t know whether students found these hard to follow, although some did tell me they found the recordings helpful. In the future, if this course is offered online again, I would probably make a greater effort to match up the lecture with slides so that students could download the recording if they wanted to listen to it on the go, or they could listen to it while flipping through the accompanying slides.

2. Deadlines
Teaching these two courses helped me learn about the importance of set, enforced deadlines for online courses. When preparing the syllabus for my undergraduate course, I decided to encourage weekly participation by setting strict deadlines on when work could be submitted: almost every week, students were expected to respond to a discussion question, submit a short translation, and comment on one other student’s translation. They were awarded one mark for completing each of these homework components, and together, these participation marks were worth 25% of their final grade. If they submitted everything, every week, they would earn a full 25%, which just over half the 26 students did. However, they were not allowed to go back to previous weeks and make up missed participation: I wanted to make sure students were keeping up with the course on a weekly basis, so I didn’t award any retroactive marks. Even so, only a few students earned 15/25 or less on this aspect of the course. The mean participation mark was 21.62/25.

By comparison, in the master’s course, I set aside 15% of the final mark for participation, divided evenly among three tasks: responding to weekly discussion questions, providing feedback to other students when they submitted a critical summary of one of the theoretical texts, and responding to the feedback they received from other students. In this course, however, I did not specify that no marks would be awarded retroactively, as I had assumed master’s students would be more motivated to keep on top of the work. The result? On a weekly basis, participation could best be described as abysmal. Only 2-3 of the 7 students originally enrolled in the class regularly posted their responses to the discussion questions, and no student responded to all 10. In some cases, students answered none of the discussion questions until the final week, which of course prevented other students from engaging with these responses. Because I had offered too much flexibility around the deadlines, participation was lacking, despite my weekly emails to the students reminding them about the work to be completed. (The flexible deadlines may not have been the only reason, but they certainly played a part).

As students in my undergraduate class noted, an online course requires much more self-motivation than one taught in the classroom:

You also have to be somewhat more self-motivated in an online class, because I find that while you’re aware of the submission dates, you might not set aside the same time for it each week, since you don’t have to be there. So it can feel disjointed, in terms of “did I pay enough attention to that material” before answering.

I understand that participation marks are required and I know it definitely motivated me to stay engaged in the course

I really enjoyed the discussion questions as well, which you don’t always get to in the classroom when you only have an hour and a half to take up a translation. I think I got more out of this delivery method than I would have from a classroom experience where you painstakingly go through a text line by line and everybody asks about all their word choices. for my learning style, I found this method more engaging and more stimuating. That being said, it did definitely require a lot more self-motivation, so I think the participation marks were essential.

I really didn’t like the fact that the course was online. I’m a lot more involved when I go to a classroom and discuss course material as a group. In fact, I missed many of the participation marks because since I didn’t have to go to a physical classroom, I would sometimes forget about this course for a few days. I’m usually a better student than that!

These comments, along with the differing participation in my two classes, have really clarified for me the importance of encouraging student participation in online courses by setting clear, enforced deadlines for any work that needs to be submitted. It may also be helpful to remind students early on about the importance of keeping up with the coursework. Encouraging them to meet in person, perhaps in small study groups, might also help them remember to complete the homework each week.

In my next post, I’ll look more specifically at feedback to/from students and how it differed in each class, and I’ll discuss some of the suggestions students offered for future courses.