I have to admit that this year my Writing in the Digital Age online course has not gone as well as planned. I’m a little bit at a loss to explain it. In the spring, the course went very well. It was the first time I’d taught it online. I tweaked it a little but basically kept it the same. This semester the students just didn’t show up. I can’t explain why. With some exceptions, they never got into the groove of participating in an online course, and I can’t really point to anything I did differently from last semester or anything I could have done but didn’t do.
I can only post some many times and send so many e-mails reminding students they need to participate on a regular basis. I even met with them face to face to try and get them going. It worked for some, but only some.
Of course this is a lesson I’ve learned many times before, I guess. Back when I used to teach multiple sections of composition, it was ordinary for a syllabus to work great for one class and horribly for another, for an assignment to excite one class but not another, for a class plan to work really well in the morning and flop in the afternoon.
Given this, I sometimes wonder what I am supposed to be learning as a teacher. When I teach this course again next fall, will my students respond with energy as they did last semester or will they not show up like this semester? Of course in a class like Writing in the Digital Age, the content will change so it won’t be the same class anyway, and even if the class could keep the same content I don’t think I could do a good job teaching the same material three times in a row.
And let me say that I’m not trying to blame the students here. Obviously students have responsibility for their own education, but I also have responsibility for creating positive opportunities for them to learn. I recognize that those opportunities were not as productive this semester. So that’s on me, but I’m just not sure if there’s a specific cause at work here.
What I do know is that students really struggled with the responsibility of learning online. I didn’t provide them with a tremendous amount of structure. If anything I believe I was too ambitious in trying to move students into a mode of learning for which they were unprepared. The next time I teach the course I am going to do it as a hybrid. I guess we’ll see how that works.