The obligatory year two reflection post

So my basic reason for doing the Tech Fellows thing was to successfully move two linguistics courses I regularly teach (LING A101: Nature of Language and ENGL A476: History of the English Language) online. Success.

Of course, there’s success and there’s success. I think I did a pretty good job at some things, like having my own presence in the courses (especially in History of the English Language) and making them environments in which my students can learn.

There are other things I wasn’t so successful at. Some of them aren’t, I would say, actually my fault—I mean, just to take one example, could grading in Blackboard be any less pleasant? Yeah, I’m sure they could figure out a way, but now I understand why so many online courses use multiple choice tests and discussion board posts and nothing else as assessments. Grading the same problem set for one of my online classes takes—and I’ve checked this, this is real—two and a half times longer than grading problem sets turned in on paper for a face-to-face class. You’d think grading would be considered a core part of the whole teaching process and therefore be made as simple as possible, but no, Blackboard, Inc. is more interested in providing us exciting things like “mashups” that don’t really do anything other than provide glitzy distractions. </rant>

Deep breath.

Other things are much more in my control. So, for example, I like to bring my research into the classroom—and I’ve had a lot of trouble doing that in my online courses, but it’s something I’m going to continue working on. Also, I’ve managed to get students to interact with each other as individuals even though they’re doing it through a screen, but that’s entirely within-class, and I actually like it when students bring in their experiences from other classes and draw connections between those and the ones I’m teaching—and that hasn’t happened. It’s harder to have the sort of organic conversations that lead to those connections in an asynchronous environment, but I figure there’s got to be a way.

And there’s your update.

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