What motivates me to take on this project is my imagined ability to add more colors, flavors, dimensions… to a course I have been teaching increasingly off of canonical print materials over the years. When I developed the course – Chinese Writing Systems in Asia (Chinese, East Asian Studies, Linguistics 235) – in 2009, I did my homework. By that I mean I did extensive online research to find juicy supplementary materials, and archived them carefully on Blackboard for students to enjoy. They did, as sometimes these extra tidbits became conversation starters in the classroom. The problem was that I got lazy – and lazier – for subsequent iterations of the course, until when that Bb page finally stopped being copied over to the new course sites. I am not sure about the exact reason why that happened. Maybe I needed to do a better job integrating online materials in the class discussion of other readings. Maybe because I kept adding new print materials, which crowded out the online supplements. In any case, here I am, hoping that I would be able to revive the original cyber luster of the course by recreating it online. If I am clever enough, I may even be able to figure out effective and fun ways to engage the students in searching for and sharing materials that are particularly interesting to them. At least I am lucky in one respect – that is, the subject matter of the course lends itself really well to the online format. Much of the information is visual, and there are troves of websites, forums, and videos dedicated to the topic.
The biggest challenge in this endeavor, as I can imagine at this point, will be redesigning student tasks, activities, and assignments without compromising their learning outcomes. The current (traditional) course is already a very intensive one, perhaps having to do with the fact that I have been teaching it as a writing requirement course to its full capacity (19-23 students). For the online version, I would like to be able to maintain its rigor in writing training. Recognizing that the time span will be about 65% shorter than a regular semester, I will have to devise new assignments that students could reasonably complete within two or three days, for example, rather than two or three weeks, but will still enable them to progress and be ready to tackle a major writing project by the time the course ends. I’ve already started on some new ideas when working on a draft of the syllabus. Hopefully more will come and the syllabus will be ripe and ready in a couple of more weeks for my fellow troupers to review and critique. Stay tuned.