Week 1/2 – Arnsperger – The Dangers of Voluntariness

Online teaching requires even more requirements than face-to-face classes. In an actual classroom, we as teachers can come up with spontaneous assignments and exercises, and we can then ask students to work on these in class, even if they are not graded; while students are working on the assignments, we can monitor them, and we may then call on individual students to share their responses. In the online classroom, such rather spontaneous lessons and interactions are rare. As online teachers we need to clearly outline the requirements, and we need to either have all students submit their work (such as responses to readings), or offer an incentive (extra credit for example) to students who do submit work. Students do the work on their own, outside from the teacher’s immediate supervision or purview (though on Blackboard, you can track views, for example); as teachers, we list/post requirements and then comment on and grade the students’ work. Whatever is not required, students won’t do. If readings are optional, most students will not do them. If posting comments or doing exercises is optional and not graded, most students won’t do it (one of the M1 articles mentioned this). The EFOT readings for this week and last week were optional. I’m guessing that most of us are pretty diligent and motivated, so all of us probably either read several of the M1 texts or at least skimmed most/all of them. I have to start thinking about my first online class in Summer 2017, and I know that some of these texts chosen by Leah will offer valuable advice, which is enough motivation to do a portion of the readings. Yet, our ESL students are primarily taking our classes b/c of the College’s GER, and unless extra credit is involved, they will not devote time to the “optional readings” or write an “optional blog post.” This insight means that we as teachers are required to include more requirements; for each exercise we come up with and for each text we find, we need to create a clear structure that involves and motivates every single student (when is it due, what do they submit, how will we comment). These are some preliminary thoughts on a particular aspect on both M1 and M2, and I am sure there are many additional or conflicting views on the topic, so feel free to leave your response here. Responding to this post is optional, however 🙂

(Addendum: I love Voice Thread and Adobe Connect. In the ESL Program, we were thinking that these would be a great tools not just for interactions with students, but also for interactions between us staff members while we are out of town.)

4 thoughts on “Week 1/2 – Arnsperger – The Dangers of Voluntariness

  1. I’m glad you brought up the point about student motivations affecting how they engage with the course. The classes I’ve taught that were not GER tended to be both smaller and a lot more active. The students had chosen to be there, based on interest, and so they were more eager to do the work and participate in discussion. The GER classes, though– the students sometimes wanted to know how low the bar was, and they’d do the bare minimum for the grade they wanted. It didn’t help that those classes were also larger.

    So, I think you’re 100% right about them not doing the optional work. I’m trying to think of ways to get them to voluntarily engage with the course (it’s been like 10 minutes and I’m still coming up blank). Maybe there’s a way to hide fun things in your online course material– I’m a big fan of using silly YouTube videos to teach concepts (like Henri, le Chat Noir to illustrate existentialism) or having them dissect pop culture (e.g. ethical themes in The Dark Knight). I wonder if they’d be more motivated to do the optional work if the optional work was more unusual/fun/silly than the non-optional work.

    1. I think you are onto something there, Stephanie – if the optional work is somehow fun (and the required work too) without being childish or sophomoric, then student engagement may increase.

  2. Levin and Stephanie…Thank you for your insight and your comments, they really made me think, as well. One of the things I appreciate most from this experience of EFOT is the diverse disciplines that are represented within our group. Each of our experiences, along with our discipline specialties, paint a picture unique to each of us. I have found over the years, that I tend to look at my profession and discipline through a very specific lens, often monochromatic. I find your views refreshing and I would love to find a way to make my teachings in medicine & nursing more fun and increase the learning, that was happening in the classroom and online.

  3. I really love this conversation and yes, I do agree, that if you make the activities fun and valuable, then they will be done! I am still assigning you all 2-3 hours of reading/research time each week, I’m just allowing you to choose which to focus/spend time on…
    I don’t think I’ve seen much in the way of referencing our readings, yet, in the responses. Perhaps that will happen in the modules to come. That is definitely one way to be able to assess whether or not the learners are reading.

    I appreciate your thoughts!

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