Setting up summer

I’m doing several things differently this summer.

First, no textbook. Which means I’m writing a lot of multiple-choice questions to check their reading of the lectures and my documents workbook.

I don’t like that my combined multiple-choice and essay quizzes means they have to wait till I grade the essay to see their quiz grade and comments. That is so not immediate feedback. Studies are pretty clear that they don’t look at the feedback if it’s not right after the exam. And grading the essays privately seems strange to me – if they can’t see each other’s, how do they know how theirs is?

So, to solve both problems, the quizzes are now just multiple-choice, with immediate feedback when they submit. And the essays aren’t in quiz form. They are the same essays I had students write in the discussion board at the end of each week, based on the collection of visual primary sources they contributed at the beginning of the week. I’ve added Ratings to each of these forums that I’ll use the grade these, with a five-point qualitative scale:

no thesis or poor evidence or citation problems = 1
some thesis problems or use/amount/type/citation of evidence = 2
a few evidence problems with sources or citations = 3
good thesis with cited primary sources and good support = 4
excellent thesis with cited primary sources and good support = 5

I was going to set the ratings so everyone could see everyone’s, but although I know that’s not a FERPA violation, I have decided to make it so they can only see their own ratings. I am doing that partly because a student rating my work at was pleased to report that no one could tell which student was doing the sample essays (I was posting samples after each quiz).

Anonymity there seemed more comfortable.

[For those following along in Moodle, making the ratings so each student can only see his/her own means that in each forum I had to “Override permissions” for “Student” by clicking the button in the Prohibit column for both “Rate posts” (I want to be the only one rating them, for grading purposes) and “View any ratings”.]

I am adding a Facebook group for social interaction. I have always had a separate forum (the Pub, or Tavern, or Coffee House) for this inside the LMS, but over the years I notice it’s been used less and less. I think that’s because they interact more elsewhere, especially in FB, so for the social aspect of the class I’d like to go where the students already are. I’m thinking it’s like the classroom, and so much of the socialization is outside of class (in the hall, walking to the cafeteria) that FB imitates that better than a forum inside the class.

(Interestingly, when I posted this idea for colleagues in Facebook itself, there were concerns about older people using FB, and warnings about possibly inappropriate informality. But I’m not worried – I think we’ll all be comfortable there. Since it’s an experiment on my part, I am not requiring it — I still have a first forum that’s social, and have linked to the FB group and told them they can use it if they wish, but don’t have to. Within six hours of opening the class, five students have already signed in on Facebook.)

Even though I had a student last semester request Skype instead of Google’s anonymous chat, I don’t want to do that because I’ll be teaching a lot from home and I’m not comfortable on camera at a moment’s notice.

Last, I’ve added a Google calendar on the main page. I did this two semesters ago, and asked about it on my course evaluation, and about 15% of students said they used it. I didn’t do the calendar this semester, but I forgot and left the question about it on the evaluation. 20% said they used Google calendar anyway, so if the numbers are increasing, I’d like to offer it to them, particularly since it can send text messages to a cell phone to remind them of deadlines.

So, we start Monday and I already have 22 students signed in to the Moodle site, half a dozen in the FB group, one who’s used the chat already to check something, and one who caught an error on my Tech Check so I could fix it.

I think this will be good, though I’m revelling in the luxury of having only one class (40 students) instead of five classes, and I’m wondering whether I shouldn’t have tried something more radical. But two weeks between semesters wasn’t enough time to do more.

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