I had a high drop rate the first week of class in several of the online sections, so I asked those who dropped to do a quick survey for me about why they dropped:
Because overload seemed to be an issue, I wondered what part of the class I might be able to do away with.
So I polled my students in the fourth week of class, asking them “What’s your favorite part of the class so far?” The result from those who responded out of five sections of History classes:
31 – the lectures
21 – the primary source readings linked from lecture
33 – posting my own primary sources
3 – the writing assignments
3 – the discussion forums
1 – connection with other students outside class
5 – the textbook (only two classes have a textbook – 4 of these were from the England class, which actually has only an atlas)
What’s interesting about this is that so few like discussion. Discussion is, actually, my most recent addition to the classes. I added it only because it was hard to discuss in either the primary sources boards or the writing forums, and there were some cool issues that we could do only in discussion, such as ways history connects to what’s going on today. So I set it up to be student-led, and not every week. We don’t do discussion on the six weeks we do writing. And after the first two discussions, I rarely participate. The activity level has been high, even though I have not set a specific number of responses or replies.
But they don’t like it, or at least don’t love it. I expected that they would like posting their own primary sources, but I didn’t realize they were even reading the sources linked from lecture, so that’s cool. The lectures – well, those are mine. I spent a long time constructing and revising them. They have video clips and lots of graphics and lots of, well, ME. So I’m glad they like them.
I wonder whether removing discussion would help the class seem less overwhelming?