Today was the deadline for the first week’s assignments in the online “Web-Based Teaching and Learning” course I am co-teaching. Just like students, the assignments are coming in with deadline skidmarks, but they are coming in, We had nearly 100 messages in the welcome/ intros and some good discussion about principles of online learning.
I took it on to respond to every person’s self-introduction, it is important to get that early feedback and acknowledgment. The direct interaction at first is exciting,t hen sobering to realize one cannot really keep up that kind of pace. My colleague, and more experienced co-teacher, Kurt, does a nice job of sitting back, then summarizing, and drawing them back to the questions of the assignment. I like how he asked the students to review the discussion threads and to draw some conclusions about what worked and did not work in terms of getting responses from class mates.
I have seen teachers kill themselves at keeping up with this one on one messaging with students; it is important yes, and offers a channel one does not get in a face to face classroom, but I am eager to see the strategies that allow students to engage with each other as much or more than just with us.
My thoughts of WebCT so far as, well, I am not quite ready to toss the computer out the window, but have grumbled a few times. Our class is set up oddly that Kurt and I seem to be sharing the same instructor account (different logins, but in the discussion board, if he reads a message, it is marked as read in my view??). And why does WebCT mark my own messages are unread? Why would I read what I just wrote? The discussion board is kind of bulky, and having it spit back to the server every time I toggle a list of messages to view is frustrating, especially from where I sit now on a dial-up connection. And posts seem to be scattered across the board rather than in the original threads.
The flip backs from instructor view to student view are cumbersome too- often I want to check the assignments, but end up in the editing panes rather than the content. Maybe it is my own newness to the system.
My plan to to change it weekly and to toss in some other sources for the feeds.