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Most places I travel people ask me what it’s like working with Jim Groom and while it’s easy to reach for a wise crack (which I usually do), I have to frame this with a lot of awe for the spirit he brings to this funny business we do. So who besides Jim will publicly share and reflect on their own student course evaluations? I’m going to be a big old copy dog and do the same, having gotten recently my packat of charts. graphics, numbers from my first foray into teaching ds106 at UMW.

I’ll say there are no huge surprises- and I see parallels with Jim’s, especially how students respond to the question on clarity of grading criteria.

The ding if anything was a lower score on “4. The instructor provided clear criteria for grading”. The breakdown was clearly spelled out on the syllabus, and I did remind several times on the importance of participation, the weight of final projects. I can get guess the result in the evaluations is more in line of “What do I need to do to get an ‘A”” and also the inescapable fact that we cannot reliably sit down and apply a cold hard number on creativity. But I can be more certain that with the assignment bank system of completing a give number of stars each week, that I saw often an over focus on just producing something (the ends); I am not feeling I did as good as I might in encouraging the thinking about the process, the connection to the work on assignments to the larger goals of expression on story making. Reading the blogs got more weary when they wer treated as a placer to hang assignment work as opposed to being a personal cyber-infrastructure (a concept I do not think many really grokked).

So true, I did not return each assignment students did with a specific mark- we looked at their accumulation as an aggregate, and not handing our red percentage scores (“Hey Jimmy, your animated GIF was well done, but you had distracting background clutter, and a few extra unneeded frames. PLus you did not tell us how you made it, that is a 79”).

The places they lost ground on grades was not doing required work, not being part of the community, leaving the final project for 2 days before the due date.

I’m pleased with the perspectives on the overall course experience:

The comments reveal the most, and give me fodder to consider going forward. The most common theme is the amount of work the class took, with references to it being either “ridiculous” to “doable” and “rewarding”

I enjoyed the course. I learned a lot from the course, but I never found it to be overwhelming. I love the ideas on education that the DS106 professors have- it is possible to learn and become engaged in classwork with being tested and quizzed.


This class was fun but the work load was a little ridiculous at times.

The parts I know lacked especially towards the latter portion was the structure of in class time. I know I fell down form planning more “them doing” activities, and for some, it was just a chore (not everyone is going to get up and scream “#4life!”

This class was useful in teaching how to set up a domain and get a blog running on it. But everything else seemed like it was filler. I felt like the structure of the class was lacking a lot.

And while this sentence might be re-assuring, I still conside it my responsibility to elevate the level of discussion in class:

A really fun class. A lot of work but it is doable. The lack of class discussion was more due to my classmates’ lack of participation rather than the professor.

And in the feel good category are:

This class has taught me a lot about how to use the internet to my advantage and for more than just social networking, music, and academics. I thought I knew things about computers, and I did, but taking DS106 helped me realize I didn’t know all that much about the internet. I’ve really enjoyed taking this class and I wish there was a another class like this that I could take another semester.


I have learned more relevant information from this class than any other in my collegiate experience. I believe that it is vital to learn how to take ownership of your web presence and how to not only use the tools available but to discover or create new tools (or new ways of using the current tools) to contribute art, to tell your story, to know that you have a story to tell-

And in reading this, I am geting more of an understanding of the desire for more criteria on grading, in terms of me providing more thorough feedback?

First, regarding this course, there are far too many time consuming assignments. They are enjoyable assignments, and I enjoyed the learning process, including the flexibility of the stars (in choosing which assignments to do in each category) but for someone who is not familiar with the software being used, it is much more time consuming than the assignment should be. And then you have no idea what you’re producing is being graded on (quality or effort, descriptive blog post or response/feedback from others). And while I respect and like the idea of the class being more about the experience than the grade, there should still be more of a tangible way of knowing where you stand and where you need to improve.

And at least one student has ideas that we should have some peer system for having students themselves help rate each other’s work, maybe another level of voting/rating/thumb up/downing on how well the assignments are done on a quality level:

I would suggest crowd-sourcing a grading method, credible critique system, and comparability by requiring students to rate others work anonymously and using that democratic measure of intensive effort, that is, effort per assignment, as a portion of the grade, perhaps 20-30%. This raises the stakes by allowing low quality work to be counted as such. By making low effort work costly in this way, we increase the average level of effort, and since these ratings are almost necessarily a relative measure, the raising of the average effort should make lower effort even more costly, creating a competitive regress that results in a pile of great work that students are personally invested in. This would also make the ds106 community more significant as a whole.

And for the folks at UMW working on creating a digital studies major, here is another plug from a student:

This course is likely so crammed because this is the only class of this sort offered. There needs to be more of a progression from this course material into something else. I would even suggest a digital media studies major (or at least minor) available to all students without requesting it as a special major. I think this course is a catalyst- it is so full of potential for what it has already exposed me to and allowed me to experience. I have a new understanding of how I can manage and control my web presence personally and professionally. Considering the growing importance of this part of our identity, I feel it would benefit all students, once the workload is managed (or at least the expectations are made clearer).

It has me thinking about an ideal places where maybe ds106 is a program; I spent time today talking to colleagues who are part of a full course in Audio Storytelling, where the students end up publishing rich stories about their community. We end up cramming audio into 2 weeks!

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. I think you are right in that the students’ concern about grading criteria isn’t totally unfounded, even if it is annoying to me because all we are truly asking them to do is be engaged and narrate their work. That said, the idea of some more elaborate peer review critique/grading system seems to me the next and best step for ds106. I would love to build this in as part of the student evaluation process and have them blindly evaluate each others work in some way. Crowdsourcing the grading for ds106 seems like the next logical step—now how we would do it is another thing, but given the course is built around experimentation, I can imagine we can bite off at least some of it this coming year.

    Also, by the looks of these scores one would never know you haven’t taught in w while, and while they can only capture a trace of the experience, let me go on the record and say that you are an unbelievably generous, giving and committed teacher, and for me that is the greatest thing one can be. Kudos.

  2. I don’t know who wrote about the crowdsourced grading, but I totally agree. (Oh crap. I didn’t mean to type that wink.) Anyway, the act of rating the work of others would need some small grade motivation, maybe 5%. Even that trivially small portion of grade weighting might be enough to get everyone to sit down and really go through others’ work critically, which is what was lacking in our section.

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