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What worked best as you sought to help students learn course content through writing?

For this class, I found weekly journal entries to be a very helpful tool. They allow students to engage with the content and wrestle with thematic issues in a very satisfying way. They are posted online, and students really enjoy reading and commenting on each other's posts. Brown, HIST418, F12.

The best tools for supporting students' learning course content through writing has been the development of a multi-step writing process that requires peer review and oral critical feedback on work such as the Getting to Know a Student paper, lesson plans and reflective blog posts. Via the multi-step writing process students write, evaluate, reflect and revise. Participation in this process has supported students' development of meaningful conceptual and contextualized understandings of course content. O'Neil, ITE404H, F12.

The journal assignments ensured that the students viewed the online lectures and applied critical thinking and analytical skills to the course content because they couldn't complete the assignment without 1) viewing and 2) understanding the lectures. The journal assignments also helped keep the students on track in an online class where it is exceedingly easy to fall behind. Mironesco, WS384/POLS384, F12.

At the suggestion of Todd Sammons, whose W-focus workshop I attended last August, I began using Laulima-based writing responses and peer comments to encourage students to engage critically and substantively with the assigned reading. This has worked very well. It gets the discussion going among students before our weekly meeting has even taken place, and it provides a space for the quieter students to express themselves. Matteson, HIST396B, F12.

I created a course blog on which I posted weekly discussion prompts & links to related subjects. Students were required to post substantive responses and comment on each others' posting. Although the initial set-up was very labor-intensive--I had never made a blog before, so the learning curve was steep--I was pleased with the final result. As you can see at http://hist436.wordpress.com/ (Note: the site is coded as private & is not searchable by engines.), the interface is much more dynamic & attractive than anything available on Laulima, & it had the unexpected result of inviting much longer--sometimes many hundreds of words longer--& more thoughtful responses from students. Students seem more comfortable writing at length on a blog than on the naked glare of the printed page. The discussion prompt and responses were essential to generating discussion before our weekly class and enabled me to hear from all students, especially the quiet ones. It also gave space for students to raise questions. Matteson, HIST436, F12.

What worked best as you sought to help students learn to be more effective writers?

Because they are writing for one another, the students develop a sense of audience. Posting papers for their peers to read on the blog (under pseudonyms) holds them accountable for doing a good job. In the 2nd & 4th papers (Athens #2 and especially China #2) I require students to respond explicitly to ideas in other students' papers. I also found that the spontaneity of the games forces students to think on their feet. More than once, a student has prepared a carefully researched paper on a scientific proposal but by the time they get up to present it, the dynamics of the in-class discussion has made their proposal moot. I have found that students who have already put time and effort into thinking through an argument by means of writing it are more flexible when it comes to adapting. This underscores my philosophy that writing is a dynamic process that is inextricable from thinking and listening. The students will beg me for an extension to revise their paper. I allow it, knowing they gained feedback from peers. Schwartz, HON291H, F12.

Having the students turn in a thesis and outline to me and providing them feedback at this critical juncture in the writing process helped them turn in more polished papers. Unfortunately, I found that in an online class, having students complete peer reviews for each other is a rather cumbersome process. While beneficial, many students don't take advantage of the option, so it is likely that I will discontinue that in favor of continuing to provide very detailed feedback to the students on the track changes tool in Microsoft word as well as using a writing rubric for both the midterm and the final papers. Mironesco, WS384/POLS384, F12.

Students were required to write and post a one-time "guest blog," in which they looked in-depth at a topic of their choice. Because they knew they were writing for the whole class, and because their subject was one of personal interest, they seemed more motivated to do a good job, both in terms of writing clearly and thoughtfully and in incorporating images and supporting links. Matteson, HIST436, F12.

Please explain any changes you plan to make in the W aspect of your class.

I would like to incorporate more technology into the classroom so I plan to develop a class blog where students post their analysis of readings, ask questions, and comment on each other's work. The blog is also useful because it allows students to embed other kinds of media while also developing their writing and analytical skills. Aikau, POLS390, F12.

The major adjustments have been to move reflective journal writing to a blog post format & to include two Philosophy of Science Teaching papers (written at the beginning & end of the semester) and a student science autobiography paper as part of the reflective blog post assignments rather than having them as stand-alone assignments. I elected to make these adjustments for 2 reasons. First, in a blog post format students are now able & required to read & comment on each other's weekly reflections, which allows for more sustained thinking & processing of course concepts beyond class sessions. Secondly, the inclusion of the papers and autobiography eased students' concerna about the amount of required work while not changing the amount of writing they do. O'Neill, ITE404H, F12.

I am going to implement earlier due dates for the "guest blog" as well as a requirement for students to read and comment on each others' online natural history notebooks at least three times over the semester. I hope to encourage more recognition of and observations on ideas. Matteson, HIST436, F12.