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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: September ::
Re: "Blackboard"- Enhanced Course
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1887  Thursday, 12 September 2002

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Sep 2002 14:43:30 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1876 Re: "Blackboard"- Enhanced Course

[2]     From:   Susan C. Oldrieve <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Sep 2002 18:18:43 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1876 Re: "Blackboard"- Enhanced Course

[3]     From:   Mariann Kosub<
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        Date:   Wednesday, 11 Sep 2002 19:38:31 -0400
        Subj:   Re: "Blackboard"- Enhanced Course

[4]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Sep 2002 09:09:15 GMT0BST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1876 Re: "Blackboard"- Enhanced Course


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Sep 2002 14:43:30 -0700
Subject: 13.1876 Re: "Blackboard"- Enhanced Course
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1876 Re: "Blackboard"- Enhanced Course

I have not used Blackboard specifically, but whatever they set up for us
at Stanford.  I thought it worked best as a forum for students to speak
to each other about the plays or broader issues.  I audited (well, OK,
read) the discussions, but was slow to comment.  I wanted them answer
one another.  That worked very well.  Yes, there were some flakey
comments, but I assumed they would be generally understood to be flakey
and didn't feel the need to interfere unless others agreed.  There were
a few times the discussion seemed to go seriously off track due to
ignorance of facts, and I intervened then, not so much to lecture as to
suggest the facts and a more useful line in inquiry.  Only once did I
really feel the need to challenge.  My students were smart, quite
amazing really, and articulate enough to make it a big success.

Clearly some other list members had very different experiences.  Perhaps
I was lucky?  Guess I'll find out when we do it again in the spring.

BTW, I'll have left London for Stratford by the time you read this, and
will have very limited e-mail access for the next couple of weeks. I
shall therefore suspend my participation on SHAKSPER.  Please accept my
apology should any of you want to ask questions about my experience,
since I shall not be able to answer.

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan C. Oldrieve <
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Sep 2002 18:18:43 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 13.1876 Re: "Blackboard"- Enhanced Course
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1876 Re: "Blackboard"- Enhanced Course

I, too, have used Blackboard for several years.  I use it in all my
courses now, and students frequently come up to me and say they wish all
their professors would use it.

Actually, the feature they like most is the online gradebook, because
they can check and see how they are doing at any time during the course.

The second feature they really like is the digital dropbox.  They like
being able to submit their work electronically, not the least because it
saves fighting with a printer and paying for paper.  An added benefit
for me is that since I've been having students turn in their work
through Blackboard, I've been ill only once in about 5 years rather than
every semester.  Paper evidently transmits germs quite effectively.
Blackboard doesn't.

As far as the discussions go, I set up the forums, topic, and threads on
the Blackboard Discussion Board and then leave them there for the
students to participate in as they feel the urge.  I help that urge,
however, by having about 1/4 of the final grade a participation grade.
Students get points for speaking up in class OR for posting to
Blackboard.  The discussions in both venues are usually pretty lively,
and the Blackboard option is especially appreciated by quieter students
or students who don't feel comfortable thinking on their feet.

If the class is fewer than 14 students, they don't use the discussion
board much because there's plenty of time in class to participate.  But
for classes of over 15, Blackboard is a very popular alternative.

I've never used the virtual chat function and probably never will
because I can't even manage talking to my daughters on Instant Message.
But I have a colleague in Chemistry who has figured out how to use it
very successfully.  If anyone is interested, contact me off line and
I'll put you in touch with him.

Unlike Walter, I find that the use of technology is making me more
accessible to my students and bringing us closer, not putting distance
between us.  But I continue to meet with my students in class, 3-4 hours
per week.  At Baldwin-Wallace where "the personal touch" is one of our
trademarks and strengths, we have just begun to pilot some distance
learning courses.  Our rule is that the professor must meet face to face
with the class AT LEAST three times--beginning, middle, and end--to make
sure that the contact does not become too depersonalized.

Time is an issue however.  I did a study a few years ago and found that
using a program like Blackboard adds 50-100 hours per semester course to
my workload (3-6 hours per week per course).  I compensate by cutting
back on my office hours on campus and by trying to discipline myself to
check email and Blackboard no more than twice per day.  I'm still
working on finding ways to get enough sleep, but the benefits of the
program make me so much more satisfied with the job I am doing that the
extra work is worth it to me.

Interestingly, the program also makes the students spend an extra 1-3
hours per week on the work for that class.  They don't like that much,
but considering that our B-W students spend about 1.5 hours outside of
class each week for a 3 cr. hour semester course when we think they
should be spending 6 hours, Blackboard at least makes them spend a bit
more time on classwork than they would otherwise.

I use Blackboard in a variety of other ways, too, but I have gone on
long enough so I will stop here.

Susan Oldrieve
Baldwin-Wallace College

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mariann Kosub<
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Date:           Wednesday, 11 Sep 2002 19:38:31 -0400
Subject:        Re: "Blackboard"- Enhanced Course

Edna Z. Boris <
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 > wrote...

>This week I'll begin teaching a basic Shakespeare course that is
>"Blackboard-enhanced," which is a new experience for me.
>
>Some aspects of the Blackboard enhancement are easy: posting course
>documents and links to internet addresses.
>
>What I would like guidance on is how best to use the discussion board
>feature.  Does anyone have any experience with that?  What kinds of
>rules facilitate discussion?  What kinds of questions work well in such
>a medium?

I used Blackboard for ENGL 101 last semester, and I'm using it again for
ENGL 102.  Since these are both online courses and we don't meet face to
face, the discussion board is *the* most important component for our
class.

Generally, before the semester starts, I break the bulletin board into
specific areas for class participation and discussion.  I also include
two non-course related areas for class introductions and for any
questions the students may have for me.  My students also post drafts of
their essays so one forum is set aside for that purpose.  Depending on
how many learning units I have for the course, I add 4-5 more discussion
areas.  Finally, there are units for plagiarism, sharing contact
information, and general chit-chat about writing.

All of my questions are open-ended; if I use a yes/no question, I always
include "why or why not" as part of the question to force the students
to respond in greater depth.  I post as many threads as needed in each
forum because I notice that students are often overwhelmed by a huge
list of questions to answer.  I require that the students answer the
writing prompts as well as respond to each other.  Sometimes, the
cross-talk is brief, and other times, it flows rather well.

As far as rules go, I ask that my students write as clearly as possible,
but I don't grade the responses for grammar and mechanics.  The idea
here to encourage them to engage each other in discussion and I don't
want them to feel intimidated -- it's hard enough to express oneself in
writing as often as it's required for my courses.  Having said that, I
do tell the students that I will not tolerate creative spelling (i.e.,
"u" for "you") because it's incredibly distracting.  I point them to
appropriate netiquette guides and talk about alternative ways to address
lack of body language and facial expressions.

From the instructor's perspective, Blackboard provides statistical data
that will indicate when students are logging in, how long they're
staying, and what areas they frequently visit.  If your discussion board
is included in the final participation grade and if you find it
challenging to keeping track of who's participating when, then this data
will provide incredibly useful!

If you have further questions, please don't hesitate to ask!  :)

Regards,
Mariann

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Sep 2002 09:09:15 GMT0BST
Subject: 13.1876 Re: "Blackboard"- Enhanced Course
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1876 Re: "Blackboard"- Enhanced Course

Alberto Cacicedo writes,

>2)  Make the discussions count for something in the final grade for the
>course.  It doesn't have to be a terribly large component of the final
>grade, but students like the idea that what they think and say "counts."

And Richard Burt said something similar.  I actually think that the
endless emphasis on assessment, marks, results is one of the things that
is stifling students of this generation (they can never believe that in
three years as an undergraduate in the late 60s I did not receive a
single 'grade' for any piece of work except the final examination).  And
therefore in using my university's home-grown equivalent to Blackboard I
make a point of insisting that posts to the 'discussion rooms' are
absolutely not assessed, but simply a means of initiating argument
before a seminar and continuing it afterwards.  But it's very hard to
get this through to students fearful of posting in case 'their' ideas
get 'stolen' by one of their peers for assessed work.  Which is why I
insist that at least one posting is compulsory in the first two or three
weeks of a course - this works, and works quite well.  It's persuading
them that there is intellectual benefit (rather than additional marks)
in continuing the discussion for themselves that is difficult, and I've
found only a minority of students ready to continue discussions under
their own steam.

David Lindley

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