As all teaching experiences are hopefully learning experiences, we offer the following recommendations based on what we thought worked and also what we think could work better. We feel these recommendations help to manage the productive mess. Each instructor had unique experiences; these suggestions reflect what we all believe will improve upon the syllabus we developed:
- While we had students discussing shared readings for four weeks, we recommend extending the interclass conversation to as many weeks as possible (preferably eight to twelve). We still recommend giving classes a few introductory weeks to familiarize themselves with the technology before introducing them to each other (to minimize disorientation for students and instructors). Students would thus grow more confident with the level of reading, more competent in the composition of posts, and more comfortable with one another.
- We recommend assigning less reading and requiring more writing. Rather than providing multiple perspectives from the readings, we suggest focusing the posts around a few key texts so that students generate the multiple perspectives. The amount of reading impacted the quality of the posts: With so much reading, students had less time to focus on the conversation. We would reduce our assigned readings to two short related pieces per week and increase posting requirements. Reading each other's posts would be considered required reading.
- We would also recommend creating additional guidelines for the posting. Often students would rely on pat responses such as “I agree” rather than fully developing their own perspective on the reading with relation to the posts other students had made. Stress the importance of citing particulars about previous posts—author and statement—to avoid constructions such as the “I agree with you, but...” response.
- We felt that the role of “extension post” was the most underdeveloped or neglected of the roles. We would also expect the reduction of required reading to improve the depth of outside research.
- As we've already indicated, the project would benefit from a more sophistcated pedogogical/technological system for promoting exceptional work. This could potentially be addressed through RSS subscriptions or more involved statics tracking.
- With regard to the roles themselves, we think developing a student role that serves as a meta-commentary on an entire thread might be a productive way to have students see how a conversation can develop. In many regards, this was the privileged role we had as instructors.