"The Promise and Peril of (Virtually) Teaching The First-Year Composition Course to Computer Neophytes"

Keith Dorwick will discuss the use of First Class in the first-year, first-semester argumentation course, one taken -- or tested out of -- by all entering students at the University of Ilinois at Chicago. First Class is a package that allows students (and teachers) the opportunity to locate their learning environment in a place and time that suits their individual needs. As with any asynchronous (non-real time) environment, the learning is not place or time bound. However, as of this writing, some of that potential inherent in asynchronous learning has not yet taken place.

Dorwick discovered that, in spite of requiring all potential students to meet with him before registering for the course, students still required a large amount of training in the individual software packages (IRC using a Microsoft client available as a Java applet at http://chat.microsoft.com on Netscape and Internet Explorer Browsers 3.0 and better) and First Class (http://www.oftarc.com). As a result, he had to require students to attend face-to-face for the first month of the semester, longer than required by his syllabus for reasons of community growth and getting to know the students as individuals.

More importantly, both Dorwick and his students (13 entering first year students and 1 ESL graduate student) had to struggle with making the conceptual switch necessary to rethink the classroom as a synchronous space -- what did participating in a virtual class mean, especially for freshman students who are already struggling with being newly independent, and what did it mean for the teacher no longer able to assume that his students would be available at a particular time, if not a particular place?

Finally, Dorwick will explore some of the implications for asynchronous learning in the first year composition course -- is this, in fact, an appropriate environment for beginning university students, or should we limit our course design to virtual but synchronous pedagogies?

Presenter: Keith Dorwick


Target Audience: Intermediate

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