Ok, so I’m a bit behind. Our life has been a bit upside down, as we are coming up on the last month before our baby is due, and the urgency on getting things done is ramping up on a daily basis. So, it makes sitting down and getting extra things, like this blog, done hard. I actually have to go back and see what I did in the second “week” of the hybrid class, as that was a while back at this point. I put the “week” in there because it is technically the third week of the class, but the first week really didn’t count for the activities. This will be the last time that I put in the quotation marks, but I wanted to keep it consistent for the moment.
In the second week, I had the students go online to watch some pre-developed lectures. I decided to use the site to see if having the students access the same material in several different locations and forms made a difference. In this case, they have my own lectures, which are both written and in audio podcast form, the textbook reading, and these lectures. While these outside lectures are somewhat cartoony and simplified, the basic ideas are delivered well and they are at least moderately entertaining.
After reviewing five of the lectures in addition to the normal lectures and textbook reading, the students had to come ready to do a group activity. The activity was to be done completely in class, and each of four groups of 4-5 students was to create its own successful colony. They were to apply the lessons from American colonial development and create an ideal colony. I left it pretty much open from there except that I did stipulate that their colony must be a real one, as in it must be reasonable in presentation and must relate to the other existing colonies at that time. They were to discuss the people who would have come, where they would have settled, what their economic basis would have been, what religious ideas they would have had, and what type of government they would want.
So, how did it go?
Well, it was the first time for me for an assignment like this, and it was the first for my students in this class as well. The major issue was that all of the work was to be done in class. That was tough for a 75-minute class. I took out about 15 minutes at first to talk about the reading and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. That gave about 45 minutes of work time and then 15 minutes to present. In all ways, it would be nice to have had more time. I did not keep as good of track as I should have the first class, and we had to do one of the presentations the next class. I graded them on the basis that they only had limited time to work on it. The other issue is that it is hard to hold the discussion to just 15 minutes for the first part, and if that goes long, then we really don’t have enough time to complete everything.
Overall, I think it was reasonably successful. I graded it on two things — the presentation and the group work. The presentation grades were all reasonable, as I had to be lenient considering the limited time to prepare. On the group work, I went around and observed each group and came up with my own grades for each person. I also had them grade each other and send me the information. I averaged their grades as one with my grade to come up with a group work grade for each student. It was a bit complex overall, but I think the grades were somewhat reflective, if a bit high for most people.
The problem for giving more time to prep for the students is that this is still early in the semester. I didn’t want to get them going too deep into pre-class prep yet, as that will come later in the semester, which does put a limit on it. What do you think? Am I being too cautious there? Should I have higher expectations of the work ahead of time or keep it as something that is done in class? I just don’t know.
One of the things I am doing this semester with my hybrid class is reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This is going to be something new for my community college students. I have assigned some outside reading before, but I have not asked my community college students to read an entire book outside of their textbook before. This has been, unfortunately, one of the things that has gotten lost as I have moved from teaching at a university to teaching at a community college. I regret that, but it was one of the things that I was told I would not be able to do with community college students. So, this is something new.
I am having the students read it in a different way. We are using the Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture site for the reading and work this semester. Instead of having the students just buy the whole book and read it, I am having them read it through the site. This has the advantage of being free, which is important. As well, I am having them read the novel as it originally appeared, as a newspaper serial. The breakdown is on the site as a weekly reading, set up in a way that makes it easy for me to assign pieces as we go along. I am not holding the students responsible for reading it weekly, as it is assigned, as I am really only concerned in the end that they do the actual reading. However, the bargain for them is that I will be reading it with them. And, every week, I will start the class by being available to answer any questions about the reading. So, if they read it on schedule, they get help. If they do not, they don’t. Very simple.
Ultimately, we are going to have a larger project to go along with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and I will write more about that here as we get to that point. In other words, the assignment is still under development. More later on that as well.