Friday, January 7, 2011

Crafting the Syllabus

I will spend this weekend writing up my syllabi for the spring semester. Whenever I sit down to do this process, I pull out old teacher evaluations and make notes of those aspects of previous courses that did or did not seem to work for most students. Exams are such a ubiquitous part of education that they rarely receive complaint or praise, and so while I try to keep them to a minimum in my courses, I always include at least one. Papers, too, are ubiquitous, but because it seems that people are less practiced in writing, papers usually receive one or two complaints. This semester I've decided to keep the paper for my upper-level course, but to ditch the smaller paper for my lower-level course. Fox has had a few professors who had the students keep journals of their weekly readings. I like that idea, because it ostensibly keeps the students reading and writing. So I think I'll definitely have a journal for my upper-level course. I'm not really sure whether or not I'll do it for my lower-level course. As that course is more about gaining basic information about Roman society rather than extrapolating that information into a broader discussion about Roman culture, I think several data-based quizzes are in order. The biggest question that I have is the Blog feature on Blackboard, and whether or not it would be better to craft a personal blog elsewhere on the web for each of my courses. What think you? Blackboard keeps the blog self-contained for the course, without any added work on my part or the students. Blogs on the wider web, however, are prettier, and aesthetics can play a significant role in people's use and enjoyment of digital features. I use the Blog to get the students to discuss the course's material in a less-structured way, to share video, music, or whatever seems appropriate to our subject matter. What has utterly failed to produce any viable result has been the discussion board. I cannot decide if it is simply antiquated, and no longer a suitable platform for modern learning, or if I have just not managed to find the right balance for it. Since I have not managed to imagine a new way of using it, however, I'll drop it from all of my courses. I'll see how a semester without it goes. Here is my plan --

Upper-Level History Course:

     10-15 page paper
      weekly journal entries on assigned readings
      1 comprehensive examination at the end of the term
      blog (how exactly to do the credit for this is unclear to me at present)

Lower-Level Ancient Culture Course:

      several quizzes (exact number pending)
      1 or 2 comprehensive examinations
      blog (same problem as above)
      very short paper 3-5 pages

The above is tentative, but it is where my head it at the moment. As always, dear friends, I'm eager to hear from your own experience about what worked for you in school, or what is working now, or what you imagine would have worked had someone given it a try.

1 comment:

  1. Blackboard's discussion boards won't work until they're completely redesigned. Discussion boards and forums haven't looked like that for ten years.
    I think that a list-serv kind of thing might be cool, because it goes through e-mail so you can reply through your phone.
    I can see how my philosophy class would have been with that!
    "& I wuz leik wut?! Thrasymachus u crzy."