Hitting the Virtual Ground Running

Maybe it’s just me and the way I go about online classes, but folks always seem surprised when, on the second day of the semester, I’m already grading work for multiple students.

At the moment, I have 76 students across three courses (two different preps). In the core writing class, students have their first discussion forum to complete by tomorrow at 11pm. The forum includes two activities that ask students to apply and/or synthesize information from the week’s text and video lectures. If everyone completes the work, I have 48 separate posts that need reading, scoring, and responding — at least in the beginning of the term, I try to respond to everyone on everything, to build confidence and to reassure students that I really am there for them. The first posts actually came in last Saturday, before classes even started; I have commented, complimented, drawn attention to other evidence supporting their claims, and double-checked that the grade book is working every day since then.

My self-paced, upper-level, social media writing class doesn’t have deadlines until December. Still, earnest students start on the work immediately. I spent time on Monday, the first day of the term, following new professional accounts on Twitter and Pinterest and responding to tweets and pins…so students know I have found their virtual presences and can proceed confidently. One pupil already has earned 46 out of 60 points on the class Twitter project.

I also devoted a good chunk of time on the first day of classes to setting up class cel.ly accounts, composing deadline reminders as far in advance as I could (you can’t schedule past 90 days into the future) and creating an orientation video for the core writing class. Every day, I have to check my class rosters to see who has enrolled; because it can take 24 hours for a student to get access to the LMS, I email everyone a welcome note with the course syllabus, the first week’s lecture PDFs, and video links. I sent five such e-mails this afternoon.

Essentially, most of this week, when I have looked up, I have seen something like this, only with a Diet Coke, a lot more paper, and approximately 42 post-its:

Could I just wait and grade those 48 discussion posts after the 11pm Saturday deadline? Sure. If a student takes the time to do the work early, however, I feel I can take a few minutes to respond in kind, addressing the student by name and giving 1-2 sentences of “I like how you…” or “I agree…” or “Did you also notice…”

Additionally, I find that if I mark all of the submissions at once, my comments become more redundant…and every student can see every single one of my replies. Online classes can feel impersonal enough without the professor posting a canned “great ideas” 15 times in a row, and students often complain that their online instructors “don’t do anything.” 24 comments from me sure looks like work. So, yes, I’m one of those people who checks the course LMS a few times each day

I guess I want students to know that, even though we may never see each other in person, I do see, read, and respect their work. Therefore I hit the virtual ground running, and I won’t stop jogging until December.

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