Initial thoughts on #ds106 for Spring 2012

This coming Spring semester two sections of ds106 will be running out of UMW, and I believe at least two more sections out of CUNY’s York College and Temple University Japan. If any other courses want to run along side #ds106 let us know.

Image of ds106 banner

On the ds106.us site front, Martha Burtis has been hard at work re-designing the assignment submission with Gravity Forms, as well as re-rigging the ranking system so we can rank assignments across topics by difficulty level. More on that development soon, though we are hoping that the re-work of the assignments will provide a solid basis for minimum requirements for every section of the course for credit seeking students, making the online portion of the course that much tighter—excited about this.

Speaking of which, I am playing a bit with the size of my section this semester. I am only teaching one section, and given I had a waiting list of 15 students, I decided to let anyone add it if they wanted to, and this week I will be sending out an email warning them that this class is experimental, open, annoying, etc., as well as giving them the option to take it face-to-face, online, or hybrid. In other words, they decide which mode they want the course delivered in. I am pretty comfortable with the online stuff given I have taught ds106 twice fully online now. Last Spring I taught the open, online ds106 to two sections with 25 students each: one fully online and the other f2f. What I noticed last Spring was a few f2f students actually preferred the fully online course and would rather skip class time with me—that didn’t happen the other way around, however :). And student feedback from both the f2f and online courses were pretty much on par—which I found amazing—see the evaluations below.

ds106 f2f Course evaluation Spring 2011 (Click for larger view)

ds106 section 4-fully online section, Spring 2011 (Click for bigger image)

If you look at the above evaluations closely, the overall scores taken together are higher for the online course than the f2f, what’s more the most significant difference on the evaluations were 7 and 8: knowledge skills acquired and instructor feedback. Skills acquired was 2 tenths of a point higher for online students and useful instructor feedback was 3 tenths of a point higher for online students. That said, using this evaluation is still quite inexact given the ways the questions are framed. I’ll try and implement some kind of student feedback into the online versus f2f division around week 6 to fine tune the course in-flight.

Question #4, “clear criteria for grading?” is something we’re trying to integrate into the assignment bank with difficulty levels and pre-defined points for weekly assignments that represent a minimum accomplishment, the rest of which is assessed by how they comply to a set of expectations for solid posting and sharing of their process as well as a more granular approach to points a la the great Scott Lockman. I will be making a conscientious effort to make this part of the class tighter this go around to see if I can’t let everyone know where they stand that is taking ds106 for credit—because while evaluations are imperfect, I have consistently scored significanctly lower on “clear criteria for grading.”

Over all though, my experience last semester was that the online students were quite independent—and I don’t really fear letting students choose how they want to do the class. Once both the f2f or online students realized I was on them like white on rice in their blog comments and on twitter from week 3 on—which is crucial—they did the course work regularly with very little prodding or intervention on my part. It also seemed that most online students felt connected to the course community through the twitter hashtag #ds106, their blog, and the ds106.us aggregation space and assignment hub. I will be sure to push even harder on the online students for regular community contributions this Spring, but as of now I am comfortable enough with ds106 to let each student choose how they want to take the class. And I know full well this is a luxury I have given I’m only teaching one course that I’ve taught six times now. At the same time, I keep coming back because it is easily re-imagined and it always proves a lot of fun, I hope Spring 2012 proves the same. I am working on integrating the signup for ds106 into blog feeds and the like cleaner, but in the mean time here is the Google form for open, online students who are interested.

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4 Responses to Initial thoughts on #ds106 for Spring 2012

  1. Giulia says:

    I love that you are so open that you would just post this for everyone to see. I think of particular note (in addition to #7 & #8), look at how high the scores are for #11: “encouraged to reflect critically” for both face-to-face and online in comparison to the department as a whole AND the entire college.
    Also, I think you should feel quite proud of #3: enthusiasm of instructor. The energy you bring to your teaching is so authentic and electric, I’m sure it plays a large part in the success of the other elements.
    Regarding #4, yes, I really like the way Professor Lockman framed his assessment and I think the quality of the work really showed in a large percentage of his class. He still had a few resistors, and for those students, clear criteria for grading wouldn’t make the difference. Overall, I think letting students know straight away what is awesome will be helpful. It will be interesting to see if this makes a difference next term.
    Again, looking forward to another iteration. I have a professor in the Communications/Pop Culture department interested in running elements parallel for his 2nd year Media Fluency course, but he won’t be ready until next Fall. I hope to get him as an individual to play along this spring.
    I wonder how huge the open portion will get after all your recent presentations?

  2. Fair warning: I am IN for 2012!

  3. Reverend says:

    @Giulia,
    It’s funny how much enthusiasm plays into students’ experience of a course. It seems both intuitive and counter-intuitive all at once. I mean I wonder when course evaluations started rating for enthusiasm of instructor, that must be relatively recent, and may suggest a trend of new expectations of a teacher. I mean I can’t think they were evaluating professors on enthusiasm in 1920 or 1930, right? Did they even evaluate them then?

    That said, #4 does kill me a bit, and I have been thinking a lot about how to get at it. Your linking me to Scottlo’s assessment stuff got the ball rolling, and when Timmy and Martha starting rethinking the assignments it became a layup in my mind for formalizing student choice in assignments while at the same time tying it to some basic expectations for grading. The idea of what is an A vs B vs C assignment needs to be fleshed out, but the star system allows everyone to cover a basic minimum of assignments for every topic.

    It is awesome to hear someone who actually teaches and studies pop culture might be paralleling ds106, I was hoping a pop culture professor or two might see this as a unique opportunity to engage the discipline by actually allowing students to create and critique fan art, or what have you. What’s more, I think I am going to use the class time, for those who come, to get even more out of the way and do rapid protocol workshops, lightening tutorials, etc. Almost an entire workshop driven class.

    What’s more, the new assignments site, here is a preview http://assignments.ds106.us, is gonna be awesome. And it will link to not only assignments people have done, but tutorials people have made for each assignment!

  4. Pingback: ds106: The Spring 2012 Course Evaluations | bavatuesdays

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