All posts by Kathryn O'Donoghue


Grist for the Mill

Hi everyone:

Reading your posts about the deliverables you’re working on is really inspiring. Maybe it has been a big news week for online education, or maybe I am paying more attention than usual since we’re engaged in this seminar, but I’ve read a few articles in my regular media intake routine this Hybrid Online Learning Guide for Students with our thoughts here.

The Chronicle’s “How Corporate IT Enslaved Academe” echoed “Engines of Inquiry” and further verified the prescience of Randy Bass.

Starbucks announced it would pay for employees to take online classes at Arizona State University.

AT&T teamed with Udacity to create mini-certificate courses for its entry-level job needs.

Jill Lepore decried the lack of research and scholarly criticism around the ideas of disruption and innovation. The Disruption Machine: What the Gospel of Innovation Gets Wrong.

I can’t wait to see your projects!


Digressive thought: I just realized that throughout the day I  have been overusing words that refer somehow to grains (i.e., grist, mill, fodder, chew, cud).

Thoughts on the Group Project

Good morning, Comm1010 folks.

I read through your posts over the weekend, and wanted to post a couple quick thoughts about some common threads I noticed that might help you with your group project. I’m sure you all have your own awesome ideas, but in case it’s helpful, here are some things I noticed:

  • Maintaining engagement and interaction in the online sessions. While many of you mentioned the inherent apparent contradiction in taking a public speaking class online, you seem confident in the benefits of hybridization. However, many of you expressed concern about what you might lose in a class like Comm1010 in the online space. You all had some great ideas about how to keep students engaged, though, so I wonder if you might want to put together a handbook or guide of ideas about how to do this in Comm1010 specifically.
  • Workflow. While you all had interesting and effective examples of assignments that already break out of the grid structure, you noted the challenges of timing, and wondered how to make the online space work for the face-to-face sessions. It might be neat to design an assignment series that tackles these questions.

Quick Ideas about Deliverables…

Greetings, Great Works faculty. It’s too early for me to come up with a snappy title for this post, so I opted for a rather pedestrian explanatory one.

I’ve been reading through your posts and responses over the weekend, and I wanted to write a couple things that seem to keep coming up that might help you with your group project. I’m sure you have your own excellent ideas, but these are some common threads I noticed.

  • Maintaining engagement, a sense of community, and replicating the magic and pleasure of teaching and learning that happens face-to-face in Great Works online.  While many of you expressed concern about this, you also articulated great ideas about how to do so. Maybe you could come up with a document that brainstorms and advises about how to maintain engagement in hybrid Great Works classes.
  • Negotiating the line between creativity/non-traditional assignments and scholarly rigor/traditional writing assignments in literature courses. It might be neat to see a structured series of assignments that utilize the hybrid format to blend non-traditional and traditional assignments.

The Coat of Many Disruptions

You know that feeling, the first week of the semester, when you realize that you have the most amazing and brilliant group of people ever assembled in one space, and that this course, finally, will be the holy grail of course design? Then, usually by week three, you get the first round of essays or presentations and that feeling dampens a bit. 

I have that euphoric feeling after reading everyone’s posts (without the inevitable letdown because I will never have to grade your papers—which clearly would be brilliant anyway).  I can’t think of a better way to end my day than by reading your thoughtful, provoking, and insightful thoughts on the two articles we assigned. I really enjoyed them.

Some common threads that strike me, and I will add, refine, and edit these thoughts after sitting with them for a while, are the exciting possibilities that come with experimenting, questioning, and trying new tools. Moreover, many of your posts and comments emphasize the importance of creating discursive and disruptive moments in the classroom. Others remind us that we need to temper this compulsion to innovate with pedagogical and institutional realities. We do not teach in an ideal environment and there are constraints and responsibilities to consider.

The following questions seem to haunt many of the posts: what are we giving up by hybridizing our courses, what unknown effect will these concessions yield, and how can we innovate and disrupt without completely losing the thread of content?

Many posts also admit a certain anxiety about technology and the rapid changes and advents of new tools. How do we keep up? Yet those of you who voice this anxiety tend to argue rather eloquently for the importance of openness and a willingness to learn over technological skill acquisition. This feels a bit scary to write, but I think it is totally okay not to know things. Technological things. I think it is fine, even admirable (albeit terrifying), to use digital tools in the classroom that you are not completely comfortable with. Indeed, on a related point, several of you comment on the places in the texts where Groom and Lamb and Bass discuss how technology changes the role of teacher and learner, and transforms the very idea of a classroom from a contained space to an open one.

These questions, these anxieties, and—most importantly—these inspiring, scholarly, idealistic, and pragmatic thoughts are, I think, the best way to start the project of thinking through hybridization and online teaching. There’s a ton of work to be done, yes, and some of it will fail, some of it will make you feel inept, and some of it will confuse the hell out of your students. Hybridization will definitely change your role as a teacher, your course structure and content, and what your students get out of it.  And that’s awfully exciting.