All posts by NZeftel

Writing and Reading in a Hybrid Course

I think students in a hybridized ENG2800 course would benefit from the opportunity to write in different (and public/semi public) ways. An article like this for instance considers how new forms of internet-based writing (in which many students regularly engage) could or should change our approach to teaching writing. The article points out that, through the internet, people are writing more — and then asks how a writing class should take into account these different forms of online writing. I think, in a hybridized course, confronting online writing is clearly inevitable, but it does not have to mean sacrificing academic writing. In fact, I think a hybridized class provides a really interesting opportunity to explore these different forms, how they differ, and how practicing public online writing and standard academic writing can be a process mutually beneficial to both. For instance, I know that many of my students come into class with a host of preconceived and often incorrect notions about what academic writing entails (we are all familiar with the essays that begin, “Throughout history, all of mankind….”!). I think writing on a class blog for instance helps to mitigate that type of issue and may even demonstrate why it is an issue in the first place– maybe an “all of mankind” statement would suddenly look absurd to a student imagining it in a blog post! Potentially students feel less pressure when writing on a course blog than they do in academic papers, and perhaps they could learn how to bring that ease into their academic writing.

The issue I see at this point in hybridization is in the reading side of an ENG course. I feel that so much about how to read and how to read closely is a tool acquired in the classroom through discussion and work performed together. This would of course still be done in the F2F time, but that leads me into another worry — I fear putting a lot of pressure on the F2F classroom to make sure we do everything we “can’t” do online, and I’m not sure how, as an instructor, I would know which aspects of the course to move online and the best way of doing so. I think hybrid courses entail a reimagining of the course as a whole, and that leads me to my last worry which is about the level of planning (pointed out in our reading) required for successful execution of a hybrid course. I understand completely why this planning would be necessary, but I’ve always left a certain amount of flexibility in my courses so that we can adjust according to student interest, the pace of the course, etc — would this flexibility be lost in a hybrid course?

Innovation at the Core of the Humanities

It was very interesting to read these two articles together, and think about the potential for Instructional Technology in the late 90s, and where we are now with technology and education. I think that in many ways Bass’s article is an early vision of the more open, creative, and egalitarian web-based educative model that Groom and Lamb argue for now. Of course Bass doesn’t know yet where web-based learning will eventually lead (MOOCs, etc), but for that reason it is all the more interesting as a model for thinking about where we are headed in technology-based learning. It seems that Lamb and Groom are locating an issue inherent in the larger problem of the corporatization of the university: Rather than promoting an open, dialogic model, our current online “courses and systems…are distracting colleges and universities from the conversation that we should have been having since the late 1990s: how can we leverage open platforms and open access to augment our teaching and learning mission?”

Bass asks a connected and equally important question: “What aspects of good teaching, and contexts of good learning, do particular technologies serve well?” I am interested in the various assignment models Bass presents, particularly his example of the use of online archives in a late nineteenth century American literature course. I’ve actually thought about doing something very similar also in an American literature course, and I think the use of online archives would be extremely beneficial both to teaching students about archives, and exposing them to texts and materials outside of the traditional canon. Specifically, I imagine that teaching a nineteenth century American literature course with canonical writers like Hawthorne and Melville could be nicely supplemented by digitized popular literatures like dime novels and newspapers. In the ENG2800 course (on Ancient global literature) that I currently teach at Baruch, I think this kind of model would work equally well and could be expanded to include visual art, artifacts, and material history. Following Groom and Lamb’s ideas about an open and collaborative online learning environment, I think students (in this hypothetical archive assignment) could eventually create an online archive of their own, through other databases and perhaps their own visits to museums and libraries.

This is all to say that I think the argument put forth in “Reclaiming Innovation” is of particular relevance to the humanities, especially as we increasingly move towards the “digital humanities.” A lot of their ideas about collaborative, open, disciplinary boundary-crossing online classrooms (as opposed to the “severely limited” online courses we often see now), are already foundational to the study of the humanities. In other words, an education in the humanities aims to challenge accepted norms, and to get students to think differently through various cultural encounters, new literatures, and new ways of reading. With these ideas already at the core of the humanities classroom, it makes sense to look to technology to expand and enhance this kind of thinking and make sure it doesn’t limit our students instead.