What is the aim of this course?
PHI 1600 is an introductory course in formal logic. The aim of the course is to introduce students to logical concepts such as validity and soundness, teach them how to use symbolic notation to translate from English into symbolic language, and train them in a couple different proof methods, including truth tables and natural deduction.
Symbolic logic lends itself nicely to a hybrid design. Unlike many philosophy courses, it is a technical subject that focuses more on mastering certain concepts and techniques, rather than engaging in intense discussions.
In this course, most of the learning and working-through the material occur during the online sessions. The in-class sessions can be thought of as review sessions, where the professor will go over any important concepts in more detail, help students with any confusions, and go over the homework assignment.
How did you approach the design of this curriculum?
The approach to designing this course was somewhat ambitious. Profs. Rappaport and Mandelbaum wanted to develop a complete course package, including a textbook, video lecture series, and course website (with automatically graded homework assignments); it should be easy for other instructors to use and adapt; and, it should be designed in such a way as to be adaptable to use as a fully-online course. All course materials, including the textbook, videos, and application source code, are licensed under Creative Commons. You can view all of the materials here.
Can you describe one piece of the curriculum in more detail?
Homework assignments for this course consist of problem sets implemented as part of the course website application. Some of the assignments are in a simple, multiple-choice format. Others require students to complete logical proofs, which are then evaluated by the website’s software.
In this assignment, students are asked to complete truth tables for various logical propositions. A truth table is a table that determines the truth value of a proposition in every possible state of affairs. The software takes a proposition and generates a table with all of the columns that the student will need to complete the truth table. Then, the student must go through the table, one cell at a time, and fill in the correct value for that cell.
It took some care to implement the software for this type of assignment; but, once implemented, new problems and problem sets can be generated easily. This is typical of hybrid course curriculum material – it may require more work and planning ahead of time, but if done correctly, it can make things a lot easier during the semester.
What are some best practices or takeaways that you could share with professors who are designing a hybrid course for the first time?
A hybrid course ought to be well-planned and well-structured in advance. Hybrid teachers have less face-time with their students, and so it is important that the student has a firm grip on the routine of the course, and knows what they should be doing in a given week.
One must take care to explain to students at the beginning of the semester (a) what a hybrid course is, (b) why the professor has chosen to teach the course in this way, and (c) how the students will benefit from this design.
It is also crucial to impart that hybrid courses require more self-monitoring and self-motivation from students. In a non-hybrid class, students see their professors regularly, and thus are frequently reminded to stay focused and on task.
Because hybrid classes involve more time where the student is working at their own pace, without the teacher’s interactions, there is more freedom in how the student may wish to approach the material. But it is up to the student, then, to a greater extent, to monitor their own progress, and to make sure that they are keeping up with the work. Hybrid instructors must make it clear to students that their success is more dependent on their own initiative in this type of course than in many others.
The curriculum for this course was designed by Jesse Rappaport and Eric Mandelbaum, Philosophy Department, Baruch College, CUNY.