Tidbits, Resources, and Discussion for ELI Faculty

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Blogging Experiment

As I've met and corresponded with many of you since I became Director of ELI nearly 3 months ago (how the time has flown!), I've often heard from you that you want more interaction with other ELI faculty. Some of you who are ELI old-timers told me you miss the days when faculty would work at ELI, because it gave you a chance to catch up, share problems, and get advice and ideas from each other. Others of you are too new to ELI to have experienced those times, but you have told me that you wonder whether other faculty have the same challenges you do in your course, that you wish you knew more about how other ELI courses work, and that you don't really feel a sense of community with your ELI colleagues.

All of this is difficult to remedy with limited space at ELI, Northern Virginia traffic, and the many responsibilities that keep all of us from taking much time to sit and talk to colleagues even when we are in the same place. (For those of you who teach on campus, I'm betting that you rarely have detailed discussions with your hallmates about pedagogy, even though they're right there with you several days a week.)

So let's try an experiment. Here's a blog for us to use as one spot for developing some community. I will post interesting links, articles, and information I come across, and will pose questions and issues I hope you'll find engaging. You'll do the rest, using the comments sections to dialogue with each other. If this is useful and it catches on (whether among a small group, or a lot of you), great. If it's not useful, we'll send it off to the blog graveyard and find other ways of coming together to help each other teach better online.

Let's start with this question for discussion: what topics do you want me to post on? Or in other words, what issues, problems, questions, etc. do you want to hear from your colleagues about in this forum?

I look forward to hearing from you.


Nima said...

Hi Jennifer,

You must be very young to like the Verve Pipe! It is nice to have someone young heading a department. I do like the style of CSS applied to your blog; alternative sounds like the theme :)! As for a question, I do have one. For years, my ITN course of 245 (and now 200 also) has not received proper advertisment. It replaced older numbers, ITN 112 and 116 and students are still under the impression those same numbers are what they need to sign up for. I have asked ELI again and again if they can list all three numbers in th schedule of classes and combine the enrollments but to no luck. I figured since you offered this opportunity, I might ask you also and see if I get lucky! Thanks for any consideration.

Don Goral said...


I have been learning about blogs and wikis through campus workshops, Charlie Evans' Digital Humanities project, and New Horizons.

Here is my question.

What is a desirable role for group work, as in a Blackboard discussion forum, or a blog or wiki, in an asynchronous online course?

Don Goral

Anonymous said...

Hi Jennifer; I think what you are doing is excellent. My questions are always about ELI policy for both students and faculty and the worload. I appreciate it if facult can share their thoughts her.

Laura said...

This blog is a great idea. I'd like to talk about blogging conferences; we all go to them and we could share what we learn extending the learning to our colleagues.

Diane Thompson said...

Hi Jennifer. This is a great idea and a very attractive blogspot. I would like to participate in a discussion of elements of ELI and College policy vis a vis critical dates of all sorts and how they should be handled, ignored, waffled, etc. I keep wondering about these matters and I would love to know what other ELI faculty and staff are thinking about them. Diane Thompson

Don Gregory said...

This blog is a great idea, and in many ways should serve to replace some of the networking we used to enjoy at ELI when we were there more frequently.

At New Horizons, Joseph Ferrari held two sessions on procrastination. After intending to write about this early today, I decided not to wait any longer. Besides being an entertaining speaker, Ferrari got us thinking about the subject in a constructive way. One statistic that stuck with me is the following: when students give a reason for putting off an assignment or missing a due date, studies show that 70% of the time it is a "fraudulent excuse." Translation: a lie. This percentage is higher when any of the following factors are present: (1) the instructor is young; (2) the instructor is female; (3) the instructor is known to be lenient.

Ferrari offered several constructive suggestions for dealing with academic procrastination. I thought the most interesting one was this: instead of penalizing assignments turned in late, give extra points for ones turned in early. His examples were all from classroom teaching; I wonder how well this would work with distance education?

Laura Shulman said...

Following on Don Gregory's sharing regarding giving extra points for turning in work early (avoid procrastination)... I tried this in my ELI course several years ago and found that the incentive did not seem to make much difference. I now give grade deduction for submitting work late. While students still do submit work late, I do think the deadline before the penalty kicks in works for many students. I do find many students still procrastinate until just before the deadline but without the deadline, they would procrastinate even longer. How many of use wait until just before a deadline to pay a bill (or file our tax returns)? A deadline with no penalty will not be perceived as a deadline at all. In fact, I have a due date but give a "grace" period before the late penalty kicks in. So, basically, students ignore the actual due date and use the late penalty date as the due date that pushes them to get things done. Discussing due dates and late penalties was actually a topic I have been wanting to discuss. How common is it for ELI courses to have assignment due dates and how common is it for ELI faculty to give grade penalties for late work (or various other reasons - I also give penalties for papers that are too short of the stipulated word length)?

Jennifer Lerner said...

Nima: Yes, I am young... musical tastes always give one's age away! :)

I can't take credit for the CSS... I just used one of the templates from Blogger.

As for your question about these courses, I'll look into it and get back to you by email.

Diane Thompson said...

I don't give due/late penalties because with three sessions and five courses, it would become really confusing for me to keep track of each date for each task for each session for each class. What I do is enforce the W date, and as others have pointed out, if there is a cut-off, that is when everyone suddenly discovers OH! I'm in a course! and starts pleading for leniency because of all sorts of perhaps real, perhaps fraudulent reasons. Then comes the horrid moment of playing god--who shall be cut off and who shall be allowed a tad of leniency. Etc. I find this point very difficult. Diane

Laura Shulman said...

Re: Diane Thompson's comment:
I have all three of my course sections in my course site. This does make it difficult for me to indicate SPECIFIC dates for deadlines. What I do is indicate the WEEK NUMBER based on the student's start date. The students will need to get a calendar and their Quick Start syllabus to determine the specific due date for them. For instance, an assignment due the "end of week two" is all I tell my students with regard to when something is due. This way I avoid the complexity of indicating three different dates for the three class sections and I also avoid the hassle of having to change these dates each semester as I copy the course content in new course sites.
As to my "grace" period before a late penalty kicks in, I extend that to twice the amount of time (working on the principle that, with an Incomplete, a student can have up to twice the amount of time to complete the entire course). Thus an assignment due the "end of week two" does not get a late penalty until after the "end of week four".