Hume-anities: picking an intro comp text
I have just started an online course where the text is centrally chosen. That is, I am teaching intro composition from a text that is geared toward using literature to teach writing. It should work, in theory, like this: student reads well written essays, fiction and poetry. Student is exposed to “big ideas” well crafted. Student discusses said ideas. Student begins to write better from the whole exchange.
I like this approach. I really do. I think it has great merit…for a full semester, on-ground class. Course discussion is a wonderful way to explore ideas, but not online. Why? What I call the “let-me-tell-you-what-I-think” imperative endemic in students. They read and then have an overwhelming demand within themselves to describe the encounter…in detail…with personal history thrown in. “Yeah” I say when I have an hour to fill. Not so good when online. The difference? Online, while I get a sometimes more intimate and graphic encounter with ideas (again, not necessarily a bad thing), I also get a more limited encounter, which all seems to depend on the student’s ability to type. If they can type, then they might talk themselves through a difficult idea, but this is a rarity. More likely they will skim the surface, hoping to fulfill the participation requirement and get on to the graded assignment.
My choice for online composition would be less Peter Elbow and more skills oriented (clear expression, understanding of grammar, etc.). This places me about 1930s…
I am not entirely happy with that.
Why, then, would I disregard free-writing, voice, expression, big ideas, etc.?
I have six weeks of asynchronous communication to move below-high school writing level to a demonstration of the basics of documentation. That is, by then of the course, my students are expected to be able to adequately prevent themselves from plagiarizing…something at which portions always seem to fail.