Monday, July 23, 2007

    Online Adjuncting: quizzes

    There are numerous reasons to create a quiz:
    • One small attempt to ensure reading
    • A chance to get a grade in the system
    • Automated grading
    • Easy upload

    The first reason is pretty obvious: even more than on-ground, you can’t tell if the student has read…or even if the one logging in is the real student (it happens). But, with a handy-dandy reading quiz, you can at least ensure the student reads the material in the quiz… And that is something.

    I taught mainly writing courses, so it was nice to get a grade into the system that was relatively high (reading quizzes are not meant to trip the student up, but to ensure reading) and graded by someone other than myself. Online quizzes do both. And they are easy, once made, to upload.

    With that, how does one make an online quiz? Glad you asked. I used both BlackBoard and WebCT before they merged, and both handled quizzes much the same. You “code” the quiz, upload and link and set a date to run.

    How to code a quiz:

    1. Start with a list of questions (why write your own)…most books have a companion website or CD where they provide lists of questions. Copy/paste into a wordpad document. You will then choose the questions you want to include (I picked a decent number—around 25, unless they really didn’t read and then I picked 50)
    2. Chose your questions, deleting the rest
    3. You have pasted into a WordPad document because you want to eliminate all styles and formatting, and Word will try to retain these. Kill them all.
    4. Format your questions. Automatic upload programs work by finding key words and tabs (similar to uploading into a database or Excel—which it really is). To define the type of question, enter the question type: MC, TF, etc…
    5. Use tabs to separate question type from question from answers from answer types:

    Question type Question? answer 1 answer type (is this the correct answer or not)

    1. A formatted question looks:

    TF A teleconference is appropriate for a group of people at the same location. False

    MC The paperless office prediction was based on the belief that: real paper would be substituted with a more economic “fake” paper. Incorrect offices would eventually store information on electronic media only. Correct the world would have a tree shortage. Incorrect all of these. Incorrect onionskin paper would replace traditional paper. Incorrect

    1. Save your file
    2. Upload to BlackCT (the combined company will soon have a single platform—mark my words).
    3. Link to gradebook
    4. Define the parameters (when and how can they take it)

    Subsequent questions are: do you let your students take a quiz more than once? Is it timed? Do you show them the correct answers? Do you show them which questions they missed?

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

    Online Adjuncting: the Lecture

    When you begin to teach online, the biggest, most time-consuming aspect is building your course materials. The college/university will know this, and many will provide you with "class copies" of materials. These are materials built by past instructors (with permission or without--I had a large portion of my class materials used without my permission, which is both flattering and insulting).

    Depending on the C/U's predilection toward centralized content, you may change, ignore or augment as you wish. I soon adopted a change what I needed and build as little as possible. With online publisher materials (ppts--which are not as bad as you might initially think), the ability to link, and other nifty features of the Web 2.0, there is more a need to collect than to create. Given the adjunct pay, this is the route most chosen.

    The online lecture may, at first blush, seem daunting. It shouldn't be. Consider your audience. They are not a committee of three approving publication. They are, for the most part, reading your lecture quickly and online. A few might print out, but you should not expect them to.

    When composing to be read online, adopt business writing protocols:
    • Short paragraphs developed around a single idea
    • Judicious use of bulleted lists
    • Visually appalling layout, etc.
    They will be reading quickly, so anticipate this. You may not agree with their approach. You may feel as if the student should spend large amounts of quality time with the material (you certainly have), but this is not really a fight you want to pick. You will lose.

    More to come.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

    What you can expect being an online adjunct

    I say online adjunct because I know of no instructor who is full time with benefits (much less tenure) who teaches exclusively online. I am sure this animal exists in the wild, but sightings are rare.

    The base rate for College B is $1500 for six week courses. This is a rate one has to work up to.

    To teach online, you must go through a mock-up online course (5--6 weeks) unpaid. They expect you to jump through the entire student hoops (turn in assignments, log-on each day, "participate", etc.). You are graded in that if you do not meet the expectations--usually the logging in daily part, they will not extend an offer.

    Once through the prep course, you are to compile your online materials. Some, like the UofX, will push all of their centralized content to you. You have little room for personalization. In effect, you become a course facilitator (their word). This means you monitor the chat lines. The UofX does not use either of the popular course software (BlackBoard/WebCT) but their own website and Outlook Express for chat/list-serve-like threads. Cumbersome and annoying, the learning curve on this is steeper than most. If you are not technically proficient, this may prove a challenge.

    Other full-time online programs allow a blending of your materials and theirs. Theirs is usually the lecture notes from a previous instructor. Sometimes they hired (paid a little extra) for a course to be populated with material. Sometimes the book(s)--not chosen by you--will have a companion web-site with extra materials (videos, ppts, etc.).

    Once your materials are compiled, you upload. This takes the bulk of your online teaching time. Each week will have reading material (usually in a weekly folder--think of the folder tree in Windows) with uploaded materials (Word documents, ppts, etc.). There is also a weekly assignment folder with a breakdown of the week's assignments. I also included reading quizzes (I mean, really, one has to check).

    So, if you have six weeks, this uploading gets kind of involved. AND, few places are savvy enough to have you upload one section and then use that as a template for concurrent or future sessions. Potentially, you have to perform these uploading tasks (and defining the folders to open on a specific date) each semester.

    BUT, once uploaded, you are smooth for the semester. Your time is then taken with communication and grading.

    More on this next post.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

    Adjuncting facts

    Here is my response to the comments (if not the actual article) about the Price of Good Intentions (Inside Higher Ed):

    Fact is: helping adjuncts implicates the system (if they didn't need help, then no one would be helping them...).

    Fact is: tenured profs (on the whole) do not care to disrupt the system that employs them--this means you "Larry"--else the system would be changing (tenured have the power to change the system but are not)

    Fact is: adjuncts did not choose their fate. They didn’t one day wake up and say “I think I will accept sub-standard wages without benefits or security. I mean, after all, I would love to put my advanced degree to work for a system that subjugates me. Ooh, that sounds like fun.”

    Fact is: large PhD classes lead to a disproportionate supply of cheap adjunct labor (the university system as a whole makes money on the advanced degrees and then on the adjunctification of that same degree)

    Fact is: no one in power cares about the above facts.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

    Digital natives--OR--what should be taught by English departments

    Last week or so InsideHigherEd ran a piece about teaching digital natives (young'ens those know about 'puters)about going to the dusty ole library. On this, I am of two minds:

    Mind One: the current library system is an antiquated shrine to the book gods that should be overhauled--perhaps by the Google initiative to scan all the books or some other means. But the shrine should be opened to all, not just tuition-paying elites.

    That said, my other mind takes over: One does not teach "digital natives" about computers and online offerings, one opens the services up and lets the "natives" run. That is, the services should be online and intuitive so that the insticnt of the natives can be accommodated. This is what the article proposed. I think it is partially correct.

    When Lovely Wife was ensconced at Brand U, it became clear that the students and profs (more prof than student) had tools well beyond my exposure. These tools allowed for massive categorization, collocation and research. In short, these people were privy to some kick-ass software that cut the research time down and the ability to footnote to exponential levels. Such software as Endnote came into my consciousness, and I got really pissed off. Why hadn't my grad school flagged this for me? Why hadn't my undergraduate for that matter? Why must I learn about such a tool by chance?

    If English really wants to legitimize itself, teach the newest technology that will allow a graduate at least a fighting chance for publication.

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    English Major propoganda

    When I was choosing a major, I read articles like this one (published today) which convinced me I was on the right path.

    While I am certain there are liberal arts majors in great careers, I wish these articles would check their percentages...If 1 out of a 100 do well, does that make the current system right? 1 out of 10? 1 out of 5?

    Point is, the jobs profiled in the fluff story came from skills learned outside of the major (video editing as an English major skill) and who they knew (a friend landed him the job).

    I wish that I would have had a little more truth in advertising.

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