Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Blogging or Web CT in Graduate Seminars?

We had our final meeting in my Austen and her Predecessors grad seminar last night, and I was pretty pleased with our final discussions of Persuasion. (It's interesting, by the way, how personally I take those discussions, if it's a book I'm really invested in. Fortunately for me, I find that Austen is one of the few writers I teach whose works are never a hard sell; students almost always come in with a lot of enthusiasm for, and interest in, her writing.)

I'll probably post something more definitive on the course in a little while, perhaps after I see how the papers and final projects go, but for now I want to discuss a topic that emerged from my "unfinished business" post of last week. Since I've never blogged while teaching a course, I've been experimenting this term with using this blog as an additional venue for reflection and discussion, and it occurred to me that I could also encourage (i.e., require) my students essentially to do the same kind of writing, either in a public blog or in some Web CT format, which I'm not very familiar with.

After posting last week, I discussed it with the class, and I was surprised to hear that a number of my colleagues had been doing such things in their grad seminars for some time, usually by requiring students to post and respond to their readings or to one another. I was also surprised that students were as receptive to the idea as they seemed. I had a bad experience with an undergrad class listserv ages ago, and I'm very concerned about requiring something that would seem like "makework" to our students. But it also sounds like something that could be very effective for encouraging better discussion.

So I'm putting it out there. Any suggestions, advice, or experiences you'd like to share about using a blog or Web CT fora for class discussions at the grad level?

Thanks,

DM