What Does It Take to Succeed in this (On-line) Course
Taking an interactive on-line course like this requires some readjusting of study/learning habits. You can expect to work harder than you would in a more traditional course. This is active learning, not passive learning, where you sit and wait for the teacher to tell you what you will be expected to know for the exam, etc. In fact, you will be told very little and there may not be an exam. However, that doesn't mean you don't have to do much--quite the reverse.
For starters, you are expected to read everything on-line, including our discussions, and you may well need to go back and read again, especially after we have discussed a work on-line. [You may keep reposting as you come up with new ideas, by the way, until the assignment is made inactive] You definitely must read the materials I have posted on the Web and click on EVERY link. You are also expected to at least browse the associated Web materials, and encouraged to find even more (yes, they are there) which you can share with the rest of the class.
Please note: the syllabusmay change as I add new materials. Some of these I do not want you to see until you have read a work for the first time and formed some opinions and interpretations of your own, for example. After I have read what you have to say about a work, also, I may very likely have something to say--to bring up ideas which have not been mentioned, to pull together some of your points, whatever. These comments will be in the discussion board for the work.
If you have problems reading on-line texts, you can do several things to make them work for you. You might want to print out and mark up texts. To make your on-line reading easier, you can adust your browser so that you have font sizes, even backgrounds that make it easier for you to read. Even better, you can (in Netscape, anyhow) go to File/ Edit File and you will be able (now in Netscape Composer) to mark your text, underlining, using colors, and especially writing in your own thoughts and questions as you read. Unlimited margins! You can't do that in a paper text! When finished, you just save the file to your disk or hard drive, ready for you to review at the appropriate time. There's nothing like having your thinking through a text all ready for you; it will be an invaluable resource for later papers.
Timeliness is also rather crucial, especially in a course where we are all learning from each other. You want others in the class to be able to read and respond to your ideas, to "piggyback" from them and offer suggestions and critiques, for these are the ideas that will later appear in graded papers. In turn, you want to be able to do the same for everyone else in the class. If you do not post throughout the class period or before, then you just aren't in the ball game! Not only does this affect your grade (yes, it does--and the time you spend on-line is recorded by the program), but more important, it affects the quality of the class and our learning negatively. You are certainly welcome to post well in advance of our on-line time, if you have problems getting to a computer or if you are a very slow typist, but you should be "up and raring to go" at our on-line time, already posted.
In the on-line discussions, I expect you to be very open and honest. This is not the place to pat each other on the back verbally (you can do that in a message if you like) but to look seriously at each other's ideas, ask questions and explore possibilities. You should comment substantially on each other's postings. You can "take off" from someone's ideas, ask questions, offer textual backup, whatever, but do try to SAY something! You don't need to comment on every posting, of course, but you should offer thoughtful comments on several.
For your papers, as well as postings to a lesser degree (which are much shorter, of course) the secret to success is textual support. That is, when you offer an idea, you should show us where in the text you are finding that idea. You will learn that often what we see in a text may reflect more of our own personalities and experiences that the text itself, which is ok for your pleasure in the reading, but which does not offer particular insight into the story. You need to learn how to separate the two (which will become easier as you read each other's responses and start seeing different patterns of personal response) and do your dead-level best to focus primarily on those that have good textual foundations! There are lots of valid interpretations possible, BUT you have to make a strong case for them when you present them into our class collection of ideas. Not everyone will share the same ideas, we will find rather quickly!
There are other secrets to a successful paper besides support--clarity and a substantial, non-obvious idea being at the top of the list--which we will discuss later (and you will get good feedback on your papers to help you here.) Don't forget--if you use a source from the Internet in your papers or the discussion, you must give the name or author (both if possible) of the site, as well as the full web address.
Just remember--everything that we are doing we are having to type out into words! That means you have to become a more careful reader and writer than you might otherwise be, and that you will be typing a lot. Fortunately there are spell checks on Netscape and WORD and other useful features. This isn't the kind of writing you encounter in chat rooms, where capitals and punctuation are optional! The informal discussion writing doesn't need to be polished, but we do need to be able to understand what you are saying--because that is what this is all about!