On-line Discussion Assignments

by Mike Gleicher on August 12, 2017

Each week there will be an On-Line Discussion Assignment.

Due: There will be an online discussion due each week of the class (15 in total). The initial postingis due on Tuesdays. Additional postings (including required discussion) are due on/by Friday. The assignments will remain open until the following Friday to allow for additional discussions and late handins. The first week there is a little extra leniency in the due dates; the last week there is a little less.

Late Policy: Late assignments will be accepted, subject to the class Late Policy. Turning something in late is better than turning in nothing (but you can’t turn things in after the assignment closes). At the end of the semester, we will look at your consistency: if you were a few hours late once or twice, it won’t matter. If you were consistently late, you may be penalized.

Assessment: Assignments will be scored on the 3/2/1/0 scale. A good assignment will include meaningful initial postings that answer the prompted questions and the required amount of discussion. If you don’t include all the “requirements” (in terms of the number of postings and topics) or your responses don’t fit the question (e.g., your initial posting) your assignment may be marked incomplete.

We will make subjective assessments of your postings (including the discussion) which will be used to decide between border grades.

Turning it in: There will be a “discussion” on Canvas that you can post to for each assignment.

Groups: Because it’s too hard to have a conversation with the whole class, the class will be broken up into random groups for each assignment. Once we get to steady state for the semester in terms of enrollment, we’ll probably hold the groups constant so people can get to know each other.

Learning Objectives (why are you doing this?): The primary goal of these assignments are to get you to think about the material in the readings and lecture, by forcing you to answer questions and have a conversation about it with your classmates. A secondary goal is to provide a check on whether people are understanding the readings (this is someone of a “self-evaluation” – if you can’t answer the question, you probably haven’t read carefully enough). Peer assessment here is informal, but in practice it seems to work. You may also want to look at the learning goals for the particular week.

What you need to do:

Start by doing the readings (unless an assignment says to postpone readings)

With each assignment, there will be 1-2 “starting postings” – these are postings that you make that start new threads, and are independent of what others say. Your first one you’ll have to post before you are allowed to look at other people’s postings.

With each assignment you are required to discuss the answers (after you’ve made your original postings) with others in your group. While it’s artificial to quantify a minimum, there are minimum numbers of discussion postings (usually, you will need to make a minimum of 3 discussion postings per assignment).

Very terse postings may not count fully – saying “good answer, I agree” to someone is a good thing to do, but the expectation that at least some of your discussion will say more than that.

Admittedly, the “course staff” doesn’t have the ability to carefully read and evaluate all discussion postings. We hope that people will take it seriously enough (and peer pressure will help) that this will be a valuable exercise.  As a graduate student (this is a graduate class), you shouldn’t just be doing things for the grade. You will learn more if you take this seriously.

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