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@2006 Ed Gallagher, Professor of English, Lehigh Lab Fellow. Lehigh University.
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Clips from Student Surveys

As I was doing the summary sections of each of the surveys, certain comments would jump out at me as gems of one sort or another -- some positive and some negative.  I started collecting them in a separate file just for fun.  But it occurred to me as I was completing this report that including that file here might be valuable.  There are so many quotes in those eight surveys that the distinctive ones tend to get lost.  So here are some of the student comments that really caught my attention.   They are, of course, divorced from the specific questions that gave rise to them, but I think the context for most will be quite clear.  And many have a delightfully stand-alone quality.

Survey 2

"unfortunately the dicussion board is like a point of no return once you press submit."

"I was surprised to realize that during the composition of my post I learned that I gotr out of the book more than I had before thought.  Finally, after reading over my post I observed that I was able to better relay my thoughts on-line than in my head."

"you feel sort of free... no one is checking spelling or grammar (or are they?) and the focus is just on your ideas.  you write what you think with no pressure to have to fill another page and a half for the professor to accept the assignment... very stress free."

"I felt anxious.  I did not want to be totally off in my response because everyone can see my post and my name is like, RIGHT next to it.  If people didnt like it, they'd think I was a moron."

"I felt a little silly because I ordinarily would have been making these comments in a classroom."

"My ideas tend to be spontaneous...and the post we are speaking of was no different.  Complete and utter spur of the moment dealings in my mind.  That's how I work, just like Howard Stern says."

"Basically, I wrote about the first thing that came to mind."

"I thought that you would be my audience, because honestly, i didn't expect that anyone would read
the posts.  so i tried to tell you what i thought you were expecting to hear."

"At points during the post I felt naked."

"I felt a bit more in touch with the novel after posting for the first time."

"I had to read all of them.  i was really curious about hearing the class opinion as a whole, mainly because I wanted to see if other people saw things the same, kind of the same, or COMPLETELY differently than i did."

"I tried not to read too many of the posts before I wrote my post because I didn't want those posts to influence my writing too much.  I looked at the other posts to get a general idea of what other students were thinking and writing, but I stopped before I would have lost focus of what my own ideas were."

"I think it was valuable to read the posts before I posted so that I had a better idea of how people were responding and so that I could try to not write the same ideas as another person."

"I wanted to take someone else's posted idea and add a new thread to it.  I felt that this could provoke even further discussion in class.  I read the other posts, chose a topic, addressed it in my post, and then took it one step further with a new but connected idea."

Survey 3

"I value the classroom discussions and appreciate when our discussions force me to change my mind."

"I always want to hear feedback from my posts, and so I try thinking of topics no one has yet mentioned, and if my opinion happens to go against the grain ... so be it,"

"I tried to let my thoughts flow in my writings and didn't want the five eyes to hold me back at all."

Survey 4

"My serves this time around were intended to evoke a response from my group members and get them to think a little bit.  I did not want to give it all away in my serve but rather lead my group to where I wanted them to go and what inferences I wanted them to make."

"I think my serves in this unit tried to provoke much more thought than the last unit.  After reading other posts, I have a better idea of what comments are probably going to be made by several students, and I try harder not to make the same comments. "

"I don't want the discussion board to turn into a forced formality.  I mean, I understand the guidelines as far as wanting us to post in reply to one another and having our post be in a sense comprehensive, but I think we should be able to go on the site and say what's on our mind as it comes into our mmind without having to engineer it first."

"To be honest I really didnt consider these guidelines when I posted.  I think I just forgot to think about that stuff.  When I get an idea in my head that's usually the only thing I can think of and I ignore everything else.  I guess that's the way I always write.  I try not to be held back in my writing and guidelines like the ones we talking about weren't really a consideration."

"i took the time to think hard about Kate's post and the other responses, and then added what I thought would give it another angle. "

"the topic was also one that was not discussed by anyone else.  I thoought it useful to start a thread on something new, to provoke more thought."

"I liked this post because I played off a response I made to one of my group members and added a new twist to it."

"I like complaining, and that's precisely what I did with this post.  I remember writing this.  I remember a flood of ideas coming mind."

"I feel that it isn't my place to tell someone else to do their work.  I guess I just felt a little uncomfortable in that position."

"I just wish everyone could understand that the discussion board is the equivalent to a group project and realize that if they don't do their part, the project will never be complete."

"I really didn't feel that it was my place to tell people to post."

"I would rather not post, than to have to scrape, or bullshit my post."

Survey 5

"I'm not always spontaneous in my responses, but I liek to say what enters my mind without inhibition.  When I got stuck with a post I didn;t know how to repond to, I looked at the documents for some direction to make sure my post was valuable."

"I defninatly have a variety in my returns, and that is actually what I find satisfying.  I know that my other group members can expect something different from me each time they serve, which means they won't be bored reading them.  This is what I look forward to when reading the responses to my post ."

"I didn't rely on the guide to choose what I would write about.  My responses seemed to flow for me."

"I hate talking about how you talk!  If the energy is there then it is there.  All of this extra talking about talking drains your creative energy completely!"

"I am a wiser poster now."

"its all very organized and i can analyze exactly how i'm posting and what kind of posts i'm making and what returns i'm sending and receiving."

"The response options opened my eyes to the numerous ways I can respond."

"I absolutely feel thatother students are helping me to learn because their ways of thinking are different than mine and have opened me up to several ideaologies."

"I think the quality of the returns this unit is much better.  Everybody got the kinks out in unit 2 and the documentation added much awareness to the necessity of solid returns.  I saw a large number of higher level returns; more than I saw in the first unit."

"I definitely feel that other students are contributing to my learning.  The discussion board allows for the free flow of wildly different ideas and thoughts.  Its so good to get so many different perspectives on one issue.  It really helps me to better articulate my argument and my thoughts on the issue at hand."

"I feel as though the responses are a bit more varied as well as challenging in nature.  People are realizing that its ok to disagree and the board is becoming more interesting as a result.  So yes, I do feel that raising consciusness about returns has made for better responses."

"I think the raising of consciousness about responses definitely had a positive affect on the returns. It seemed to breath a little more life into them and also gave recognition to how many different types of responses there are to an opinion. I definitely think other students are helping me learn through their variety of responses. "

"At first I was skeptical about the community aspect of the course, however I think it is a brilliant component and has proved to be a very interesting and enlightening learning experience for myself and I believe the class as a whole."

"nothing personal, but i just feel like we should be more focused on the works as opposed to the posting and returning processes." 

"i've never used discussion boards in a class before, but i'm a fan.  it makes classes a lot more interesting because there's always feedback to give or receive."

"This is not a criticism, merely an observation.  I feel as though we may be spending a bit too much time focusing on "serving" and "responding".

Survey 6

"he asked a lot of questions in his return, but before he did that, he really gave me a good insight into what was going on in his head so i knew how to respond.  he kept the conversation going the most...because its not about how many questions you ask, its about how much you say to fuel the other person's response."

"he didn't really agree with my initial serve, but he gave enough of his own viewpoint so that i could defend my own perspective and at the same time kind of acquiesce to his.  he and i could have talked about it for hours, because we both felt strongly about what we had to say."

"I think the discussion board is an enormous amout of work for benefits we receive."

"I felt that my group members pushed me to think even farther than I had been in previous posts.  Their questions brought my argument to heights that I hadn't even imagined when I wrote it."

"I have to say after I've read some of these posts I noticed that WE LEARNED!  There were so many different ideas and views thrown out that we simply gained a bigger perspective of things.  I can't classify that as certain response.  I think that's what an education is all about. In my opinion being steered in a new direction, or seeing a new light is even more powerful than any kind of response you can give."

"If people were interested in finding out information for their own use, such as a hobby, they wouldn't need coaching to understand how to communicate.  I've been on many discussion boards outside of school, such as one for motorcycles.  If I had a question or comment, I could post something and get responses. Nobody was concerned with enhancing the conversation or keeping it going.  If they had something to add they did, and if they didn't, they didn't.  I feel like if people were really interested in the books and the topics explored on the discussion boards they wouldn't need all theses rules and guidelines.  I think the quality of the communication ultimately comes down to how much people want to talk about the subjects.  If two people are interested in something they won't need to consciously focus on keeping the conversation going, it will happen because they want to keep talking about it.  I think the discussion board is becoming rigid and artificial.  The point isn't to exchange ideas and further our knowledge anymore, it is to post three times a week with each post consisting of 150-200 words.  It is just about fulfilling requirements.  We are required to talk about something whether we feel strongly about it or not.  This probably sounds more critical than it is intended to, but I thiknk part of the problem with the discussion board is that people aren't talking because they want to; they are talking because they have to.  It becomes an art to keep talking about something that you dont want to."

Survey 7

"As far as my serve, I don't think anybody cared to touch it.  Must've been a slider in the dirt..."

"I have always tried to read my group members' posts before I post.  If you read what they have already posted you are better able to tailor your post to them."

"I always do [read other people's posts first] because even befor eyou said it, I did not want to repeat what my group members were saying.  You would look stupid on the board as well as wasted a possible reply."

"I did not look to the five eyes at all       but I did try to walk a different path completely.  I like to read other people's serves to make sure that I don't repeat what they have already said, but I think of my topic before I read what others posted so that my mind is fresh."

"i did not consciously try to post a different type of serve.  i knew what i wanted to say, so i said it!"

"I don't use the five eyes to guide my posts because I try to find the most interesting topic to discuss regardless of what 'eye' it is.  I think the material being posted is much more important that what classification the material might fall under."

"I dont read my group members posts and then say 'well she synthesized, now i cant do that' because if i have another good synthesis to make, for instance, i'll post on it.  I wont sacrifice a good post idea just to sound unique when i'm posting, and if there are two good syntheses on one day, so be it. thats my opinion."

"I was emotionally involved in that cycle and found it very interesting."

"We ended witout an overall answer, but a better understanding of the topic."

"The serve I made asked some broad questions.  I don't think it's important to analyze what classification the post falls under, but how much the post makes the group think."

"I'd definately say it was more advanced at the end.  I'm confident that we could have kept right on going with the post; there were so many ways to look at the topic.   What I got out of it was the ideal post that serves to keep the conversation going.  The initial post was open ended, with not much supporting evidence, but that's what made it ideal for discussion.  The returns following that post kept right on building, and a lot of re-thinking was occurring.  I feel it was a good interchange."

"The group activity was very worthwhile.  We brought the discussion out of the context of the novel and used it as a tool for discussing the differences of men and women.  When I read this novel I had no idea that an argument like that could be generated from the text."

"I think the group experience was quite worthwhile because often times one of my group members or I would bring up an argument, and another member would think about it in a coplete different way and have a different perspective."

"when you only have one perspective in your head, you're at the first level of thinking, the first plateau. when you talk about it with a group (and in our group, almost no one COMPLETELY agreed with anyone else, which was good), and you are constructively criticizing (as occurred in our group) and working towards a better understanding on both ends, you reach another perspective.  I consider this second plateau 'advanced.'"

"it broke down when one group member didn't want to respond, and when one group member took too long to respond. when he eventually did respond, he claimed it was tough to respond to my post not because it was as dead end post but because he agreed with me too much to respond.  Either that is exactly what a dead end post is or its just a sweet post, im not so sure.  I wasn't about to respond saying I Really agree with the fact that you really agree with me."

"Its not my place to tell a group member to get their act together.  They are responsible for staying involved."

"I think I'd rather get no response at all than a poor response."

"Ultimately, we are all doing this for a grade.  If there were no reprocussions for not posting, I don't think there would be too much activity on the discussion board.  If a group member isn't concerned with his or her grade and doesn't want to post when they are supposed to, that is their choice.  If they don't want to I'm not going to badger them to post.  If my grade were based on how much my group memebers posted I would be more interested in why they weren't posting."

"to be honest, i love discussion, but the less i have to post, the more time i have to read, study, and live."

 "It is a little discouraging when you take the time to really think about and develop your post and then there's not a active response to it . . . .  It kind of negates the effort you put into it."

"I think the fact there is an artificial, predetermined number of times we are required to post comprimises the honesty of the posts.  People aren't talking and saying things because they want to; they are posting becuase they have to regardless of whether they have something to add to the conversation or not.  It should be up to the group to determine how long the posts should be."

"Simply put: as the posting gets more complex I think it gets more interesting."

"I actually have really been enjoying the discussion board in this class lately, I think it has become my favorite part of AL because it allows me to speak my mind but I can take the time to formulate my ideas well, and I can also hear other people's perspectives on the issues."

"I would like to say sometting else.  You get mad at us for being quiet sometimes, but I enjoy listening to you.  You have much experience in the field and lecturing us for the second day of serving is actually productive to our serving for that night. It puts some nice ideas in our heads :-)"

Survey 8

"In the begining you go to your computer or the library's or what have you, and you stare at the screen.  You read the book.  You have time to post.  But there is that huge writer's block.  Da worst.   The 'five eyes' document was most helpful in writing posts.  It gave you something to think about and helped structure what you were doing.  I have it printed out here right next to me and am going to use it in my classes next semester."

"I feel that the eyes brough group variety and flavor, enriching the content of the posts.  They definitely enhanced conversation, debate, and or communicative skills."

"At first the five eyes document did not help me.  I felt as though it would stifle my writing and force me in one direction or another.  I wanted my writing to flow freely and this would be impeded by the document.  I then took a second and third look at the five eyes, especially after we did the first 'all five eyes post' and found that the document had a lot to offer. "

"The response options doc. was really helpful in the posting process.  Leaning towards those 'higher level' posts made me think more, which is where the creativity comes in.  Anyone can make a post at those first levels rather effortlessly, and they usually end up being a boring read while leaving no direction for anyone hoping to respond.  Those upper level posts require much more thought, which leads to better posts and something for others to think about."

"I've never used a discussion board before.  but really, i'm a fan of it, its a great way to give shy or introverted people a chance to communicate ideas coherently to other classmates.  also, classmates dont really get a chance to talk to each other very much while in class, but when i see my classmates outside of class, even if i've only said a couple of things to them inside of class, I feel like they're my friends and i can talk to them.  because we HAVE talked, relationships HAVE been forged, just on the discussion board."

"In our class we got into a routine of posting where it was always sort of exciting to get online and see if your group had posted yet, and to see what everyone else had written and how thoughts were played out."

"in this class we used the discussion board a lot more (exclusively actually).  i think both ways that i've used it have been effective in their own right.  i just think that over useage creates a staleness and boredom almost and i think you could see that in some of the units.  also, i felt that for some reason it slowly killed class discussion.  it's like people were like 'well i won't talk now, i'll just post later'... kind of twain-ish of me, but i think the technology is to blame for creating islands of individuals rather than bridging gaps between them..."

"I am a much better poster right now.  I've expanded the amount of tools I use with the posting -- a wide-ranging repertoire is what I now possess and with that I believe is an extremely valuable tool in this burgeoning new era of e-mail and internet writing."

"Im definately a better poster, as is everyone.  As the course moved on, I began to understand more clearly of what was expected from my post.  Armed with all the documents in the course document and course information folders, my posts began to provoke more thought from my group members."

"I don't know if I'm a better poster now than at the beginning of the course, but I do think my posts changed throughout the course.  In the beginning I think my posts tended to be more like mini essays.  I thought them through a lot and tried to organize and support my ideas.  Toward the end, I think I tried to write more freely and was definitely more conscious of trying to provide something for people to respond to.  I think my posts at the end were more like a conversation rather than just putting my ideas out there."

"I feel as though I am a more conscious poster now.  I don't know that I am any better.  But I learned to be conscious of differentiating my serves.  I tried to use different approaches for my posts this semester.  I also became more conscious of making serves that others could respond to."

"Essentially, I'm a better poster now than i was in september, because i'm very aware of what's going on not just in my own head, but in the heads of other class members (my community) because i really utilize the discussion board to the fullest now."

"I would not have gotten as much out of the class with papers.  This really helped me to realize a lot of things about my personal views and challenge them.  It also helped to let us learn about other views.  I can't learn about my views in a quiz or learn about others opions in a paper I write."

"The purpose of Talk Radio was to show that we all are real people outside of class!  We all have interesting lives with different interests and ideas.  Talk Radio gave us something to talk about so we could relate to one another as college students, not as just classmates.  It showed a whole new dimension to everyones personality that you usually dont get by just going to class with people."

"the Talk Radio Forum, [a] greenhouse for your mind, if you will."

"I loved being a host on Talk Radio.  This was my favorite thing in the course.  I don't know why exactly but I thought that it added something to the course for me.  I was very determined to bring up a subject that was interesting to talk about and broad in general so that the community as a whole would be compelled to respond to it."

"Talk Radio should definitely still be part of a course activity.  It seems strange that college students don't normally engage in intellectual conversation but its true.  This provides us with an avenue through which we can persue valuable conversation with our peers without tight constraints of a classroom."

"I think they [other students] illuminate opinions on issues you either didnt bother listening to before, or perhaps opinions that didnt even know existed.  Our community is what shapes us, after all."

"The community is the biggest part of this whole class.  They were the whole learning experience.  Knowing who you're talking to makes you want to post better, return serves on time, and check back to see what people said.  It was the entire driving force of the whole class.  I always pictured who I was typing to."

"i think they [other students] play a big role.  if everyone talks, everyone is engaged and having fun.  that's an enviornment where people will want to be there and learn.  if no one talks everyone becomes dissinterested and would rather not be there, so then no one is learning."

"And so by taking the ideas of your peers, you're able to form a more intelligent opinion on something -- and with discussion (unlike simply reading a book) there's feedback, so you're slowly but surely able to carve your idea to what you want.  Whether it's solely based on your own opinion or not.  It's like being able to grocery shop for ideas."

"After this class i feel other students have a huge role in my learning process.  Having a sense of community fosters a much better and more comfortable learning experience."

"Normally, other students have very little to do with my own learning process.  Most times, the other students in class are only though of as the ones you need to be sure to beat on the next test.  They are the ones that determine the curve, and therefore how well you do in class. This class is the only class I can think of that makes the other students a learning tool for the class.  Listening to and understanding other students comments helped me better understand the books we were working on.  Their insight helped me look at things differently."

"I guess overall, the sense of community between students is what makes learning fun."

"Most kids like to go to class, do their work, and not talk to anyone.  Keeping business and social in separate worlds.  This is hard to overcome but can be achieved.  I see my classmates from this class all over campus and am glad to say hi and talk for a minute.  We definitely achieved a community."

"I think, in general, it is much easire not to be part of a community.  It's easire to just roll out of bed and show up for class still half asleep and do the work you need to later.  The expectations placed on you are higher when you are part of a community."

"I know everyone's name in this class, and this class alone.  When I see someone from our class at a party, or on the street getting lunch or what have you, I said hello and we chatted.  It een helped me out because Al gave me a ride home from the UC during the snow storm!  Haha."

"I think people made friends in this class.  I know that personally, I only knew one person in class before this semester and now I'm friends with at least 5 of them."

"Also this was the only class that i have ever met people in.  By this i mean i actually am talking to some of the people in class outside of class and hanging out with them.  This is one of the reasons i feel this class was very successful because i have never actually made friends from just going to class at lehigh."

"you just wanted us to be a community and act like adults, and a portion of the class looked to hung over to even think.  it was a bittersweet community.  it had great potential, but it doesn't always work.  at times everyone has spare time enough to post and talk usefully, but other classes and work make it hard to maintain that communityship throughout the whole semester.  but i think we could have done much better and am kind of sad that it didn't.  it wasn't bad, but just a little disappointing.  but hey, we're all humans."

"I really enjoyed this course.  I was a bit skeptical at the beginning.  I didn't really think that the idea of 'community' would really take well, especially in a school like Lehigh.  But I was pleased to find that I was very wrong.  I found that people very much took to the idea, this was evident in my interactions with them outside of class.  In summary, I give the course an 'A+'!"

"p.s. i enjoyed your class and wish i could have allowed myself to get the maxium potential from it."

"I had never before taken a course such as this one at Lehigh.  Although it was indended for the English non major it has expanded my interest in English and American Literature, as I am serious in my consideration to become an English major.  I am also enrolled in AL II for next semester and hope that I will enjoy it and learn as much from the course as I did this one.  I actually know all the people in this class now on a more close knit level than had the angle of the course not been discussion and comunitying.  I thought that the unusual route and the course took was meaningful and valuable to my learning experience."