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@2006 Ed Gallagher, Professor of English, Lehigh Lab Fellow. Lehigh University.
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FINAL REFLECTIONS:
SELECTED RESPONSES AND COMMENTARY

1)  Was the “five eyes” document helpful in thinking about the kinds of posts that you can make?   Why or why not?  Please elaborate as much as you can.

Crunch time!  Why not ask the big question right away!

All 22 yesses, the document was helpful, with several different reasons and sub-reasons, though 5 responses were of the "yes and no" variety.

1) provided a starting point:

  • "The five eyes was kind of a springboard from which you could launch your ideas.  I found that I could pick one of the eyes and then explore any number of topics in a novel and channel them in the direction of the eye.  This made for tighter and more meaningful posts and ultimately, discussions."
  • "I think it certainly was because it gave me ideas for posts when I could not think of a topic."
  • "The 'five eyes' document was helpful in thinking about the kinds of posts I could make because it gave me a specific direction to take them. . . .  the Five Eyes are useful in giving people some direction."
  • "Yes, the five eyes document was helpful.  It was befificial to have a general framework to use when thinking about the literature.  Understanding the different ways of thinking about the works improved the posts I made.  I think it also helped the way I thought about the works in general."
  • "I think it was useful for inspiration in trying to think of a way to go for posting.  It gave me a way to organize my ideas into a more precise way of explaining what I thought."
  • "Five eyes was helpful.  it provided a solid guideline and gave the posts some direction.  By referencing the five eyes document, i sometimes thought about a point in a different way... especially with the internalizing section."
  • "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. (In the beginning, means the first two Books by the way).  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."


2) provided an ending point:

  • "I would use it after I had written a post to look over what I had written.  It would be usefull to see if there was anything I could do to make my post more organized, or if there was anything I may have forgotten to put in.  It also helped me in making my ideas more clear."


3) gave vocabulary:

  • "I think the 5 eyes was a helpful document in aiming toward a certain question.  It was also helpfull in the sense that it gave a vocabulary to talk about and describe types of posts."


4) served as a reference:

  • "I think the eyes should be kept as a guideline for future discussion board oriented course for those who would like to enhance such posting skills, even if just used as an occaisonal reference."
  • "The five eyes served as a very helpful tool in the beginning mostly.  Ae course matured, the five eyes doc served as a handy reference to any uncertainties concerning a particular post."
  • "Yes it was very helpful in giving me some guidance.  When I was stuck I found I could alawys refer to it for a possible jumping off point.  I also found it very helpful at the end of a work to help me summerize the way I preceived the work against itself and other works."


5) fostered variety:

  • "I think the 'five eyes' document was helpful in thinking about the kinds of posts I could make.  I didn't feel like I had to stick to one of the five eyes, but I found it useful to help me develop ideas if I couldn't think of something new to write about."
  • "yes . . . . it was helpful to have it pointed out that there are different ways to think about something."
  • "I used the five eyes when I felt that my thoughts were not substantive enough for a good post, or when we had multiple posts for one book.  I didn;t want to use the same strategy for the same book, although that did happen from time to time when I felt what i had to say was good enough to stand on its own feet.
  • "The five eyes document was definitely useful in helping to compose successful submits.  The eyes allowed for me to construct my posts by forcing me to think in a way I might have missed out on incorporating into my written thoughts.  The eyes also sevred as a basic guidelines and 'right path' for which my posts therefore had to follow.  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."
  • "I also think it helped me give variety to my posts since I could recognize what main type of post I was writing or that other people in my group had written and I could try to vary my serves."
  • "Although I didn't look at it each time I posted, it did encourage me to think about different ways that I could contribute."
  • "The 'five eyes' document was helpful because it helped me expand from my usual writing.  The examples of how each topic is used really set each 'eye' apart from the others.  I definately think I will use the 'five eyes' again when I am writing."
  • "I'd say it was helpful.  Up until I read it, I was thinking that the only posts I'd make would contain the usual analysis or hypothesis and such.  Having that variety given in the eye's doc. gave me some other ways of looking at posting.  I hadn't actually thought of internalizing anything until I saw it there."
  • "having these 5 eyes also really helped on the discussion board; we could ensure that all people in a group would post different things, as long as we just picked a different eye to talk about."


6) experienced conversion:

  • "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. "
  • "I think it was helpful.  There are a lot of ways to break down a book, and I think a lot of us tend to hit only one of the eyes if left to look at the work without using any guidelines at all.  For me personally, I tend to look only at the criticism of the novel as a whole.  Without doing the other 4 eyes, however, I didn't realize how much of the novel i was missing, and what's worse, I realized that as I did the other 4 eyes, my criticism could change dramatically after writing them.  Say i didnt like a book after reading it.  after doing the 4 eyes, I might look at the book differently because there were a lot of great elements to it. T hen, when i criticized the book, i wouldn't dislike it, I'd give it credit where credit was due. "


Here are the ones with a qualification:

  • ". . . . but i think it might become a distraction if you let yourself get all caught up in what type of post you're going to make rather than just writing."
  • "Yes and No.  I believe the five eyes was helpful in giving you an initial guideline -- but after those first few posts, I wasn't so inclined to follow the five eyes step by step in that format.  Conversely, I approached the situation with just my thoughts, however they were arranged or labeled, and went with them full throttle.  I didn't particularly care whether I was 'internalizing' or 'building', so on and so on."
  • "I think that the five eyes document was somewhat helpful for giving ideas on possible posts if you were stuck, but i don't know if it was necessary to require doing five eyes assignments.  Everyone reads a certain way and maybe not everyone gets the same five things from a book.  sometimes books only relate to four of the five or what not.  but five eyes was minorly helpful."
  • "In all honesty, while the 'five eyes' document was sort of helpful, i mostly held to my stubborn ways of posting off the cuff.  I usually posted in more of a free-writing type style.  I felt following the 'five eyes' document to a T would have cramped some of my writing 'style' and would have taken away from some of my ideas and/or questions."
  • "Yes I thought it was helpful.  But it was a bit restrictive in my estimation.  Sometimes I felt as though I had to choose just one of the five eyes as I felt my post had to conform to one in particular.  But aside from that I think it was a helpful guide."

I must admit to tremendous anxiety about what the wrap-up would bring and never expected what I see here to be such an overwhelmingly positive response.  The qualifying responses are "right on" too, and already I'm thinking about the need for some free space, either in between structured cycles or running at the same time.



2)  Was the "response options" document helpful in thinking about the kinds of posts that you can make?  Why or why not?  Please elaborate as much as you can.


Ok, sock it to me again!  No sense putting it off!

2/3's of the respondents had very good things to say.

1) fostered variety:

  • "Yes, it was.  Because going into the discussion board blindly, especially with no real prior experience, was an apparent 'wet behind the ears' dilemma.  Looking back, I think that at first, my posts -- without the 'response options' document, were much alike and exactly similar.  The document allowed me to spice up the variety of my responses and allow for the advancement of my 'serves' and 'volleys'."
  • "I think that the response options documents were helpful, especially when I wanted to take a different approach than the ones my group or people had already assumed; i.e. instead of always agreeing or constant contradictions, I could opt for a unique and new angle."
  • "The response options document was very helpful.  After the first round of posts I felt as though my returns were all very similar.  The response options gave me a concrete way of diversifying my responses. "
  • "Yes, the document was helpful as well.  It was helpful to have an understanding of the different levels of posts.  It became easier to vary our posts once we understood the different types of posts."
  • "I think it was, but mainly because people got into the habit of just agreeing with everything that they were responding to.  The response options document let people know that they didn't have to just nod their heads."


2) helped keep the conversation going:

  • "Though i was relucatant to use these at first it really made the difference in the level and length of conversation."
  • "It was helpful in coming up with new and differnt ways to keep the volleying alive.  If the post was coming to a dead end, all you had to do was check out what kind of styles you could use to enhance your volley and keep the posting from coming to a dead end."
  • "I think this was more helpful actually than the five eyes document.  this one showed why exactly discussions became uninteresting and died.  if your response is not of a high enough level the whole thing falls apart.  so i think it made people realize that just saying 'good point' was not enough to keep things going."


3) improved the quality of individual posts:

  • "By questioning on higher levels as opposed to some lower levels u could hit points beyond the novel."
  •  "It also gave me some confidence as I noticed that most of my response were of the higher level varieties.  This document gave me direction and encouragement, allowing my work to improve."
  • "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 don't want to derogate this document, I really like it!  It is well thought out and (you wrote this right?) most professionally done.  The whole different levels part really makes the document.  By the end of the course I was really putting an emphasis on making level three responses."
  • "also liked the way that some response options were denoted as higher- and lower-level responses.  I think it gave people more incentive to try things like weaving, which I think would really have made the course and community as strong as it could have been."
  • "The levels forced the student to think more in depthly about the topic of the discussion board because if your input to the discussion board consisted of merely level one posts, the volleying would surely come to a halt sooner than expected.  The object of the discussion board was to provide posts capable of perpetuating the conversation.  Therefore, setting up for a good volley involved inputing higher level posts."

Another almost 1/3 had the "yes and no" response we saw in question #1 too.

  • "I think that the document in itself is helpful... however, i think that we made reference to it too many times and kind of killed it. although it is a good thing to realize the context of what you are writing... to constantly evaluate every bit of a response became a bit much for me.  there were times that i just wanted to respond and not worry about whether i was building, enhancing, contextualizing, etc.  Thus, i think it is helpful, but should not be beat into the ground."
  • "While i found this document to be interesting in what it hoped to accomplish, I thought at times it was a bit overwhelming.  I think trying to tackle a leval three return all the time seemed unrealistic.  Sometimes, you have certain things you want to say in response to a certain post.  I think trying to make yourself write a return in a certain kinda way stopped the thinking process.  I do think that they were good as suggestions, but I think as a way of measuring a return to a post, they seemed to stifle the thinking process."
  • "I think the 'response options' document was helpful if you needed to find different ways to respond.  Most of the time, I went with a gut reaction towards one of the 'five eyes' but not towards a specifically geared response.  It was helpful to have there and helpful to use when describing other posts, but not necessarily for actually posting.  It took away from the spontaneity of posting."
  • "It was fairly helpful.  It urged me to create posts that were unique and credible because it broadened by idea of what a post could be, sort of the same way the five eyes did.  However, I think I was often discouraged from making lower-level posts although they may have been the most appropriate.  Then again, it made me think harder when I tried to make posts that were supposedly more intelligent. Positives and negatives."
  • "I didn't think the response options was as helpful as the eyes document only becasue the individual posts that people make really is going to dictate how you're going to respond.  Being reminded by this document to add more to the original idea to keep the conversation going, or to not be afraid to disagree was a good idea.  I really didn;t use the document that much, except for a reference here and there, but I could tell in others' posts that it was used elsewhere.  However, for me, I found responding to be challenging, but better done without it."
  • "I'm not necessarily sure the response options were so helpful.  My responses were only as good as the initial posts, and I disliked the thought of getting a 'level 1' simply because all i could do after reading a serve was to 'agree' or 'disagree'.  some posts are just bad, and you can't really do a good job returning them because they leave no room for discussion, or elaboration.  you cant 'keep the conversation going'...so just because my response lacks, it might be because the serve was bad, and I shouldnt be regarded as being a 'level 1' or 'mediocre' returner as a result.  For some people who just werent doing a good job returning even to really good serves, though, I can see how the response options thing was helpful."
  • "Somewhat helpful.  I found the best peice of adivce with respect to response options to be the concept of keeping the discussion going.  I did whatever I thought would keep it going.  Be that disagreeing to intorduce antother view.  Or elaborating on the original idea.  Sometimes I would play devil's advocate just to see what the other person would say.  And to make them think."

And a few people vote "no."

  • "i actually thought that response options was detrimental to the productivity of posting.  By trying to post in a certain way, students may have had to hold back on what they wanted to talk about."
  • "I didn't like the response options document for the same reason I didn't like the 5 eyes.  I felt as though the response should be a bit more spontaneous and the different options were somewhat restrictive."
  • "I personally can't recall a time when I used the document to come up with a response.  Maybe that's good, maybe it's not.  I do remember having thought about what was a higher-level post and trying to find some way inwhich I could make that kind of return.  But overall I think it is better just to write something you think is worth while--whether you agree or disagree is irrelevant to how thoughtful your response is."
  • "I didn't think the 'response options' document was as helpful in thinking about the kinds of posts I could make.  I found that when responding to people's serves, my responses were more based on what ideas came to me from the serve, not on what type of response I could make to a person's serve.  The benefit of it was that it helped me see and think about the level of response I was making and it did make me conscious of trying to write higher level posts.  It was just difficult to categorize my posts since I felt they often weren't just one type of response."

Another very heartening response.  The positive people seem so for all the right reasons.  I think the concerns of the qualifiers could be addressed: for example, by killing the overkill, by affirning that a balance of levels is appropriate rather than a preponderance of higher level ones, by offering more suggestions about how to respond to a "dead" serve, and so forth.  Legitimate problems that can be addressed.  And the "no" people show again that vocal minority who reject the system and, as I have been saying, touch a nerve with me.  Ha!  There is a quite consistent drumbeat for freedom in the community.


3)  Was the racquetball analogy (serve, return, volley, etc.) helpful in thinking about the nature of interaction on the discussion board?  Why or why not?  Please elaborate as much as you can.

I devote a section of this report to my sense of the need for a metaphor to get at the nature of the discussion board as I see it and to alternatives I considered.

Virtually everyone found the analogy helpful.

  • "Of course, because people relate more so with sports in most cases than anything.  Raquetball gets pretty boring if it's not mixed up a little, and that obviously applies with any coversation, whether it be online or not.  So I would definitely keep that analogy for further use regarding the discussion board.  It helped keeping variety and interest on the board overall, as did the other documents and meta class discussion."
  • "I loved the racquetball analogy because it was indeed extremely helpful in thinking about the nature of interactions.  It provoked and stimulated conversation and improved and enriched discussion. Communitying skills were absolutely elaborated on as the analogy created a means and game field for it's players- follow the rules, or you lose."
  • "Once we got the ball rolling, there was no problem with the poting, but in the beginning I liked to think of responding as returning a serve because it made the whole thing a game.  You were competing with your classmates on the court of literature."
  • "Definitely. I think that was really the only way to put the whole serve - respond thing into something we can all see.  This just gave us a general idea of what the discussion process is, someone starts off, and then it goes back and forth over issues."
  • "yes i think it was, but sometimes there isn't that much that can be returned.  but it did give a good idea of what the fuction of a post or return was."
  • "oh it was great.  I couldn't have thought of a better simile...or analogy..or whatever it's called.  it elucidated the whole discussion board thing nicely, and it gave a concrete way to look at something that might be considered abstract by some.  in general, sex and sports...both functioned pretty well in this class.  hey, ya know, whatever works =D."
  • "I think it was helpful in the fact that it made me realize the importance of keeping the discussion going and encouraged me to play off other peoples' posts the way a racquetball player does I guess."
  • "I think it was very effective analogy.  The sense of a friendly yet challenging volley makes another person work or think to challenge back in another way."
  • "I think this analogy, as well as others you gave, were helpful in thinking about the nature of the interation on the disscussion board.  Not only did it help me realize how to use to disscussion board, but also why were were using the disscussion board."
  • "I think the racquetball analogy was helpful in thinking about the nature of interaction on the discussion board.  I think it helped me get a better idea of the type of interaction you wanted to stimulate.  Especially once we got into longer discussion board interactions, it helped me keep track of the posts.  I think the analogy works well with this type of interaction.  The terms such as serve, return, volley, etc. really seem to depict the type of interaction we wanted to achieve."
  • "The racquetball (or tennis in my mind) analogy probably worked the best for me.  It was a very concrete way to think about it.  It allowed me to think about my serves and early responses so i did not get too far ahead of the game, or so i didnt 'ace' the other members of my group right off the bat."
  • "I would say that the racquetball analogy was helpful in thinking about the discussion board.  It gave us some common terminology on which to base a medium that we do not often work with.  It was concise and made sense; thus, facilitating discussion board work.  Not much to say here, just that using the analogy was a good idea."
  • "well, i liked the idea... but i never played racquetball, and knowing myself, i'm sure if i had it wouldn't be to just keep things going, i would play for a score.  but the idea of a rubber ball (the idea) bouncing around was a good visual i think."
  • "Very helpful.  It gave lables to the activities we were doing and helped me to orgainze my plans in terms of what was expected for each assingment.  For my serve I was broad and then the return specified the idea and the volley's elaborated on it.  It just gave a direction and a terjectery to what we were doing."
  • "It was helpful, because it was a nice simple example that actually relates to the DB.  especially in the sense that you used it... as in you were just playing for fun and to get something out of the game, but not to win."
  • "It was, but I think we got the message pretty clearly.  Also, I think the reference to the Kama Sutra--'The art of loving is to prolong the pleasure'--resonated much louder with people in class.  But the racquetball analogy was good, too.  Especially when you pointed out that we weren't trying to win the point, only trying to 'stretch' each other.  That analogy got to the point of what we were trying to do on the DB: keep it going, get some (intellectual) excercise, and stretch each other out."

There were a few "yes and no" responses.
  • "The raquetball analogy was very beneficial to me, however, im not sure if that was the same for every one in the class, especially the girls.  Having always played sports, Im accustomed to the terminology(serve, return, volley, etc).  But if you werent familiar with those terms, like someone who didnt have a huge sport background, it might have not been such a beneficial analogy."
  • "The analogy was helpful, especially in the beginning of the course.  HOwever, once we started posting and understood what you were talking about, the relevance of the analogy decreased.  It became more cumbersome to think of posting in terms of racquetball once the sequence became more complex.
  • It was very helpful in the beginning.  However, once you got to more than one or 2 volley's it was very confusing to try and mark which post was what.  I do think however trying to remember that it was a constant volley--helped formed the posts so that it was easier to write a response, because you knew the conversation was going to continue."
  • "It was and it wasn't.  It made sense but I dont think we needed it to be reinforced so much.  It's a pretty basic concept that might have been received better if there were other comparisons made as well."
  • "Yes.  I found the analogy to be very helpful.  However, it was slightly overdone.  I liked the serve and return analogy but the volley, field, etc terminology was a bit redundant.  I felt as though I understood the concept after the first few serves."

And one couldn't relate to it.

  • "It was a decent analogy at best, in my opinion. I wasn't entirely inclined to it -- never fully warmed up to it -- because of two main points.  Number One: I think I might have played racquetball once or twice in my life. It's for those old, sweaty guys in the gym who sport the bulky goggles and the old ratty T-shirt.  Great guys, sure -- but certainly not cutting edge enough for todays children.  How many people I know who play racquetball?  Zero.  Number 2: I would have much rather enjoyed a baseball analogy.  Baseball, after all, is our national pastime and the sport to which America bred and mothered.  We are forever linked to the grand old game -- I don't care where you're from in the United States.  It's as American as Francis Scott Key."

Any more of this and I'm going to get a big head.  The metaphor worked virtually universally, and some point out, quite fairly, that I am a master of overkill.  Among the good things are easy visualization, a common vocabulary, the fun game-like feeling, the non-competitive aspect.


4)  If you used the discussion board in previous classes, do a comparison.  How was what you did here the same or different?  How more valuable or less valuable?  How more helpful in learning or not?  Please elaborate as much as you can.

Of course, I knew they would be using the discussion board very much more in this course, but I was really hoping for comparisons about the learning experiences.

Virtually all respondees found the discussion board in this course better.

1) a classic response:
  • "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."

2) because it was integrated:
  • "This discussion board was more benificial.  In the previous class, the discussion board was totally segregated from the class.  We didn't talk about the discussion board or what was being discussed on the DB.  It seemed like just a requirement that we needed to fulfill for the course and not something we were expected to gain anything from.  In this class it was a much more intergral part of our learning experience.  The DB was used as an addition to the class discussions, and the class and DB were regularly intertwined.  The DB seemed like an extension of the class."
  • "This class was taken alot more seriously in regard to disscussion board.  It was alot more structured and explained, as a working important part of the class, rather than an informal requirment.  This stressed importance from the get go made for valuable discussion."
  • "I used the discussion board in __________'s class.  I enjoyed using the discussion board in this class substantially more, however.  In _______'s class, we were not instructed to respond to the serves of others.  We posted and the posts received no attention after that.  It was almost as if they had no purpose. I liked the extended discussion in this class.  I liked getting feedback on my ideas which can be difficult to do in class as some people are naturally more inclined to participate in class discussions.  I preferred posting as it was a more intimate forum for sharing ideas."

3) because it added excitement:
  • "I think the discussion board was much more beneficial in our class than it was last year when i used it. Last year we posted only a few times and it was more of a chore every time we posted.  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.  I especially liked the other aspects of posting, such as TR."

4) because it fostered better learning:
  • "I feel like this disscussion board experience helped me learn the material of the classes better than in previousl classes.  It seemed like i this class, people were much mor willing to admit, on the disscussion board, that they were confused, therefore, a lot of questions were asked.  I think this helped me understand things better by, not only asking questions, but by trying to help others with their questions."
  • "I found the use of the discussion board in this class to be much more valuable.  In the 2 other classes I had used it in, I would post just to get the assignment done with, but for this class I really took time to try to add something new and insightful to the discussion board."
  • "It was also helpful in providing the opportunity for discussion of areas of a novel not brought up in class and in bringing up new ideas.  It was good to be able to get feedback on my ideas, too, and allowed me to see other people's views."
  • "This gave the chance for real student interaction and the ability to gain ideas from individuals who do not normally speak in class."
  • "I guess this was more valuable just because this was the heart of the class, and because we accomplished so much more here."

5) because it helped create community:
  • "Compared to this class, my discussion board work in other classes was minimal.  The only time it was used was to interact with specific classmates to critique their writing.  It was more valuable here because I fell like I got to know my classmates without doing that in the classroom setting."
  • "This was one of the few classes at college that I actually new everyone's name.  There was definitely a community feeling and it helped with the posting because you knew who you were writing to and who was writing back."

6) because it gave people a voice:
  • "I think it was definitely more helpful in this class than in the others since it allowed people like me, who tend to be quiet in class, to be able to express their ideas easier."
  • "I had that English class last semester that everyone had to take freshman year.  HORRIBLE.  We had to post and it made me hate the discussion board.  Our professor would tell us what to write about, and the topics were so bland.  The whole atmosphere of this class was so muc better.  Not many treachers let you serve.  The discussion board was used to great potential in this course, more so than any other course I have taken thus far."

A few students had some qualifications.
  • "This was more helpful in learning in terms of breadth, but not in terms of depth.  I felt that the demands of constant posting made spread out the quality and originality of the posts.  Also, because we read so much, it became difficult to filter out what was worth reading and what was mere filler.  In my other class, students came prepared and tried to hit one out of the park the first time at bat."
  • "I think you interacting on the DB could have been a positive addition this semester."

One student saw a problem:
  • "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 feel like I'm on drugs.  Once more an overwhelmingly positive response for all the right reasons.


5)  Think about your discussion posts at the beginning of the course and at the end.  Are you a better poster now?  The same?  Different?  Why?  Please elaborate as much as you can.

These have all been crucial climactic questions so far, and this is no different -- what changes do they see in their progression?  Is there a "before" and an "after"?

The vast majority see difference, see change, and for the better.

  • "i am definitely a better poster now than i was in the beginning of the class.  the reason being: either i just got better from doing it more often, or i knew what kinds of posts you were looking for and i was able to determine what may be more helpful as far as other's responses goes."
  • "I am definitely a better poster now than I was at the beginning of the course.  I feel that I am better at picking topics that will incite discussion and I can keep posting on those topics over an extended period of time.  Also, my responses are now highly effective at continuing the discussion over a few sets of posts.  I think that my posts towards the end of the course brought new and interesting ideas to the table."
  • "My posts are definitely better now than they were before.  Learning how to start a discussion and then to keep a discussion going meant i had to adapt my strategy for posting.  My posting has definitely evolved since last year."
  • "There is not doubt in my mind that I am better at posting now than I was at the beginning.  As I said in the last question, this was my first time posting.  At first, I was a little uncomfortable, I guess, doing this as I didn't really know what everyone was expecting, or what I was to expect.  As I got into it more and more, I tired different methods and tested the waters so to speak and just developed my own style.  I think I rant a lot in my posts, but that's what I like to do, and nobody complains about it so I guess I'm doing it right.  I think my posts now are more 'open' than the ones in the beginning of the semester."
  • "I think I improved because I can see people responding to my posts towards the end of the course, while as at the beginning, they are all very simple statements about what I had been reading."
  • "I feel that I am a better poster now than I was at the beginning of the semester.  But I also feel that I am a different poster.  I think that my posts at the beginning of the semester were more of questions that I was confused about.  However, as the semester went along, i was using the disscussion board not only looking for answers to my questions, but also to add some points or things that I found interesting from books in my posts."
  • "I think better towards the end of the course from repetition and consideration of a good post.  Reading others' posts was helpful in improving myself as well.  Also, keeping the variety of posts and responses provided to us via the 5 eyes and meta discussion helped to improve my posting skills."
  • "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."
  • "I think my posts were better at the end than at the beginning.  I had a better understanding of the mechanics of DB posting.  I also think the posts were a little clearer at the end because I got a little better at getting to the point of what I was trying to say."
  • "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 think I am a better poster now.  I understand the goal a little better now.  To keep the ideas and the conversation going.  So starting out with a direction like I did in the beginning is not the way to go but rather to start out with a concept and throw it out there and see what happens."
  • "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.  In some ways, I think my posts were still the same, though, too.  Just due to the way I write, I still thought things through before I wrote them and I still tried to post organized and original ideas.  I think I had strong posts in the beginning, and I hope they stayed that way or even improved in the end."
  • "I am a much better poster now.  My posts are more thorough, they are complete- beginning with one thought and or main idea and taking that full circle throughout my post, all the while intending for heated debate or convincing agreement.  My posts developed with confidence and strength."
  • "i am better, i think, simply because i am more consistant.  i finally got into the 'posting rhytmn' somewhere in the middle of the semester and began to enjoy getting to post my ideas."
  • "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."
  • "I put a lot of thought into my posts at the very beginning of this course.  and i put a lot of thought into them at the end of the course as well.  in that regard, I dont think i've changed.  what has changed, however, is my approach.  I've learned that it's extremely important to make a point in a post without going overboard and insulting people.  i've also learned that if someone is posting using one of the eyes as a guideline, you really have to use a different one because it enhances the conversation by way of offering variety.  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.   traditional activities are tyrannical, and i agree with you there. I know you felt bad about using the word tyrnannical...but if the shoe fits....."
  • "I would like to think that they are better.  I think as the course went on i tried to dig into each novel with more depth than the last.  Of course some works did not quite move me like others, but sometimes that would motivate me to question more."
  • "I am undoubtedly a better poster.  I really did not have much of a clue as to what was expected of me and my posts at the beginning, but as I followed through with the posting I gradually got better at identifying what I should write about and what I thought might be a suitable response."
  • "Definitely different.  I was the first to post ever!  But I am a little upset, I got kind of gyped on the last two books.  They were two books that I really wanted to talk about.  For Huck Finn there was no opportunity to post, and my partner for Scarlet letter died via Lehigh Lafayete week.  I tried to post with other people but it was a no go :-( I was getting on a roll! I would say that I was not so good of a poster at the beggining of the course, but I got warmed up when Moby Dick came around. "


And a couple of "yes and no" responses.

  • "I'm not sure if I'm a better poster now, per se.  I think I'm better at following the rules of procedure, and I have a better handle of how to keep the conversation going in the way that it should go.  I'm better at 'prolonging the pleasure,' but this class made me leave things hanging for future exchanges.  So, each post I made was kind of diluted because I tried to withold some thoughts for my replies.  But if I'm a 'weaker' poster now, I'm at least more 'conditioned'.  This class required 'stamina' to keep going and going and respond to whatever was thrown at me."
  • "I feel like I'm more aware of the types of posts I'm making, but like I said I don't know if thats really good or not because it made me very self-concious.  I think by the end of the semester I was able to make posts that weren't a summary of what I read- I was finally able to look deeper into the text and write about other issues.  I do feel that my way of writing didn't change much throughout course though--I tend to write about my first reactions- as I did in the other course also."

Little hesitancy in the positive responses: definitely . . . definitely . . .  definitely . . .  undoubtedly . . .  no doubt . . .  I am . . .  I am . . .  I am.  Change is visible to them.  Reasons given for improvement include practice, knowing the system and expectations, being more conscious, knowing options, consistency, using the documents, experimenting.  Beautiful stuff here.



6)  Discussion was the main learning activity in the course.  How do you feel about not having quizzes, tests, or essays?  Do you feel discussion helped you learn sufficiently?  Or do you feel you learn better through these more traditional learning activities?  Would you have gotten more out of the course if there had been quizzes, tests, essays?  Please elaborate as much as you can.

I have jettisoned all the other usual means of assessment so that the discussion board gets everybody's full attention, but I wonder if that is truncating the learning experience.

The overwhelming number of students expressed satisfaction in the discussion-only format of the course, though a few felt grade-anxiety.  A few students also saw that essays/quizzes would have had a beneficial pedagogical value.

1) expressing satisfaction with the discussion-only format:

  • "I feel that the disscussion board was very helpful in learning.  In a way, they were like mini essays, just not in the formal sense."
  • "I think that the absence of tests and essays really brought out a lot of creativity in me and my classmates. Personally, I found it much easier to speak my mind and think outside the box when I wasn't worried about what would get me a good grade."
  • "I liked the change of not having quizzes, tests, or essays.  First, I don't think that quizzes and tests are a good way of learning in an English class, and second, I wouldn't have had a problem with writing essays, but I think that the discussion board was a good alternative and allowed students to really share the ideas that normally only the professor would have read in an essay.  I think I'm used to learning by sitting in a lecture and taking notes, so I'm more comfortable in that type of learning environment, but I wanted to take an English class to challenge myself with something different.  I think the way a class is run should be designed around the topic of the class and the material being presented, and I think in this case, quizzes, tests and essays wouldn't have made the course more effective.  This course specifically said it was for non-English majors, and that was definitely something that I think really convinced me to give it a try.  Since most of us weren't English majors, I dont' think that writing papers and essays was that necessary for the course.  I think with an English class, discussion is necessary, and as someone who has a very difficult time with class discussion, I found the discussion board a good way for me to present my ideas and get feed back from other students."
  • "I feel discussion really helped me learn a lot because it opened me up to other people's thinking and rationalizing techniques.  I learned a great deal through others; not only how they think, or what they thought, rather I learned to think things over in the future more whole heartedly and full circle.  I was able to examine things from all different angels and viewpoints that previously would not have been realized."
  • "I don't think the discussion board has a chance to thrive unless it is given the complete attention of the student.  For example, if we were taking quizzes, tests, or essays throughout the course, the focus of the student would shift to those learning activities.  That is because tests, quizzes, and essays generally determine whether or not you pass.  So, with that said, the only way to focus fully on the discussion board if quizzes, tests, and essays are involved, is if the discussion board WEIGHS more than the quizzes, tests, and essays."
  • "No, I think I learned a whole helluva lot more with the format we used.  Through discussion, I was able to relate to other people's points of view -- and not just one (with a book or a single preaching professor).  In this scenario, I not only was allowed to use my social skills (which equates to the job world, working with people is pivotal to success) but I had the oppurtunity to meet new people.  And who doesn't enjoy that? It took the normal, laboring edge off of the traditional formats that rely on quizzes and tests that are extremely black and white.   Boring."
  • "I think that not having tests and essays takes a lot of pressure off when I am trying to learn.  Therefore, I am more relaxed and eager to learn and experiment with ideas in the class.  Without having to worry about cut and dry grades all the time I am much more open.  I felt like the discussions brought forth new and exciting ideas that would not have come about if the class were based around tests and papers.  This is not to say that the class was not intensive becuase you had to work hard to keep up with the rest of the class.  But ultimately I feel that I learned more in this class than I have in other english classes that were based around papers."
  • "I definitely got more out of this by the posting/interactive aspect of the course.  I also enjoyed how we were all allowed to have our own ideas about the different works.  Quizzes and tests are all well and good, but do not encourage a participatory type of learning.  And how much do people actually soak in when they cram for exams?  By making this class fully participatory, it removed tons of stress, and made the class fun and enjoyable.  Not only that, but it encouraged people to interact with each other, instead of making people competitive (like exams tend to do)."
  • "personally i loved not having quizzes tests and papers.  it made for a much more relaxed envirnment, which i think is a good thing for a course such as this one.  Being able to respond and reflect on a book without having to be formal is something that most of us have forgotten about since just about every english class requires formal thought, rather than free speach concerning books.  I think you get more out of people this way and you get their true opinions rather than them writing something because it is easier to take a certain position... leading to a better grade."
  • "I like this way of learning.  English classes are supposed to be discussion, it's the best way to learn, and it's a hell of a lot more fun than listening to a teacher lecture for 5 months about what we're reading.  I wouldn't mind having to do essays, but I believe the discussion board is more fitting because we get to argue points with people, rather than at them.  It's easier to clarify and discuss points when you know what it is the other person is thinking through the use of responses.  I totally got more out of the class through discussion than I would have through essays and tests."
  • "The discussion board was the heart of the course, and I would say that it was most helpful in learning.  Everytime you posted and got responses it was like sharpening your sword.  Your literary sword that is."
  • "If I had been asked this question at the beginning of the semester, I would have undoubtedly said that essays are the way to learn in an english class.  But I truly enjoyed the way this course was run.  There was less pressure and I felt as though my ideas were given more respect and attention in keeping with the 'community' theme of the course."
  • "I personally liked this method of learning.  It provided a much needed break from the traditional tests and papers.  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."
  • "I don't think quizzes or tests would be worthwhile.  In my experience we don't learn anything new on a quiz or test, but rather prove that we do know something.  Other than simply verifying that we did read the material, I don't think a quiz or test would add any value to the class. "

2) but expressing some grade-anxiety:
  • "I think that in most cases quizzes and essays and such are a good learning tool simply because they allow you to gauge how well you know the material for yourself.  Throughout this course I really did not have a very concrete idea of how well I was doing or what I could improve upon."
  • "I would say with the discusion board rather than tests or essays it is not as easy to get a feel for an over grade.  I can see that being hard thing to judge as a teacher."
  • "I feel a little uneasy about it because I have no idea what grade to expect in the class.  I don;t like that.  I mean, I know I didn;t do poorly, but still..."
  • "I can't say that I feel I would have learned more in a traditional style- but I miss not knowing what my grade is!"

3) seeing value in quizzes and/or essays:

  • "i think a few essays would have helped actually.  not that it would have been fun writing them, but i think it is a higher level of thinking to string an idea together for 5 pages than it is to write a paragraph on one or two ideas."
  • "I must admit, it's a relief not having quizzes, tests and essays.  And I highly value class discussion.  But I value class discussion in relation to the traditional classroom setting, where the teacher does the vast majority of the talking.  In those cicrcumstances, class discussion is great.  But I still like to hear from the 'expert' in the room.  I certainly don't prefer a 50-minute monologue, but there's a healthy balance of the two.  I'm not sure if I would've gotten more out of the class if there had been quizzes and tests, but I felt that if those were a reality, then other students in class would have made more of a point to do the readings. And as a result, we would have had a higher level of discussion between more members of the class, as opposed to a handful of students talking, with not all of whom actually having something to say."
  • "i think that it was a much needed break to not have to worry about tests or quizes, but i think that discussion alone may be lacking something.  sometimes in class (ie. rainy days) you just don't really feel like talking or responding too much.  it's just hard to always get into the topics everyday of class.  but i feel that i did learn a lot on the books.  and if i could change one thing, i would have spent more time on each of the books (both time allowed for reading and discussing).  and maybe even assign articles written about the books."
  • "Tests in English?  I don't know about that.  But esays at the end of a unit would have kept a good structure going for the course. 
  • "I do think that a few essays would be worthwhile, though.  It would give us an opportunity to more full develop some ideas.  When writing an essay, it seems like you are required to think about a topic more fully than if you need to write a post on it.  In the end, I think we would come out with a better understanding of the novels if we had a combination of some essays and some posting."

Another set of gratifying yet interesting responses.  There's an impressive litany of diverse reasons for feeling satisified with the discussion format: it achieved some of same goals as other requirements would, it stimulated creativity, it enabled learning from others, it provided flexibility to risk and experiment, it provoked true opinions, it insured respect for views, it encouraged development of new views, it triggered learning one's own views.  Good stuff.  I think I can and should do something about the grade anxiety.  I didn't want grades to become a focus, but I've got to recognize that they are the bread and butter of the traditional system, and that some students are going to need benchmarks.  It's interesting that a few students see the addition of the more traditional grading elements upping the learning ante.


7)  Think about the Talk Radio element in the course for the next several items.  In your own words explain what you understood as the purpose or goal of this part of the course.

I thought I would take the opportunity in this last survey to ask about this community element of the course.  I describe Talk Radio in some detail in another section of this report.  I wanted a free space for interaction not on specific course material.  Consistent comments throughout this survey from people feeling cramped by the system, however, have led me to think about the need for another free space precisely on course material as well.  But, anyway, did they understand what I was trying to get at in Talk Radio?  Understand how it might foster community?

Almost to a person the class understand and valued Talk Radio.  Here are several responses.
  • "Talk radio gave community members a chance not to grow 'academically' or as 'english students' but as members of the real world.  it was up to us to pick issues that we felt were important and then give our peers the option of giving their thoughts on the matters presented to them.  I think a lot of people liked talk radio...they were laid back and were not scared to say what they believed because they were confident in the issues presented.  TR enabled us to interact as a community, to persuasively build arguments, and to entertain other opinions."
  • "I think it was intended to stimulate the discussion of ideas totally unrelated to our classroom work.  I think it was an excellent way of fostering the 'community' element of the course as individual personalities came across on TR.  It was enjoyable."
  • "At first I wasn't really sure what the purpose of the Talk Radio was.  I guess I didn't know if it was a requirement or not and I forgot about it to some extent.  But towards the end of the class I realized that it was simply a place for Lehigh students to have intellectual conversations in a safe and friendly environment.  This is a really interesting concept and I found that the opinions of my peers are both valuable and inciteful.  Everyone has something to say and it deserves to be heard.  During the final few weeks I became wrapped up in these discussions."
  • "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."
  • "Well Talk Radio i kinda saw as a small talk.  It was an informal way of communicating as a community. Get things of your chest...if there are things to be offered."
  • "To communicate with and get to know the other students in the class.  I think it made us more comfortable for when we had to post for our assigments and communicate in that respect.  It made the discussion board more free and less formal and uneasy- all of which come from not really knowing the classmates tha you're posting to about a novel or what have you."
  • "I believe that the Talk Radio served two purposes.  One was to get to know the other people in the class on a different level (other than academic).  The other was to allow us to discuss things different from the curriculum that was assigned in class.  It was the place to express our opinions on current events and such."
  • "I feel that the talk radio allowed for us to talk freely about what we had wanted to discuss.  Apart from the topic induced discussion board and surveys we were given opportunity to communicate freely to whomever whenever on whatever.  We were able to discuss thoughts that came to mind rendomly allowing for us to know one another on a different level and end of the spectrum.  I think the Talk Radio aspect of the course was a happy medium for all.  It gave me the oportunity to get to know my class community and see them in a different light.  I think the contrast between light conversation on the Talk Radio and heavier more serious discussion of the Discussion Board and analysis of Surveys was awesome."
  • "Here, in the Talk Radio Forum, [a] greenhouse for your mind, if you will."
  • "I liked it.  I think it was partly a release from the academic stress of the DB; partly a way for us to get to know each other; and partly a way for us to practice our skills of keeping the conversation going.  Since part of the purpose of this course was to build a constructive learning community, TR certainly helped achieve that.  We got to form a community through getting to know each other on a more personal level."
  • "Finally, towards the end of the course, I finally GOT talk radio.  I feel like I learned sooo much about everyone from reading their ideas and perspectives on topics that are interesting to us!  I think it was a way to speak our minds without having to confront criticism directly to our faces.  We could get angry with eachother on the bulletin board and then go into class as though nothing happened, avoiding that awkwardness of arguing."

Yes, good responses.  Students saw Talk Radio as fun, as tensionless free space, where they could get to know each other on a personal level and as "real people" -- fostering community.


8)  How would you describe your participation on Talk Radio?

Continued majority of positive responses.

  • "I think I did a pretty good job with Talk Radio.  I certainly lagged at some points in the semester, but for the most part, I was there and contributing.I believe the topic that I started 'Underrated/Overrated' had the most total posts.  I made people laugh, which was one of my goals.  I also pushed a few buttons, which is also fun.  But I think overall, people read my posts because they wanted to.  Some people would come up to me in class or around campus and just mention one of my posts.  A few times, someone replied to a post just to say they thought it was funny."
  • "On Talk Radio I tried to entertain people, but I also took some posts seriously and approached them as such.  And I tried to use Talk Radio as a way to strengthen my ties with other people in the class community, and get others to do the same."
  • "I think I made some solid contributions to TR.  I made an effort to post about all of the topics I could add value to.  It seemed like people appreciated the things I had to say.  Many people seemed to think about situations differently because of some of the posts I made.
  • "At first I did not participate as much as I could have.  I really didn't know that it was such an ongoing entity.  Basically, I would have participated more if I had known that new topics were added so quickly.  I figured this out at the end of the course and participated in Talk Radio with a newfound vigor.  It was a great experience."
  • "I participated occassionaly when I felt strongly on a topic in the beginning, when I did not know most of the community.  However, quite rapidly I became and avid participator and always gave my two cents on whatever the topics.  I really enjoyed the Talk Radio facet of the course."
  • "My participation definately improved as time went on.  At first I wasn't interested in what was being posted but I think we started to open up to eachother and write about truly controversial things.  I didn't want to sit idle anymore.  I wanted to be a part of it too."
  • "Much better at the end.  I really felt out of place in the beginning.  I wasn't as opinionated as some of the other students about certain issues but as time went on I started to see my place more clearly."
  • "My participation in Talk Radio was sort of bad at the beginning but then it kind of perked up.  It was hard for me to be well-rounded in all aspects of the course.  At first i was concentrating so much on the posts that i would forget about talk radio."
  • "I'm pretty sure I participated in every single one, and for some i posted multiple times.  there were a lot of great great issues raised, and a lot of them deserved attention.  some really good chains were started.  its an easy and dare i say ENJOYABLE thing to do when you're tired of work, or sick of being unproductive but dont want to think TOO hard =D."

Here are a few interesting mixed or gretzy comments.
  • "I would describe it as sporadic.  I wasn't a regular but I did contribute when I felt compelled to share.  I read most of the posts, but I didn't always feel as though I had any insights to share on the topic of discussion at hand."
  • "ok. i didn't participate in it because i didn't think it was necessary or manditory, but you said each student was supposed to host...?  i didn't know that and didn't feel fit for the job.  and honestly i don't think that people should be made to give opinions on subjects that do or do not involve/concern them.  everyone is entitled to an opinion, it doesn't have to be right, but everyone has one.  And as shown on talk radio, those with conflicting views did not compromise, but rather agreed to disagree."
  • "Lacking...I had a difficult time with Talk Radio, and I know I should have participated more.  Maybe it was because it wasn't discussing topics related to class material or just because I personally have a difficult time taking stances and expressing my opinion on subjects, but I just found Talk Radio to be hard for me to participate in.  I realize I should have tried to use this opportunity to face some of those issues for me, but it just became frustrating for me and too time consuming.  I wasn't able to read someone's post and type an immediate response, and I often just didn't have the time to sit and read through everyone's posts or dedicate the time I would need to write a response.  I guess for me, it goes back to my feeling that I'd rather not post something at all than post something that I didn't think was good or interesting to other people.  I think since it didn't relate directly to the course material, I didn't take it as seriously as I did the discussion board but viewed it more as an extra.  Talk Radio was something that I kept meaning to do but just never got around to."

Hmmm, of note here is that some students approached Talk Radio with specific goals (to entertain, to make people laugh, to push buttons), some saw it consciously as community-forming, and many seemd to really enjoy and appreciate the reactions they got.


9)  What topic or topics do you remember as working well and why? 

In a way I was testing their comments about the impact of Talk Radio by asking for specific examples, but I'm also interested in what topics work so that I can perhaps incorporate some suggestions in my prompt or use one or two myself as ice-breakers to kick-off TR.

Would you cheat (in a relationship):  6
Stranded (what would you take on a desert isle):  6
Overrated/Underrated:  5
Top 30-somethingth (Lehigh's ranking):  4
The War in 04:  3
The war on free music:  2
Smoking in public (bars):  1
New Jersey (rap against people from):  1
To kill or not to kill (abortion):  1
Elliott Smith (1969-2003):  1


10)  Describe how you approached your role as host on Talk Radio.

Just pressing for more specifics on their TR posting as I did on their content posts.

The responses show that many approached Talk Radio with conscious purpose. 
  • "I wanted a good topic that would rile everyone up.  I also wanted something that required people to use their heads and pick a side on the issue.  I figured a topic on school, something we say we all hate, was appropriate. "
  • "i just tried to pick something that i thought people in the class would care about."
  • "I wasn't exactly sure how to go about it.  I found it a lot more difficult to host TR than to post.  I felt apprehensive that others would have no interest in what I had to say and that no one would respond.  However, luckily, that was not the case."
  • "I really enjoyed hosting TR. I considered my role as host as being responsible for initiating a topic and keeping the conversation going.  I checked the board regularly and tried to respond to everyone that posted on my topic.  It was a very worthwhile experience for me."
  • "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."
  • "The way I approached my role as a TR host this time was just to give people a chance to vent their frustrations, and then have other people rejoice that someone else shares their minority opinion."
  • "I tried to think of things that confused me, or upset me and present them in a way that could be received in different ways.  I was nervous hosting because its always hard to put a controversial idea out there."
  • "As host, I just picked something that really hit me in my mind, or my heart."
  • "I wanted to find something that everyone has their own personal view on to keep things interesting.  I like playing the devil's advocate."
  • "I wanted to make a topic that would get people to talk and maybe spill some inside info.  I really wanted the class to get into it.  To check back to see what people said, to argue etc.  I also wanted to make a reply to everyone to encourage them to continue posting and discussing."

Especially interesting and unexpected were those who enjoyed their hosting role!


11)  What was your reaction to the responses you received to your Talk Radio hosting?

1) satisfied:
  • "I really liked the responses I got mostly everyone was in the generally same neighborhood.  I wish there was a little diversity in the responses but I think it was the nature of the class to agree on this one."
  • "The responses were fabulous."
  • "People took really well to some of my hosting, and talked about how they were affected by the such and such subject."
  • "I really, really, immensely enjoyed that feedback.  It makes you feel like you're really getting somewhere with your writing and your thought processes."
  • "I appreciated all of the responses that I got as it seemed that people were genuinely interested in my topic."
  • "I read all of the responses to my hosted topic.  I then replied to those that especially tickled me.  I tried to keep the conversation going in these responses by asking new questions or directing the authors to read the posts of their peers."
  • "I was impressed with how many people responded to my post.  I was a little bit dissapointed with what they said though.  I think that if it was an anonymous board, then people would have let us in on some deep dark secrets.  Only one person admistted to cheating I think, and was not anyone ceated on!  But overall I must say that I was happy with the responses I got."
  • "I had a pretty positive reaction, except in the first round, not many people resonded and all seemed to be pretty much in agreement with what I was saying so it was a little uneventful.  The second time round was awsome.  I really enjoyed reading what everyone had to say.  It was entertaining, and not serious, so it was fun to read and respond to everyone."
  • "I thought the responses were very intersting and though provoking.  It was obvious that people spent time thinking about what I said, and that was rewarding."

2) changed opinion:
  • "I thought my responses were very interesting and provided me with different reflections for which I had previosly not recognized."
  • "I thought the responses that i got were pretty solid.  the people that did respond had strong feelings about the topic, which lead me to believe it was a decent topic to pick.  The responses also got me to think about my position concerning the case as well, which says a lot since i had been keeping up with it all summer and was pretty fixed in my position."

3) disappointment:
  • "I was a little disappointed I didn't get more responses." 
  • "I don't think I had too much of a reaction and maybe that was why I had a hard time trying to respond to the responses I received."
  • "I got one response.  It was quite disappointing, and it certainly did not make me want to post a lot more.  I didn't really understand why some peoples' posts got a lot of attention and mine didn't."
  • "Rather disappointing actually.  I thought I would get a little more feedback than I did, but everyone seemed to be on the same side in thinking that it was ridiculous, so it didn't go too far."

4) anger:
  • "i was angry for a lot of reasons.  SO MANY PEOPLE DO NOT KNOW WHAT AN 'IMPEACHMENT' IS.  and everyone was so angry.  i responded in my post 'A Response' to everyone who was calling me an anti-american ungrateful jerk.  I wasn't trying to shove my beliefs down anyone's throat, I was just making my point.  in matters of war, we tend to move towards nationalism to the point where it becomes obscene.  objectivism is seen as anti-american sentiment, and that bothered me.  people on TR changed my opinions about a lot of things...yet no one would dare to consider that maybe I was just presenting a different side of a point they felt differently about."

The feelings are clearly related to the reception of their posts -- some intense highs when they got great response, painful lows when they didn't.  Should I contact people who I see not getting responses to try to keep morale up?  That one post makes me think about making all or part of Talk Radio anonymous -- or would that lead to flaming?  In real Talk Radio, for instance, people do at least have to identify themselves.


12)  Would you recommend that Talk Radio continue as part of a course activity? Or that it be changed? That it be dropped? That it be replaced by something else designed to achieve the same goal? 

1) almost everybody wholeheartedly positive:
  • radio is great, it's just that it should also be brought up in class to remind you of its presence so that you don't forget that it's there!  It definitely adds to the community of the whole class and some great topics were brought up."
  • "Talk Radio was definitely an integral part of the course.  It helped to relate to the people that were sitting in the room with you.  It gave a personality to the face."
  • "Again, I think it could just be because of the type of person I am, but I didn't really like the Talk Radio aspect of the course.  I found it interesting to see what other people were saying, but I didn't have a desire to participate in it.  I guess it could be looked at as if I was listening to the Talk Radio show...I could be interested in what they were saying, but I wouldn't call in and share my opinion.  I think it's an interesting aspect of the course and a good way for students to discuss ideas not pertaining to class, but I think it should be just an extra part of the course that's there for students to participate in if they want to.  At the same time, I think it is good to have students host at least one topic to ensure that everyone is involved some, so maybe I'm contradicting myself."
  • "definitely keep talk radio.  look at the action it got!  it was a great addition to the course, and it really made me reflect on a lot of issues. hearing other sides to an issues makes for better people, in my opinion.  so why drop TR?  it accomplished that goal in a laid back setting.  at least for me."
  • "Yes, keep it.  In fact, I'd like to be able to continue using it over the break.  I don't think it needs to be changed at all, it worked fine.  The fact that you could post whenever made it very convinient.  There was no rush, and you could discuss anything.  It was perfect!"
  • "I like Talk Radio the way it is."
  • "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."
  • "keep it for sure... a nice forum for people to be themselves."
  • "I think Talk Radio was imperative to the status of the community because it allowed the students to have a chance to speak somewhat informally.  Talk Radio balanced out the discussion board.  Thus, the format should remain the same."
  • "I think talk radio should definetly be continued for other classes.  We had the same type of disscussion board like talk radio in another one of my classes, where the goal was basically the same as it is in this class.  I think it really helped just to get your voice heard abou certain issues, that maybe you just didn't have a place to talk about anywhere else."
  • "Keep talk radio- nce the students get into it, it really boosts class morale.  I don't know what could be done to replace it...Personally, I think I will miss Talk Radio next semester."
  • "I think it's a good thing to have---opens windows for other non-relevant discussions.  I would hope that Tabula Rasa however would pick up some speed on compeltely random issues."
  • "I would recommend keeping TR.  As I said before, I felt as though it enhanced the 'community' element of the course.
  • "Yes. I would like to see it continue.  It was a lot of fun."
  • "I would definately recommend continuing TR.  The only suggestion I have is to have more chances to host and to decrease the time period for hosting.  Maybe have people host two or three times, but have people hosting more often."
  • "Definitely recommend."
  • "Carry on, Talk Radio."
  • "It's a lovely addition, and should be a staple to this course forevermore.  Seriously, this is a great venue for discussion -- and more importantly -- a real passionate venue for day-to-day discussion between students.  I think it's truly, the purest form of learning.  It starts with just the social ability to interact and to either sway or get a variety of feedback from your ideas."
  • "Definitely keep talk radio, I think just as is."

2) some gretziness:
  • "um... i think it should be changed actually... like i noted in one of the earlier questions, i am pretty much anti-technology and i think people are meant to talk face to face.  so those get-togethers in the beginning of the semester were good.  that's a great time to get to know a few people at once.  you're brought together to talk about the subject, and then once you've exhausted possibilites of that, you begin to talk about other, more 'relevant' issues... just like your train ride example.  i don't think you even need to suggest the fact that people should talk amongst themselves... i think it'll just happen when the groups are done discussing the book."
  • "since it isn't manditory, it could stay. but it didn't really seem to be of importance in class discussions and what not."
  • "I'm not really sure what I think of Talk RAdio.  I didn't really get the responses I wanted, so in that way it was kind of disappointing.  Yet, it was nice to have a place to discuss things not related to the class.  It gave me a chance to get to know people better and what they are about."

Good stuff.  I, of course, especially appreciate the comment about Talk Radio balancing out the discussion board -- exactly what I had in mind.


13)  On the final Talk Radio segment, Jaime's original post about selecting 5 albums to take on a deserted island evolved into picking favorite movies and finally to Tom's invitation to think about people you would take.  Let me go that one step further. What 5 people in the class would you choose to work with you on a major class research project?  And why?

This, of course, is a way of students grading students, and I was wondering how their perceptions would match mine.  I thought this information would be particularly interesting.

22 people were cited: 

1: 16 votes
1: 15
1: 10
1: 7
1: 6
1: 5
3: 4
6: 3
2: 2
5: 1

And here are some of the reasons given:

voiced their opinions
usually made accurate assertions
isn't afraid to bring up anything
brought up good questions that no one else was thinking of
very thougrough in his questions and insights
a reliable person.
really insightful contributions
this way to breaking everything down in a simple way
absolutely insane
extremely intelligent and well spoken
When he takes an interest in something he’s ready to go through with it all the way.
because they are really cute
good ideas and good things to say.
really hard workers
very strong ability to write well
tries to argue or find a completely different view on a lot of things
a lot of good ideas to share, and is willing to be open with them
always had a lot to say 
always knew what they were doing
their input was always good.
easiest to talk to
capable of getting things done
smart young lady and independent thinker 
provokes good discussion and analysis
encourages others to relay their interpretations.
brought humor into the subject material
very interesting way of evaluating and assessing things
really intelligent and coveys it
unique way of looking at things
fun
found myself to be really involved in what he had to say
insightful and sensitive
takes things seriously
valuble untapped resource
not afraid to admit when she doesn't understand
would feel comfortable working with
articulate and brilliant
fun arguing with him
a friend from home and ..he cracks me up
would certainly show that "cooler heads prevail"
she's old
can think outside the box

Well, now, this was very interesting.  22 of the 23 students in the class were cited.  I expected a small cluster.  Thankfully, the very weakest students in the class were not cited at all, and those with 1 and 2 votes were among the weakest.  The top 5 listed here (from 16 to 6 votes) were, indeed, in my opinion superior students.  I was quite surprised that 1 getting four votes and 1 getting three got any votes at all -- I wouldn't see them as strong at all.  I felt that 2 of the students receiving only three votes were much more deserving.  Gotta love that list of reasons!


14)  In general, what role, if any, do you think other students and a sense of community have in your own learning process?

I asked a similar question in the very first survey (question 12), so here's a chance to compare responses after a semester of communitying.

1) all see a major, positive role except the one noted below:
  • "They help me expand my own ideas.  By seeing their perspectives on things make me either question my own judgements or reinforce them to me and make me think of mine stronger."
  • "I think that students help to see other opinions and open up ideas for me.  I do not learn very well from a lecture I learn more from another student telling me.  I also feel that other students help to build learning communities that help to facilitate learning in other areas.  Such as communication and people skills that are vital in the workforce.  I feel that students are sometimes educatted in too narrow a fashion.  This helps to eliminate the narrowness."
  • "Looking at things from every perspective possible.  It not only makes you look and consider othe things in this way, but it also helps to listen to others with respect."
  • "hmm...i'm pretty sure I've already answered this question, but I think they 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."
  • "I think that other students play a major role in my learning process.  I know that for myself, I found that discussions with classmates helped me to flesh out my own arguments more effectively."
  • "They are able to open my mind and give me other ideas to think about--or prove mine wrong if need be.  They enhance ideas that have already been said and enrich the conversations."
  • "I think the teacher is close to 100% responsible for invigorating my learning process.  This is so because I don't always take much stock in what a student has to say.  I know what its like to be a student, and a lot of times, its only BS comin out of the mouths of my fellow students.  This semester, because of the communal atmosphere, I was able to analyze a lot of what me peers had to say on a regular basis.  Hearing the opinion consistently allowed me to judge whether or not I could take stock in what they had to say.  Therefore, a sense of community does play a legitimate role in my learning process."
  • "In my own learning process, I think other students serve to present new ideas and opinions for me.  The sense of community I think mainly would serve to make me feel comfortable in class."
  • "I think other students definetly have a strong influence over my learning process.  Usualy--I find that other students always know the right questions to ask, becuae they are usually having the same kinda problems with things that I am.  Although that I feel having a teacher--a kinda expert on what it is we';re trying to learn--there to help students, i also feel that the insights and concerns of other students are just as important."
  • "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 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."
  • "Other students have the ability to play a strong role in learning.  it is evident that everyone in the class comes from very different places... thus they approach situations differently and respond differently.  i grew up in a very homogenious town... and i think being here, although there is a very strong contingency that is very alike, there is a great chance to really learn and take in what others have to say that aren't like you.  There were several times that i reevaluated my position either on a book or talk radio topic due to heraing what others had to say."
  • "I think it has an important role.  There is only so much you can bounce of a teacher.  Generally a teacher may have certain answers they are looking for, but students are like one another and dont have any preconceptions so oppinions can be extremely varied."
  • "I've always found that learning is much easier in classes in which students are active and engage in conversation.  Your peers provide you with new points of view through which you can found interesting morsels of information that you couldn't see before.  Bouncing ideas off a classmate is one of the best ways to further ones knowledge of a subject."
  • "A huge portion."
  • "Sure, it's always important to form your own ideas in the end, but one thing I do know: I don't have all the answers."
  • "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."
  • "It's a matter of perspective and perspectives.  The experience of learning with people my own age, with a fresh take on a piece of literature is helpful because it provides a different look at the text than research books and study guides and professors provide.  It's also helpful because when the ideas of everyone in the class are distributed, it gives me an opportunity to consider so many more opinions than if it were just me reacting to the professor."
  • "I think that sense of community with others is the best think to have when your trying to learn.  Having friends in classes helps me learn because there are always people I know I can ask when I need help with something, or want to argue a point or whatever.  Most importantly, I feel the most comfortable talking to people I know.  I guess overall, the sense of community between students is what makes learning fun."
  • "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."
  • "Other students tend to make you look at things differently since everyone has their own perspective on things, so that helps the learning process.  At times it can lead to more competition, which can be good and bad in different circumstances."
  • "They allowed for me to think in a different way and incorporate their thoughts, ideals, interpretations, analysis and review in my own responses.  This created a very well rounded and interesting post of my own."

x) looks like only one naysayer:
  • "i really don't know.  i didn't feel like it was that tight of a community.  some people are still in that whole high school mind set and think less of others or don't really say hi outside of class.  the purpose of a class is not to communitize, but to inspire each individual student into wanting to delve deep into the heart of a novel or subject.  the others that are on the same wave length will form together.  but each class is made of random people and i don't believe that everyone that comes into a class at lehigh is deserving of a place in a class community. there are always those kinds of people out there."

Actually the responses back in survey 1, question 12 to a similar question were very strong on the value of community.  I would say that these are very, very strong.   And, moreover (just me?), these seem more eloquent.  I see soundbites here that I just gotta use somewhere:  "Our community is what shapes us, after all"; "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"; "Sure, it's always important to form your own ideas in the end, but one thing I do know: I don't have all the answers"; "It's like being able to grocery shop for ideas"; "I guess overall, the sense of community between students is what makes learning fun."



15)  The goal of this course was to be a learning community, a course in which students worked actively together.  Community is not a goal in many courses, nor is it easy to achieve.  What would you say is the biggest obstacle or problem in making a class a community? 


I have come to believe that community is the thing I value most and the only thing that enables the kind of project I'm envisioning and experimenting with here to work.  I thought I'd get some student ideas about what needs to be "attacked" to help make community work.


Here's a list of some of the problems identified, with the full responses below:

-- the mix of students you get (luck of the draw)

-- community only as strong as the weakest link

-- getting people to know each other

-- competition with other communities (sports, fraternities)

-- different ideas of what community means

-- separation of business (school) and social worlds

-- the size of the group (can't be too big)

-- student desire (what's in it for them)

-- indoctrination, past experience (gotta break long habits)

-- different learning goals

-- time, scheduling

-- responsibility (some have it, some don't)

-- it's hard work (easier to be solo)

-- the teacher (ha!)

-- comfort zone

-- shyness

-- The Lehigh attitude about what's cool
  • "The relationships the students -- between them -- form.  You can either get a bunch of good eggs that get along and want to learn more about eachother, or you can get unresponsive, indifferent, uncreative people that will make the class a letdown."
  • "dealing with people who dont see the point of it.  building a community on such a 'small' scale only works if everyone participating really gets into it.  I think community and participation were given a HUGE amount of importance in this class, but some people still decided to ignore it, and not post, and not talk, and not read.  like they say, its only as strong as our weakest link."
  • "Getting us to open up to eachother in class!  We're fine on the discussion board but I feel like I wouldn't know anyone at all if that weren't part of the class."
  • "Sometimes it is hard to be there 24/7.  Especially when everyone else has their other communites like friends classes other sports etc. Also, sometimes there are elements that just dont fit together.  Differnet people have different ideas about how a community should be run. There will always be people who like to talk, and have interesting ideas.  Then there will always be those people that like to talk but really dont have anything to say at all.  Some people, such as myself, may not always have something to say so they dont want to introduce an idea unless they have something intersting or worthwhile to introduce."
  • "Getting students comfortable with one another on an intellectual basis.  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."
  • "Getting the students to know the personalites of eachother and what to expect--and also when you talk about discussion boards--when everyone can do an assignment and has the time to do the nessessary work."
  • "if we (the students) actually read what we were supposed to and came to class and listened to some ideas on how the readings could or should be interpreted and then broke into groups of two, it would work better.  then the next class sit with another person, students would get to know each person on a closer level and feel more comfortable talking to them in and out of class.  just a suggestion."
  • "i think the biggest problem is to get a group of 20+ kids who don't know each other and who are in totally differnt places in their lives to care enough to WANT to get to know eachother and work together.  the traditional class setting doesn't call for such effort and thus we're not used to it.  thus there has to be a good amount of desire on the kids parts to really want to make that effort."
  • "INTERACTION.  In every class I have, I never even get a chance to know 1% of the kids names.  If you go up to someone you're a weirdo. Forcing us to interact with each other early on was key.  Getting in the little groups helped us learn somehting about each other.  We were suppose to discuss the works, but first we all asked eachother where we were from.  We wanted to know who was who, what you did, who you knew.  You may have gotten mad that were not discussing the book, but we were doing somehting that was going to help for the rest of the class, we were building community.  That's one of the major things I miss from highschool, the community.  I knew everyone's name."
  • "Class size, without a doubt.  It's easier to find people to identify with in smaller classes.  You just learn how everyone thinks and basically know eachother because it's easier with fewer people.  Then, once you know everyone, it's easier to open up and share your thoughts. The larger the class, the harder it is for everyone to put in their two cents, and then you develop little camps of people scattered around the room.  You get more of a metropolis this way."
  • "I feel as though sometimes it can be difficult to view a class in such a way.  From the time we're little, we're taught to view a class in a very rigid and structured way.  I think that it may be difficult initially to get past these indoctrinated views."
  • "I think the biggest obstacle in making a class a community is the consistency of the class.  A huge part of building a community depends on what kinds of personalities the class consists of.  For example, I think the majority of my class, myself included, acted like a bunch of stiffs during numerous class periods.  Think back to the class where we we're told to leave early?  Everyone might as well been asleep. Thats not a community atmosphere with people providing engaging comments and notions.  No one consistently made any outrageous comments to incite interesting discussions.  I think a community needs clashing personalities in order to provoke communityesque conversations.  Our class wasn't like that.  Unofrtunately, A lot of people felt the class was all about the internet discussion board, and because of that notion, didn't come to class, prompting dismissal from the class.  From this response, you would probably think the class as a community was a failure.  Thats definately not the case.  For example, the Bulletin Board proved to be a very thought provoking activity.  All im saying is that I feel in order to obtain a learning community, clashing personalities must be present, in order to provoke thoughtful discussions."
  • "I think the biggest obstable is that because community is not a common goal in courses, it takes people a while to get used to it and become comfortable with the community setting.  Also, people generally tend to be introverted in a classroom setting, me especially, so it was difficult to break through that tendency."
  • "The biggest obstacle may be shyness.  In order to build a community, students have to put themselves out there, and many students prefer not to."
  • "Timeliness on account of each member's roles- everyone needs to complete their task on time so that the other group members are able to continue in the process of communitying.  (Moreover, individual participation in the group is evidently key). "
  • "I would say the biggest obstacle was schedualing with discussion groups.  At times it worked, but since everyone is always on a different schedual sometimes getting a real good volley going was a matter of timing rather than content."
  • "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.  For example, on the DB, other people are relying on you, and hopefully that makes you do an even better job.  If it is just my grade I need to worry about, it is easire to blow things off, but if other people are relying on you, there is an added sense of responsibility.  I guess the biggest obstacle is giving people a reason to want to belong to the community, or at least making them feel responsible to it."
  • "I think the biggest obstacle in making a class a community is getting students to overcome the typical type of classroom setting that they are used to, in which it is often dominated by the professor.  Students become comfortable with a certain type of learning, so the challenge with creating a learning community is to get students to go out of their comfort zone and really start fresh and be dedicated to working toward the goal of creating a community.  I think the biggest problem with making a class a community is that everyone has to be involved in it, but not all students will be as dedicated to it."
  • "Interaction on an informal level as well as the formal.  It makes people comfortable with each other enough to make assignments go more smoothly and in directions that may not have been taken with a more tense environment."
  • "I think that it might have been at first, however, i think as the classes movd on, people in the class, becamse more rceptive to the whole idea of a 'community.'  People would talk more before class started, and i think people became pretty confortable with others in the class; i didn't think that anyone was araid to say anything ( i mean, look at Alladin!)  But, i do think that it was a big obstacle, but that we did overcome it.  I also think that becuase this was such a new idea to everyone in the class, that people looked to eachother to try and see how to interact in the class."
  • "The Lehigh attitude.  It's not cool for me to talk to her because she's not in a sorority.  We can't talk without beverages present.  The other problem is the idea of socializing, people don't socialize without being in their groups."
  • "i think the whole thing is just being friendly with each other.  i know that sounds redundant, but seriously, people have to feel comfortable talking to each other and i think that can only come from ACTUALLY talking to one another.  i'll be honest... the only people i talk to in the class are people that i was in groups with early in the semester.  i think those groups really opened the lines of communication more than anything else. "


This is a very helpful, useful set of responses.  The students have done some comprehensive thinking for me.


16)  Do you think there was a sense of community in the class?  Can you give specific examples of how there was or wasn't?

It's one thing to ask about community in general, but another to bring it home to our class.  How did they feel about community in this particular class.

A very high percentage of the students felt there was community.

1) contacts outside class, making friends:

  • "Yes I do think there was a sense of community.  I found people contacting me via e-mail and IM outside of class to talk about issues that were entirely unrelated to what we were talking about in class.  I liked the community element of the course.  I found it to be quite refreshing."
  • "I think there was overall-- most of the work usually was accomplished and we all interacted to have good discussions.  However there were times where it lacked because everyone has different schedules.  And on another note-- I got to know a few people outside of class because of it!"
  • "Check number fifteen for examples, but I have been saying it all along.  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 there was to some degree.  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.  Talk Radio definitely helped this happen, because it gave us a chance to connect and get to know each other's opinions on things a little more personal than our interpretation of themes in Uncle Tom's Cabin."
  • "sometimes TR topics would carry over into class the next day, and people would also start talking when seeing each other around campus."
  • "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."
  • "There was a sense of community in the class.  As I said before, whenever I see classmates around campus I am always happy to say hi and chat.  I wouldn't be willing to engage in this interaction if I were not comfortable with our in class community."
  • "I know that i got to know a couple of the people who i didn't previously know... and when i see them out now we talk for a little while."

2) crossing borders:
  • "Yes.  I think that there were examples of times when people from differnt groups mixed.  For example I became friendly with a girl in a rival house, it didn't matter that our houses were rivals and competed all the time.  We could still talk and be friends."

3) evolution over time:
  • "I think that at the beginning, people were participating only to show how intelligent or insightful they were individually.  by mid semester, a lot of people finally started working WITH each other, really trying to actively keep conversations going online and in class.  when G presented "good" DB posts, it wasn't just specific people, but groups of people who worked well together AS A GROUP.  a lot of the time people just didn't talk in class, but thats not a community problem, necessarily...its more of a problem with being shy.  once the conversation started though, a lot of people contributed and some of the time we had really good discussions where 50 minutes felt like 50 seconds."
  • "I really saw people come together, more so that I thought in the beginning.  It really surprised me, pleasantly.  No gossip here, though, sorry."
  • "i think that as the semester progressed there was more of a sense of community.  i think this was shown because we were more free in our responses to each other... and we really let our true colors be shown in how we responded to certain topics."

4) civility:
  • "For the most part, there was a sense of community.  Even though some people didn't talk that much in class(me included I guess), we didn't have a problem opening up on the discussion board or talk radio.  Everyone was always free to jump in as they pleased in class, and I noticed there was respect between the members of the class.  Nobody got nasty and shot down another's thoughts."
  • "A few times on the discussion boards someone would respond outside their group just to compliment a fellow student on a good post--that's a sign of community."
  • "I think there definetly was a sense of community in the class.  I'll use _____ for example.  He said some pretty outrageous things in class sometimes, that I don't believe he would have said if he did not think that he was in a community situation, where he couldn't completly express himself without having to worry about what other poeple thought."

5) comfort:
  • "I think there was a sense of community.  The class narrowed as time went on and as the discussion board developed, we knew what kinda of posters people were before anything was said.  In the sense of familiarity and comfort, i think there was a great sense of community."
  • "I definitely think there was a sense of community.  The way that people gradually became friendlier and more responsive to other peoples ideas showed this.  In addition, I noticed the community aspect most when people related things from class to the discussion board, and vice versa."
  •  "just by being more comfortable with each other, i think we achieved some sense of community."

6) active interaction, participation:
  • "I think there was some sense of community in the class.  I think most people got to know most of the other people in the class by the end.  I think class discussions were often dominated by certain people, but I think that has to do more with people's personalities than with the community.  Still, you say that 'the visible heart of our community is the discussion board,' so I think this is where one should look when judging the sense of community in the class.  I would say that there was a pretty good sense of community through the discussion board. Most people actively participated, and people really exchanged thoughtful ideas.  I think by combining class discussion and the discussion board in one course, that really gets all types of people involved in the class and helps create the sense of community."
  • "Yes, I do.  Many people refered to other's posts when discussing materials.  For example, interactions and discussion between students increased as the course went on."
  • "i think there was a pretty good sense.  I think by the end of the course poeple were just a little more easy with each other in discussing things.  It also seemed like the community functioned as a unit, in that when one person was really on a roll with discussion, everyone seemed to have something to say and everyone was paying attention.  Or on the flip side, noone felt like discussing...Example, I think is quite memorable. Early dismissal as a result of a dead class...."

A few students are not quite on the bandwagon:
  • "I think there was a larger sense of community in this class than others, but I didn't feel an overwhelming sense of togetherness.  I can't think of anything tangible to determine the level of community.  It seems like more of a feeling you get when you are in class or think about it.  You can feel like the class was a little closer than other classes, but I don't know of anything specific that showcases that feling.  It seems like one semester is a short amount of time to really develop a community where people truly care about one another."
  • "At times i felt there was.  i think that your props such as the table and tape and what not helped.  it made the students a little less hard shelled.  if you bring in humor and just make the people feel connected by similar thoughts and interpretations it helps.  but then there were mornings (ie. when you let us out early) that i felt like crap about the class.  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 think there was when we had those groups (early in the semester).  i don't think there was other times (people hardly ever spoke during class). "

Seems like most of the marks of community formation have to do with making friendships and stimulating outside-of-class contacts.  That's interesting, because one of my big hobby horses is that students aren't forming relationships and bonds in the classroom, the place that is most central to the university's purpose.  Two of the somber comments are striking.  Indeed, it does seem hard to form a meaningful community in one semester, though evidence here suggests that this class did damn well in that respect.  Still, it pays to have sober expectations in that area.  And how about that comment about "a bittersweet community" -- that tears me up.  A student reminding us that we live in a fallen world.


17)  One essential for vigorous discussion that is the heart of a community is the active "presence" (in quotes to distinguish it from mere attendance) of class members.  Take a look at the list of criteria for active presence in the "Qualities of a Good Poster" document in Course Documents.  Is there anything you would add or subtract to that list?  In other words, if you had to judge whether or not a class member is "present" or not, how would you do it?


Again looking for the student view on the basic points of reference in the course.

The overwhelming majority of the responses simply pretty much affirmed the list.  Interesting additons suggested, however, were:
  • a sense of humor
  • creativity
  • passion

Here are a few selected responses  of interest:
  • "'willingness to initiate' I stinnnk at initiating, not because I didn't know the works, but because I am shy!  I was a good listener, but I didn't like opening my mouth in class.  I know that it is getting counted against me but I don't know what to say. :-(
  • "I don't necessarily think that one needs to contribute in every discussion in order to be considered present.  I feel that when you make this a requirement, it leads to a more poor quality of discussion.  People talk 'for the sake of talking'."
  • "I think your list of criteria for active presence seems to cover everything that I could think of.  This doesn't really fit into a list, but I think if you're judging individual people on how they add to the class as a community you really have to take the type of person he or she is into consideration.  I think everyone has something to contribute to the class, but I think different people contribute in different ways, and you just need to look at how an individual person was making an effort to contribute."
  • "Id say the list is prety solid, i guess i would just add something that says 'while leading and letting it all on the line is great, dont talk just to hear yourself talk.'  I guess this is just one of my pet peeves, but i felt some people were just saying something just to speak.  I feel this actually takes away from presence and the discussion in general."
  • "After every class, or maybe every other class, or maybe a random class period atleast once a week, it might have been a good idea to pass out a very short, but effective self-evaluation of that days participation in class.  This evaluation would surely bring about a better community atmosphere because the student could note his progress or lack there of, and consequently, improve his participation.  

The list seems to be fine, but, of course, I have not linked those criteria directly to a grade, and maybe I can't.  So there might be some uncertainty for students.  I can't really see me giving them a "score" for each of the items.  Ugh.


18)  What is your assessment of your own "presence" in this class?  In the "Qualities of a Good Poster" document I ask three related questions: Did you actively contribute to creating an atmosphere conducive to better learning by all?  Did you help others do their best work?  Was the class better because you were in it?  Use these questions and/or items in the list of good qualities to assess your own "presence"?  Be specific.  What role did you play in the attempt to create class community? Give reasons and/or examples to back up your self-evaluation.

Awww, this is a tough one, I know -- "the dreaded self-evaluation," as one of the respondents said. 


Most of the students felt they did ok.   Here are a few selected responses covering a range of points that are interesting:
  • "It's extremely tough to self-evaluate.  But I think, throughout, when I had something to say...I said it.  And I thought that I tried to be creative everyday.  So who could go wrong with that?"
  • "I think that everyone knows who I am.  That is how your presence should be graded.  It is an important part of the community.  I think that my presence was helped by you a lot of the time.  I was quiet but you brought out my voice.  The best example I can think of is during the Moby Dick interaction, when I responded to ___.  The way you read my post was exactly what I was thinking in my mind when I read it."
  • "I think i had a definate presence on the discussion board.  I felt as though I did an excellent job provoking thought among group memebers and the class as a whole.  I got the feeling that the class appreciated the things that I added to the DB and TR, and that it helped them understand things better.  I made a concerted effort to push others to think about things in a new and unconventional light.  I think in many of the DB groups, the other people did better work because of some of the posts I made.  I also think I raised some interesting and important topics on TR."
  • "I think that my presense was valuable in class.  I think, or at least I hope, to have gotten others thinking a bit.  I feel as though others may have felt that I was a bit wordy in my posts and for this reason, I suspect that they may have been less than pleased when they discovered that I was in their posting groups.  However, I feel that on the whole, I got people to think about some interesting ideas."
  • "I worked hard to foster the feeling of a learning community.  I hope that some of my interest in the work rubbed off on others.  I played a variety of roles in the community.  Sometimes I played the free-thinker who would come up with some hairbrained ideas that might generate conversation, othertimes I was the devil's advocate who purposely went against the grain hoping to draw some crossfire.  Either way I worked towards pushing the conversation to new directions while still mainting the decorum of a class community."
  • "I am not a person that likes to talk all the time, often I feel that I am being put on the spotlight.  However, when I expressed my ideas in the end-of-unit discussions people were appreciative, and I think that the times that I spoke did contribute to the discussion, because I never really said anything without giving it a lot of thought."
  • "I did actively contribute to creating an atmosphere conducive to better learning by all.  When the conversation was lagging, I tried to get it going.  When the topic of discussion on Talk Radio was not getting much attention, I started a new one which did.  I tried to make my points in class interesting yet legitimate, e.g. the Moby Dick sexual references."
  • "I tried to help others do their best work in class.  When someone made a point in class or in the DB, I didn't try to disprove them, but challenge them to come back stronger to defend their point."
  • "I definitely think the class was better because I was in it.  I imagine that if I were not in this class, there would have been more and longer awkward silences.  I also think I got people to lighten up, which is always good.  After my posts and class oral presentation on Moby Dick, a few members of class, including _____, _____, ____ and ____ told me how much they enjoyed my comments on Sea Men, semen, Ahab's third leg and so on.  I guess the above just reflects the way I saw myself in class--the guy to speak up when no one else wanted to (except that one day, ouch), and the guy to kid around but in a legitimate academic way. "
  • "I think I was a little quiet in class, but i don't think more quiet than anyone else in class.  I wouldn't say that I participated like ____, or _____.  But i tried to think about why I wasn't like them in class.  And I think that it is becase that is just the kind of people they are--very talk-a-tve, and they always have something to say. I'm not like that.  I usually takes me awhile to understnad things, and therefore, it takes me longer than most to understand things, and also longer to think of things to say.  I feel that i always paid attention in class, even If I was having a hard time with the material.  But i do feel that I should have participated more. However, I do feel that eveyone in the classhad a presence, whether or not they participated as much as others.  I just feel that some poeple were just very outgoing."
  • "Though some books were for inspirational than others, i like to think I always had a thoughtful question or idea.  As a member of a community I tried to be promt to serve and respond and try not to leave anything hanging, though not always succesful at times.  I believe i did a good job at respecting oppions of others even though i may have not agreed entirely or at all.  Within the community I think i tried to reflect the idea that no serve or idea, no matter how large, small, outrageous or cynical was ok because the discussion board was designed to discuss anything."
  • "I was sort of a coward when it came to initiating because i never quite knew how to lead off a discussion in class.  However, when i did have a comment, i feel it was usually a pivitol comment that either led to further discussion, or to a changing of opinions.  I did not speak as often as some people, but i felt that when i did speak, it was something people could use.  I sort of felt like the 'quiet catalyst.'  In all honesty i feel that you were sort of disapointed in me, prof. G, because i did not actively participate as much as i probably should have.  I just want to apologize for that and say that i tried to make sure I had something worthwhile to say when i was going to participate.  I dont know if it was for self-conscious reasons or whatnot, but i wanted to make sure what i said had value, at least to myself, if not to everyone else."

Interesting to see the students conscious of furthering class goals and especially self-conscious of how they are doing and how others are seeing them.


19)  Is there anything else that you would like to comment on?

The finis!
  • "the one thing that i think could be different is the way in which we are evaluated... we really have no idea where we stand and sometimes if someone knows that they are not doing well, it is motivation to step it up a notch and could result in them bringing more to the table.  so i think that the students should be evaluated more often and in more of a concrete sense so they can understand where they stand and what they need to do to improve."
  • "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+'!"
  • "Gallagher,I enjoyed the class.  I had some good times, I read some classic American novels, I made a few friends, I got some girls' phone numbers, I laughed, I made some other people laugh, I improved my blackboard skills....Thanks G, it's been real."
  • "This was a great class.  Again, this was my first time dealing with discussion boards and I can honestly say that I really enjoyed it.  I wish my previous english classes were like this."
  • "I really enjoyed this course.  If I wasn;t graduating and there was a second semester of it, I would take the course again."
  • "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."
  • "i liked your idea of 'internal real-estate.'  that really is the power of literature (good literature).  it gets you to think both about yourself and about other people, and you feel yourself sort of growing inside with every new book you read."
  • "great class, great experience, I learned a lot about the classics we read and about what it takes to create, fortify and maintain a community.  great prof, really really accessible, and i hope other students get a chance to have a class with this kind of atmosphere just as i have.  thanks."
  • "I think you are doing an excellent job with the class.  It is obvious you are working hard to change something you feel should be changed.  The discussion board concept seems like a good one if it is done correctly.  It is encouraging to see you taking so much time to gather feedback from students to try to improve the concept.  I guess I am somewhat sympathetic to what you are trying to do because I have tried to do similar things with the company my parents own.  I pinpointed two problems that I thought should be improved upon and spent 2 years trying to figure out what to improve and how to implement the changes.  I feel like I can appreciate what you are trying to do and I think you are on the right track."
  • "I feel this was a great class, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I would definitely take a class like this again, and i was also recommend it to others.  I dont think it would even matter what the topic of the class was, i still feel it could be made very intersting.  I think now that i have a better idea of posting and how to use the discussion board, i could participate a little more actively, and do a much better job in a class such as this.  I feel the sense of community was the biggest driving force behind the class and its success."

Many students took this final space for back-patting and back-slapping.  Some nice testimonials here.  No negative comments.  Lord have mercy.