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@2006 Ed Gallagher, Professor of English, Lehigh Lab Fellow. Lehigh University.
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A Learning Community

The Intellectual "Constitution" of Our Course

"The visible heart of our community is the discussion board"

~active learning~

I believe that interaction and community are essential elements of successful learning.  I believe that we must be active learners.  I am committed to the notion that everybody has something worthwhile to contribute, that all voices must be heard, and that knowledge grows out of thoughtful group interaction.

So, I want you to think of this course as a "community of learners."  As a community.

Which means not thinking of ourselves as isolated individuals, here just to be personally credentialed, and in some way in competition with others.

A community is a group of people working together toward a shared goal.

In a "community," members actively participate in the task at hand, respect each other, pool their diverse knowledge and skills, carry out their responsibilities in timely fashion, and acknowledge each other's efforts.

An active sense of responsibility to the group is the hallmark of a good community member.

In a community of learners, students look to each other for intellectual stimulation and growth as much as or even more than to the teacher.

Community members work together like the parts of a body.

I want you to consider your "presence" -- in the fullest meaning of that term -- as crucial to the formation of that community.

I want you thinking, talking, interacting -- contributing to and learning from the pool of knowledge and ideas created by the group and working together for everybody's benefit.

The obvious practical sign that we are striving to be a community of learners is the emphasis on interaction through class discussion and the discussion board.

The visible heart of our community, in fact, is the discussion board.

The discussion board -- as much or more so than the classroom -- is the place where we "meet,"  where we "talk" to each other, where we "share" what we know.  Since the discussion board contains the cumulative record of our interactions over time for ready reference at all times, in a real sense it is also like our text book.

Specifically, much of your classwork will consist of posts to the discussion board.  I will normally be asking you to engage in intelligent, thoughtful "virtual" conversation on the discussion board several times a week as a main activity in the course.  You will both initiate posts on subjects of your own and respond to the posts of others.  This writing will play an important preparatory role in the process of completing any formal writing that you do.

Writing on the discussion board is usually not as formal as writing an essay, but you should put your best thought into what you say.  Participating on the discussion board is like raising your hand in class, except that here everyone participates, everyone is heard, and what is said remains on record for later reference.

Some of you may be unused to posting your ideas and assignments in a public forum like this.  Relax and realize that we are all working toward the same goal here, which is the sharing and creation of knowledge, and the reason we are doing it on a discussion board is so that everyone will have the benefit of everyone else's ideas.

And we are also practicing the new kind of communication that no doubt will be a big part of all professions in the future.

If you have concerns about this element of the course, however, please talk to me about them right away.