Virtual Community
Online courses are still very, very new -- and very, very controversial.  The doubters feel that meaningful education can only happen in the traditional face-to-face environment.  And that online experiences are bound to be lonely, even solipsistic affairs.

I'm trying to resist such thoughts -- and experiences.  Especially since I believe that interaction and community are essential elements of successful learning even in traditional classroom situations.  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 "virtual community."

And 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 heart of our virtual community is the discussion board.  The discussion board 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 "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 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.