Posting and participating in and making up discussion threads

This is the most important part of the course, worth 200 out of 500 possible points (15 pts possible/week for substance, 5 pts for proofreading). This is where you show me you’re reading, engaging in the material (readings, discussion, and online lecture material), and learning. Students need to participate in the discussion every week to gain points for that week. Here’s what I’ll be looking for:

  1. At least one substantial posting on each discussion thread I begin (there will usually be 2-3 per week).
  2. At least two substantial responses within each discussion thread to a post from someone else in class. By substantial I mean that you need to show me that you’ve been following the thread, gone through the source material (readings, any videos …) and have something thoughtful to say. Posts need to demonstrate you have done the readings and read the lecture material. This part of the grade is worth 10 points/week. This is a discussion forum, not a posting board. It happens week-to-week. Treat it as such and you will get more points, and more learning out of the class.
  3. Thoughtful postings. This covers the quality of your postings. I’m looking for some evidence of thought on your part. This is worth 5 points per week. Opinion is fine, as long as you demonstrate how it is informed by the assigned material for the week. If I can’t tell whether you’ve even read the material, you won’t receive many of these points.  Gratuitous posts (‘ditto!’) keep us going, I like to see people encourage each other, but they’re more a public service and act of kindness and collegiality than a source of points.

Here are some basic guidelines:

  1. You need to post during the week the discussion is taking place. This is part of the value of the online medium—everybody contributes, nobody gets to hide in the back of the class, everyone has a chance to shine. If you’re going to miss a week, you can write a reflection paper to make up points, demonstrating that you’ve been through the readings, lecture material, and discussion board (2-3 pages). Generally we’ll begin a new topic on Tuesdays, and run through the next Monday evening.
  2. Model civility. No flaming, no personal attacks—we’re discussing ideas in this course, and mutual respect is a prerequisite. We certainly don’t have to agree—but we can disagree in a civil way, and use persuasion, logic and evidence to support our own ideas (too bad cable news doesn’t do more of this …). This is especially important in terms of your own professional growth—learning how to disagree with tact and grace. This is where we discuss, debate and exchange ideas. I will deal with any personal attacks privately, but firmly, removing posts and then students from discussion forums if things spin out of control. We’re here to encourage everyone to participate, but your participation shouldn’t discourage others from doing so.
  3. If you’re writing a long post, use paragraphs to break up points and (warning!), to be safe, you might write it in a word document (and save as you go), and then paste it into Canvas—this will help you avoid the angst of losing a post you’ve spent considerable time composing.

There are several kinds of postings that can gain you credit:

  • You can pose a question for the group, then try to answer it or explain why you asked it.
  • You can provide other research or web resources you’ve found that shed light on a subject we’ve discussing.
  • You can summarize a long discussion thread and try to distill it down to one or a few issues.
  • You can reply to others’ postings—either agreeing or disagreeing, the main thing is that you provide evidence and some logical argument to back up what you’re saying.
  • The key is, show me more than your ungrounded opinion—simply expressing what you think without reference to the reading material isn’t learning, or at least not the kind that will merit a passing grade.

Points will be based on the following criteria:

  • Your reflection on the questions or the readings/lecture material. To receive full credit, you need to show you’ve not only been through the readings, but understood them and used them as evidence to support your views. I can’t emphasize this point enough. Some degree of chatter about a topic is fine, but not at the expense of what you need to do in the discussion boards.
  • Your grasp of the topic. You don’t necessarily need to show mastery of each reading or topic. After all, you’re here to learn. But you do need to show effort, and you do need to ask questions where you’re unclear to clarify your understanding and show me you’re putting effort into understanding the material. Again, if you try to do this without referring to the readings or lecture material, I won’t even know if you’ve read it. So ‘I don’t get it’ doesn’t work. You can expand and discuss what you do get, for starters.
  • Your ability to communicate your ideas. I expect clear, organized writing. Sentences, parts of speech, spell-checked, and all that. If you’re citing something, do it correctly, give us a web page. ‘I agree’ is okay, as long as it’s followed by a well-reasoned explanation of why you agree with a previous post (again, citing evidence). No textspeak.
  • Bringing in outside materials or research. I encourage this, but I also want you to have evaluated these materials. If it’s the first .com site you found on Google, I’ll let you know if I think it’s a suspect source.

A note on absence: if you’re going to be out of town or away from the Web and Canvas for any substantial period of time, you should let me know. If you’re not posting and haven’t said anything to me, I’ll just assume you’re not participating in the discussion board for that week (and that’s 15 points per week plus five possible for writing—so if, for example, you missed three weeks entirely, your chances of pulling an ‘A’ in the course would be very slim—that’s 60 pts out of a possible 500 for the term). You only get two chances for make-ups to improve a week’s discussion grade.

Making up discussion. Speaking of … Obviously you can’t make a habit of this—it’s discussion, after all. But you can make up two if need be with reflection papers, following the basic guidelines below, demonstrating you have completed readings, lecture material, and read the discussion board (see ‘instructions’ below for making up discussions).

Again, 150 points on this part of the course—15 pts per week. Plus 5 possible for writing (keep reading)


Writing in discussion forums

You will have to demonstrate college-level writing in both the website analysis paper and in discussion boards. There will be five points possible each week for writing in the discussion boards, meaning you need to proofread your posts, check for spelling errors, capitalize, all that basic grammar-related stuff, and make sure that they make sense, to get the full five points each week (there will be a separate grade item for this). A ‘5’ means your posts are in order, make sense, thoughts are well-organized, and you’ve probably done some proofreading before hitting the ‘submit’ button. A ‘4’ means you’ve probably done some proofreading, but there are still some pretty glaring errors. ‘3’ means it’s not really clear you’ve proofread the posts for the week. A ‘1’ or ‘2’ indicates your posts have so many errors in them that they’re hard to follow, and in any case readers may not take them as seriously. I’m mainly doing this because writing is just so critical to finding work, communicating with prospective employers, and we all need to show some self-awareness about our writing.

This will show up as a separate grade for each week of the course. But pay no attention to any notifications that an assignment is due–the writing points are assigned after I’ve gone through your discussion posts and replies. So if you’ve proofread them, there’s more in there than a sentence or two, you will likely get the five points. Just trying to encourage complete sentences, organized thoughts, you know . . . showing a motivation to learn.

5 points possible per week, 50 points total for the term.

Making up a week’s discussion (you’re entitled to two of these)

Papers should be no less than 3 pages, double-spaced (11 or 12 pt font) in length. This is how I would like you to structure the reflection papers:

  1. What for you were the most important points that you took from the readings, discussion and lecture material for the week? This is an exercise in abstract thinking—what is the ‘big picture?’ You should touch on each reading assignment, discuss any common threads between them, or differences. I want to see what you got out of the readings and the week’s topic, and gauge your depth of understanding. I’m not looking for book reports here—do some summary, but your paper should be no more than 1/3 summary (and no less than 2/3 analysis).
  2. Demonstrate you read the discussion board. I don’t need a play-by-play blow of people’s postings, I just want you to demonstrate you went through the postings, and got something out of the process. How did people respond to the material for the week? What was your take? Just keep in mind—take a stand, but don’t make points if you’re not going to support them with evidence or logic. And cite your sources.
  3. Standards. This is making up for your having missed the discussion boards, so I expect the same amount of intellectual effort to go into the make-up. Good writing, use of complete sentences, paragraphs to change ideas, citing of authors’ works at the end. You can submit it in Canvas—you’ll see the spot.