Progress Report

I am going to be perfectly honest with you, internet (though I will still try to be polite). I find this class terribly frustrating for two reasons.  One personal, and one in execution. 

First off, I had to cancel my free trip to Israel (through a program, Birthright, that sends young Jewish people to experience Israel) because of this class. It was a very recent and devastating blow, but I need to take this course right now in order to graduate on time. So I think I would be a little bitter no matter what about this.  However, I was hoping that the value of this class would become immediately apparent to me so I could further validate my decision.  Basically, this class is a prerequisite for all my upper level science classes because this is a “research” class. However I honestly do not feel that learning to use Twitter and make a blog will get me any further than I would have been in that regard. So I am frustrated.

However, I will now express my frustration on the second level.  I feel like this class is taking on too much. Or maybe it just expands in too many directions.  I feel so exasperated and frightened because I don’t feel like I have control over this.  There are like 6 different websites I am supposed to jump back and forth between, monitor, and interact with. There are multiple syllabi and class sites, all with different information.  For instance, this assignment was not on the weekly homework calendar and I almost didn’t realize I had to do it until I saw so many other posts! As a straight A student who likes to work ahead and achieve, this class fills me with anxiety because I do not know what is expected of me and I am so nervous that I may accidentally miss an assignment or be absent for a day.  I have talked to other students who feel similarly which leads me to believe we all need to analyze what is going right and what is going wrong and fix it soon so everyone can get what they need to from this.

Research wise, I have enjoyed some aspects of these projects — particularly learning about how other people think. I don’t, however, have any idea how to start preparing for the final project or begin research because I am still so lost on the ultimate assignment.  Hopefully things will be made clear in time.

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15 Comments

  1. I agree, I am also very frustrated with this class. I signed up for an online class because I work full time and hoped it would give me the flexibility that I have had with previous online courses. I don’t feel this is the case. I feel this class is asking for more work than a class that would meet in person. I am not able to sit down and blog each day. Also, it is beyond frustrating that I am not able to get all of my work for the week done in one sitting on my day off because my work is dependent on the work of others. How am I suppose to read ten posts and comment on five if only three students are doing the work on time? Am I being penalized for late responses because others are not doing their work on time? I am also a very dedicated student and willing to put in the work. I regret not taking this class in person. Hopefully in person I would have a better understanding of the final paper and overall course.

    • To my knowledge there is no version of online UNIV 200 that allows you to do what you’re describing (to work at your own pace and turn things in whenever). You’re not really describing a class of learners, so much as an independent study in which you get to decide when you will be assessed.

  2. Sorry to hear that. Seems like the online course would have worked well with a trip to Israel.

    There is a chunk of flowing with the course that is necessary and it should have elements of uncertainty but it shouldn’t reach crisis levels for you. If that’s what’s happening you probably want to talk to your instructor.

    I think things will continue to clarify and solidify as the course moves on but large chunks of it are dependent on what you want to do and how you want to do things. You have the chance to make this real and valuable to you as an individual. That’s a rare thing in a course.

  3. I’ll also chime in to say that many people are working behind the scenes to help anyone who feels lost or confused. The best bet, always, is to contact your professor. You seem to be in section 07 with Professor Coats. Is that correct? If so, there are two things you can do immediately. One is to visit his section site.This is the “team” site belonging to section 07. There is a very detailed syllabus there. You can find the link to your team site (your section site) on thoughtvectors.net. The other thing, of course, is to email the professor directly. I am sure he will do everything he can to help you get back on track.

    The course is different from many other courses; that is true. I understand that this can be frustrating at first, but I hope over time you will also begin to find it opens up greater freedom for you in the learning.

    The course design does ask for daily participation. Writing improves through practice, and it also improves when you write for real audiences–in this case, not only the other participants, but potentially anyone in the world. For these reasons and others, this learning experience emphasizes consistent participation. That’s why the course design doesn’t permit doing all the work in one sitting, one day a week. Some correspondence courses might be structured that way, but this course is not.

    I hope this learning experience turns out to be enjoyable and rewarding for you before too long. That said, I can only imagine how disappointed you are about the trip to Israel. I would be too.

    Sincerely, and with best wishes,
    Dr. C.

    • Thank you, Dr. C. I have been in contact with Dr. Coats which is fabulous because I would be even more unbelievably lost without that line of communication. I think I just need some time to adjust to this unusual course structure. However, as this is a pilot class, I really do feel that it may be useful to some students if there were some consolidation on the UNIV website. Perhaps that will also just take some getting used to though.

      • You’re very welcome! Coordinating the information is always a challenge when there’s an emphasis on variety and yet also on connection. Most face-to-face courses de-emphasize both because of limitations that exist in the physical world (though there are great things in the physical world too, certainly!). Online kinds of interaction present new possibilities. Some thinkers (including many scientists) believe online communication represents a new stage in human biocultural evolution, one comparable to the invention of writing itself. The Web itself was invented to improve research by enabling scientists to be in better communication, which also means to be able to build and work together better. It’s all about communication in the end. Once human beings got language, everything changed.

        I’m just now watching a talk Martin Hawksey recommended to us on the Twitter stream: https://twitter.com/mhawksey/status/477781704762216448 (each new tweet is a web page–you can get the URL as I did above by clicking on the date or the “hours ago” numeral–I find this v interesting). I immediately thought of you and your interest in science. I also thought you might enjoy a book by a physicist named Michael Nielsen called “Reinventing Discovery: The Rise of Networked Science.” Science is all about networks. And social media are about much more than Facebook “like”s (though these too can be interesting).

        Anyway, sorry to ramble on–but obviously your thoughtful engagement with some core issues has continued to elicit thought in me, so thanks for that. I’m also glad to see you’ve been in touch with Dr. Coats. I think you’ll find him quite an engaging and provocative thinker.

        Sincerely, and with best wishes,
        Dr. C.

  4. Hi Mariah, I too am sad to hear about the Birthright trip being canceled (or perhaps postponed?). I had a student write on his Birthright experience a few semesters ago.

    People may feel overwhelmed and frustrated for a variety of reasons. My sense is that you my be mistaking freedom for chaos, and may not be used to having this much agency over your learning. Let me address some of these concerns here and then I will send out a Blackboard email in case others feel similarly.

    “Basically, this class is a prerequisite for all my upper level science classes because this is a “research” class. However I honestly do not feel that learning to use Twitter and make a blog will get me any further than I would have been in that regard. So I am frustrated.” –It’s a research writing course, yes. Are you saying that you do not yet see how connecting to a network of people all researching the same thing can help you do research? Or that you doubt it can be possible that twitter can be a helpful research/networking tool? I hope it’s the former rather than the latter. A blog is just a writing technology, just like an academic paper. The writing is what’s important; the advantage of blogs, as Dr. C says above, is that it’s easily published and open to a big audience.

    “I feel so exasperated and frightened because I don’t feel like I have control over this. There are like 6 different websites I am supposed to jump back and forth between, monitor, and interact with…” –That’s incorrect, at least in terms of *requirements*. You are registered for section 007, so you are only responsible for reading the syllabus and weekly tasklist for my section, since I will be the one assessing your work. But all instructors of this MOOC are coordinating the New Media work and it should be true that our students are all reading and engaging with these concepts at the same time. However, if you notice that some of your classmates have not posted a nugget yet, the beauty of the massive setup is that you may also travel out to other sections and comment on them for credit, even if those comments are mostly noting what if anything is different from section to section.

    “There are multiple syllabi and class sites, all with different information. For instance, this assignment was not on the weekly homework calendar and I almost didn’t realize I had to do it until I saw so many other posts! As a straight A student who likes to work ahead and achieve, this class fills me with anxiety because I do not know what is expected of me and I am so nervous that I may accidentally miss an assignment or be absent for a day.” No, this assignment is on the week 1 page (http://rampages.us/7seven7/calendar/week-one/) under “Friday.” I will send out an email every Monday with links to all the pertinent pages for that week. And as the sections have time to coordinate their activities, and make adjustments to suit the group of learners we have as we get to know you all better, we *may* be able to release some information about upcoming weeks. But, I already have done some of that — the wiki project “Dreaming with Groupthink” will get you thinking directly about the subject matter of your inquiry project.

    • Dr. Coats,

      Hopefully it is just a postponement of the trip, however that is yet to be seen.

      I definitely understand that this class is trying to change the way we look at the internet and research on it, and I respect that. However I think I see a difference in honing my scientific writing skills and my social networking skills. Frankly, social networking is just not a priority of mine nor do I think it will be in my future career. I suppose my feeling is that this class has plenty of value, but maybe more as a Mass Comm class or elective of some sort. I mean absolutely no disrespect and I hope I have not offended anyone throughout my little rant. I understand and appreciate that you are all putting in a lot of thought and effort to create this new and innovative pilot class.

      Just to clarify then, if there is an assignment on the general UNIV 200 syllabus that is not on your 007 weekly schedule are we responsible for it? When I read on the general syllabus that we need to do a weekly “report” I did not connect that with your Friday assignment. I read those as two separate assignments and blog posts. Did I just misinterpret the assignment?

      Thank you for your continued communication throughout this, it is very valuable to me.

      • ” if there is an assignment on the general UNIV 200 syllabus that is not on your 007 weekly schedule are we responsible for it?” That’s right! I will copy over all pertinent info from the thoughtvectors.net site to the clubhouse, and you can use the big site just for networking and exploring other inquiry projects when you have leisure or are stuck. So the “weekly report” on thoughtvectors becomes my #2 on the Friday task list. There will be a Friday reflection every week, in fact, but there may be some tweaks week to week about what you’ll reflect on, and it makes more sense to do that section by section rather than continually tweak the massive all-section syllabus. We can talk about the utility of UNIV200 for your major later on, but or now keep in mind that the face to face UNIV200s have themes too, most of which would be unrelated to a science major, and even if you did write a paper on science that would only be research applicable to that one paper. The point is to develop research and writing skills which can be reproduced later in different contexts. We figured an online class ought to be about online.

      • That clears things up significantly, thank you!

        That is a good point about the face to face class. I think I just need to stop trying to approach this class as a pre-science course and maybe just step back from the science entirely. I think this would be a good opportunity to explore a secondary interest or hobby.

  5. I’m not sure if my timestamps on the comments and blogpost are completely accurate. It seems that the remarkable discussion above took place over the span of only five or six hours on a Saturday night. Can this possibly be true?

    Something about the interaction between student and professors in this conversation really moves me. I’m not quite able to express it at the moment as I’m finishing up my day’s work at the teaching factory here and need to clock out soon. But I hope nobody minds if I reflect upon this thread on my blog.

    • Isn’t it funny how easily a site like this can facilitate conversation? It is true that this whole thread took place over only a couple of hours. I find it particularly interesting (and a little amusing) that most of it was late into the night!

      I would be incredibly interested to hear more about your thoughts and feelings towards this conversation. By all means, please reflect in your own space and please let me know when you do so I can read and reflect myself!

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