What Makes a Good Post?


Any discussions or specifications in our course supersede these general notes. 

***Special note:

It seems like it should go without saying, but just in case:  this is academic work, not the locker room and not the place for screeds, ad hominem attacks, other unpleasantness, and obviously not for any kinds of hate speech.  That’s not suitable for your personal twitter account either, but it will absolutely not be tolerated in any part of our class and classwork.

Instead, our online courses aspire to be – and almost always are – exactly the opposite – a useful exchange of ideas and opinions where we genuinely learn from each other.  Student A and Student B don’t ever have to agree with each other, but every time you think (or say!), “Huh, I hadn’t thought of it that way” is a great win.  Open, curious, sincere, humble, fact-based, and analytical – and even partisan – but not mean or rude.  Thanks.

Notes about the Online of our Online Course

We do not physically meet together at any particular time or place – we are only asynchronously online.  We do, though, have a predictable and organized format.   Instructions for each week will be on the course’s web site, govt396.com.

These instructions will include a description of the subject and learning goals for the week, a list of the readings for the week, my guide to those readings (video, PowerPoint, etc.), discussion questions about the readings, and instructions on the written assignment for the week (length, due dates, etc.).

The written assignments will include shorter and longer posts (or replies to posts) on our govt396.com page and/or on Blackboard – the instructions will be clear.

Much of our work will be done at govt396.com.  We also have a Blackboard (Bb) or page, but that is not where we will do our work – we will do it on govt396.com page.

If this is the first summer online course you are taking, there are a couple of ideas worth considering.

First, the online summer course has two important adjustments, for the instructor and for the students:  the course is online, and the course is compressed into just a few weeks.  You should expect the same amount of work on your part in these few weeks as you would give to a full semester-length course. A seven-week course, then, would require about twice as much work each week as a usual fall or spring semester course.

You might also be working or interning or doing other things, but this course should take up a good amount of your time.

Usual study strategies apply:  You also want to block out periods of time in which you will be undisturbed by work, personal, or other distractions. You want to keep up – it is a busy semester and it goes fast.

You want to keep in touch with the instructor as or before any problems arise – you don’t want to have to send then “I should have emailed you a few weeks ago” email.

Finally, the expectation is that work is due in the given week: Week 2 work is submitted during Week 2, etc.  A particular post might be minutes or hours late, with some adjustment to your grade, but you do not want to leak into the following weeks.

Similarly, your course paper is due on the due date near the end of the semestetr. I will post details of the paper assignment and we will discuss them when we meet.  I have a tight deadline to get final grades to the Registrar. You should prepare as if  late papers will not be accepted at all.

Grades and Assignments

Each week I will post two or more discussion questions from which you may choose to “discuss.”  Each week you will be responsible for posting at least one 200-to 400-word answer of your own (follow each week’s instructions) to one or more of the questions I pose, and each week you will be responsible for at least two 100-word replies to someone else’s posting (or someone else’s reply). Two key ideas:

These 200-400 word discussions should not be mere summaries of the readings, nor should they be merely how you “feeeeel” about something. 

Your 100-word replies to you r classmates should advance the discussion, not merely re-iterate, approve, or reject your classmates’ ideas.

(Essay assignments’ word-lengths may vary by week and by course – see directions on any particular week’s page.  Essay assignments will also vary by course – check your course and week for specific word lengths.)

Here are some examples you might follow:

Good discussion format (your initial post each week):

“The Keynes and Hayek readings are typical in one sense: Keynes advocates a greater role for government intervention, and Hayek argues that government intervention always risks another step on the road toward serfdom.  But a careful reading reveals that, despite their differing philosophies and backgrounds, Keynes and Hayek share not only certain perspectives and biases, but also certain goals….”

Not good discussion format (maybe you can suggest several reasons why):

“Hayek’s an idiot.  He thinks a Biden recession would be “creative destruction” that would make tech companies and Big Pharma richer”

Good reply format (your engagement with your classmates’ posts):

“Sam and Akosua — Your arguments are really interesting – I was more focused on X and missed the author’s point of Y that you both raise.  But perhaps then there is a contradiction between what Keynes advises to FDR and what he advocates at Bretton Woods. Specifically, at Bretton Woods he….”

Not good reply format:  “No, that’s stupid” or “No, you’re stupid.”

Also not sufficient (but at least nicer):  “Nice point.”

***Special note:

Our govt396.com pages require a password, but they are still on the “real Internet.”  It doesn’t generate much traffic except from members of the class and it is password-protected. But it is still the real web.

You are free to use your own name, or to use a pseudonym.  You must, of course, let me know what your pseudonym is.  Any G- or PG-rated pseudonym is ok.  Additionally, when you post/reply, the site will ask for your .edu email address.  This email address will be visible to me, but not to anyone else.  Please use your university email address.

In the first week or two, posts will require my approval before they show up.  After that, they will appear immediately.  (This is the only way to prevent tons of NSFW spam.) Treat this work as you would any in-class homework: smart, thoughtful, analytical, proofread, kind – and no first drafts

To review:  each week you are responsible for

(may vary by course – check the directions in yours)

– at least one 200-to-400-word posting of your own at govt396.com, in answer to one or more of the Essay Prompts that I will provide for you, (word lengths may vary)

– two 100-word replies to classmate’s postings on govt396.com,

Essay assignments’ word-lengths may vary by week – see directions on any particular week’s page.  Essay assignments will also vary by course – check your course and week for specific word lengths.

For all of these, there will be specific due dates in each week’s outline of assignments. Links to the outline of assignments for each week will be posted to the course’s main page each week. Posts/comments may be as long as twice the recommended length if you really have that much to say, but should not be significantly shorter than the recommended lengths.

And finally, for the end of the semester you will write a lengthier paper (2,000 words) on the relevant  topic of your choosing; we will discuss.

Ok, let’s have fun!

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