What Makes a Good Post?

WHAT MAKES A GOOD POST – AND OTHER NOTES FOR AN ONLINE COURSE

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 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. Indeed, our online courses are usually 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 someone thinks (or says!), “Huh, I hadn’t thought of it that way” is a great win.  Open, sincere, 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 at any particular time and place but 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 (length, due dates) on the written assignment for the week.  The written assignments will include shorter and longer posts (or replies to posts) on our govt396.com and facebook sites.

(Facebook does not apply to some courses and is optional in others. Check your course’s Bb > Announcements for details.)

Much of our work will be done at govt396.com and on our course’s (“closed”) facebook page.  We will also have a Blackboard (Bb) or moodle page, but that is not where we will do our work – we will do it on govt396.com and our fb page. If you are not already a member of our closed fb group, please request to join. The fb page will have former students/alumni as members; some check in with useful insights from time to time.  If there is a legal reason that prevents you from using facebook, you and I should talk about a possible workaround.  In a couple of weeks, I will ask you about whether I need to switch to snapchat for the fall semester, or whether fb is still sufficient.

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.  The usual expectations are 135 hours – 45 classroom hours and 90 individual study hours.  Do the math: that’s a considerable dedication of time each day/week.  (Even if we don’t always meet it, that is the goal.)

Second, and related to that last idea, is the prioritization of your work.  During the fall and spring, you have several competing courses, along with activities, work, internships, etc.  During a summer online course, the expectation is that your online course is your key responsibility.  If you are also working or interning, you would do well to think of  this course as a demanding part-time job of about 20 hours per week.  (Some weeks might be less, or more.)

Most of this work is not material or response that you can do a few minutes at a time waiting for the Metro or walking your dog.  Those might be great time to check the news, or to see if there are responses to your latest fb post.  But you also want to block out periods of time in which you will be undisturbed by work, personal, or other distractions.

Finally, combining the ideas above, no late work can be accepted in subsequent weeks.  Week 2 work has to be submitted during Week 2, etc.  A particular post might be minutes or hours late, with some adjustment to your grade, but may not leak into the following weeks.

Similarly, your course paper is due on the due date. 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 expect that late papers will not be accepted at all.

Grades and Assignments

Your responsibilities include (1) a thorough reading of the assignments before class and completion of the online discussion assignments, (2) relevant current events discussion on fb (if applicable to your class), and (3) a final paper.

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 300- to 400-word answer of your own to one 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 300-400 word discussions should not be mere summaries of the readings, nor should they be merely how you “feeeeel” about something. 

Your 100-word replies 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:

“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 this Bush recession is “creative destruction” which makes Romney richer and lets General Motors die and that’s good for America.”

Good reply format:

“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.”

In some courses:  Additionally, each week you will be responsible posting on facebook one link (to a news story, or government report, or scholarly analysis, or personal account, etc.), and briefly commenting on two links posted by me or by a classmate.   Good sources can come from traditional or new media – it is the substance of the story and your comments that matter.  Example:

Good news link:

“Dan Drezner (foreignpolicy.com)’s “inside baseball” account of the World Bank pres. Selection process.  I especially like the note about U.S. presidential re-election politics – do voters in FL, OH and PA really care who the next WB prez is?    http://bit.ly/IyhfMh

Not sufficient:  http://video.foxnews.com/v/1565035213001/

***Special note:

It seems like it should go without saying, but just in case:  this is academic work, 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 here.  Our online courses are usually 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 someone thinks (or says!), “Huh, I hadn’t thought of it that way” is a great win.  Open, sincere, fact-based, and analytical – and even partisan – but not mean or rude.  Thanks.

Additionally:  our Facebook group page is “closed” – only members of the class will be able to see it, and only I can admit people to the group.  But govt396.com is the “real Internet.”  It won’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 300-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,

– posting (and commenting on, in 20-40 words) at least one news/story on our fb page, and – commenting on (in 20-40 words) at least two of your classmates’s fb posts.

(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.  Not every course has Facebook.)

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, but should not be significantly shorter than the recommended lengths.

And finally, you will write a lengthier paper on the relevant  topic of your choosing; we will discuss.