What Makes a Good Post?


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

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.)

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, you need to think of your online course as your key responsibility.  If you are also working or interning, you need to recognize that this course is at least a demanding part-time job of about 20 hours per week.  (This applies more to undergrads.)

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.  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, 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).    These 300-400 word discussions should not merely be summaries of the readings, and 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 – see directions on any particular week’s page.  Essay assignments will also vary by course – check your course and week for specific word lengths.)

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:

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

Not good:  “No, that’s stupid.”

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

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, or other unpleasantness.  That’s not really suitable for your personal twitter account either, but it is certainly not appropriate here.  This is “classroom facebook”, not “locker-room facebook”.  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 when the class is over, I will password protect it. (And I am working to get rid of the ads – I don’t get paid for them.) But during the class, it is available to anyone on the Web.  This is a deliberate pedagogical choice.  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 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 – no first drafts

To review:  each week you are responsible for

– 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.