what I see is not what you see

Teaching online, I often forget, but not for too long, that students and I see things differently. Some of those things are visual and some conceptual.

I have access to information about all my students and all their grades in our LMS grade book, and that gives me more of an overview, not just about the span of grades, but about whether I’m keeping up with it, who has or hasn’t submitted work, and how much work in general has been completed. Because I can see everyone’s work, I have a comparative view as well, whereas students, unless working on a collaborative project, mostly see only their own work in isolation.

Conceptually, I have more of a sense of the big picture of the course from the beginning, because the design is in my head and mapped out in various documents. I tend to like to roll out content to students, so as not to overwhelm them, but I’m sure that in some ways, it also makes them a little apprehensive about what’s coming. Just seeing the list of graded work on the syllabus does not convey the multitudes of documents and presentations that go along with it. Formerly empty folders with notes about being filled later might come as a surprise when filled up.

Then there’s the software that might work in odd ways. I’m going to single out one that I love to use, even with its flaws–SoftChalk. I create a lot of lessons with SoftChalk because they are attractive as mini-websites and because you can have students participate in them through a variety of quizzes and activities that may be either formative (self-check) or summative (connected to the LMS grade book). In my writing courses, of course, I like to use the essay feature so students can submit writing. It is a pretty nice feature, but it does not accept formatting from such programs as Word, and does not even reflect multiple paragraphs, so if I ask for two paragraphs, I get one and have to figure out where the second one starts–not helpful.

In addition, SoftChalk automatically puts a zero (0) in the grade book for every submitted essay until I have read and graded it. You see where I’m going here. Let’s play the wagering game “how many emails and messages do you think I receive from frantic students wanting to know why they have a zero for their writing.” One human can simply not grade fast enough to stem that flood. Notes not to panic in the discussion board or on the announcements page never reach everyone, and even the ones who do read it are still worried, as they should be.

Which reminds me, I need to clean up a few zeroes.

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Categories: software

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