Such an annoying mantra from some instructional designers who have never taught a college course that “students don’t do optional.” That always precedes the recommendation that every little bit of course material be given points to inspire what usually amounts to minor participation. Points? Is that what you call inspiration? Pity.
You know, I have always had students who do optional work–when the work seems interesting or valuable to them. I don’t mean that they send me extra essays, but they don’t count their discussion posts or the number of words in them; they don’t ask what the minimum requirements are. They just do good work and then even I forget what the minimum requirements were, as we become engaged in what we’re doing. Sometimes, I find myself saying “You could do this, but it’s not required” (and some of them do it). Even in adult training situations, I have found some really robust discussions occur in forums boldly listed as “not a required forum.”
So, please, let’s give all students lots of opportunity to participate and some credit (not the extra points kind) for wanting to participate without always counting up the numbers.
Update: Witness the 1000+ who signed up for the MOOC “Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success” on Blackboard’s CourseSites and are participating with great interest a week in advance. We aren’t receiving anything tangible beyond a badge, but still there is a lot of interest in learning for learning’s sake, I’d say, and isn’t that what optional is? #bonkopen