Recreating an Online Class for Greater Student Participation and Retention

Judith McDanielBy Judith McDaniel
Editor, Web-based Course Design

I am core faculty for the M.A. program in Literature and Writing at Vermont College. In the last decade, Vermont College was bought by Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, Ohio. I live full time in Tucson, Arizona. I attend faculty meetings in Ohio and Vermont by conference call, and nearly half of the participants in any meeting are phoning in from all parts of the United States.

Last semester, two days before classes started, I took over a course that a colleague had developed; he was unable to teach for health reasons, and so I had no choice but to use the syllabus and the course site that he had developed. I went through the semester following the syllabus he had created and the discussion prompts that engaged the students each week in a conversation about the materials. I scrambled to keep up with the reading each week; I have a Ph.D. in literature, but my specialty is nineteenth century poetry and fiction, while his was drama and postmodern literature and theory. Reading even a part of what he had assigned was enough to stretch me, and I could only imagine how the students who were attempting their first graduate work might have felt. Continue reading