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I went back to requiring weekly responses to readings and lectures after two semesters without the requirement. I know students always complained about weekly responses and I found that the grades in a course would not change with or without the responses. But, something told me that the online conversations were valuable.

There are already 138 posts to the forums on Moodle this semester. The students are using the forums actively, along with the group wiki pages I set up on Moodle for students. The posts reflect a much deeper attention to detail than I think the students exhibited in the courses without weekly responses.

While the grades might not be different without the responses, I'm convinced the overall quality of work and reflection is higher. I realize that if the grading were more objective this would not be an issue — in a writing course we always "curve" the grades somewhat based on the work in that class.

Also, I think the students rise to what they perceive as teacher expectations. The weekly responses convey that I care about the content. The fact I respond to their weekly online thoughts seems to encourage additional writing. I'm not marking grammar, spelling, or other mechanical issues. I want the students to write and reflect throughout the semester.

There is also a noticeable elevation of class discussions. Students come having read the assignments, which helps move discussions along so we can focus on problem areas.

I am glad that I went back to the weekly response model and will likely continue such work in the future, regardless of what the subject of the course might be.


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