Monthly Archives: June 2010

we’ll talk of ships and sealing wax

 I’ve spent a good chunk of the weekend transcribing interviews.  I had one done previously and I now have two more complete. As I was starting a third I thought to organize my audio files and see how many I actually had to do. It turns out I only have seven usable files.

Seven.

I’ve done 11 interviews.

So what happens to the other four? One early on was unusable because the person was also the chair of the department.  Due to her administrative responsibilities she simply wasn’t teaching enough too meet my criteria.

Then I had a lovely interview with a very lovely woman who turned out to be an adjunct. And that was my own fault. I didn’t check.  Looking back, I don’t think she got my standard recruitment e-mail, which would’ve screened for that. I’m actually hoping to be able to use her interview in a different project at some point after I finish my dissertation because she had some wonderful insights on related topics.

I had the interview that was eaten by Skype and that one really irks me. I haven’t had the nerve to go back to her and ask if we can re-create any of it but I will later this week.

Then I had a lovely discussion with a very enthusiastic faculty member who I can’t include because she’d been teaching blended classes. The class she was currently teaching the summer was her first completely online class. Again, we had a lovely interview and I hope to use her information for some future project, but she doesn’t meet my criteria for this one.

So I have seven. If I can re-create, with some help, the one that was eaten by Skype then I’ll have eight.  I have two more possibilities for interviews, which would put me up to 10, but I had really hoped to be done with the actual interviewing by now.

Though I have to say, having to do more is not necessarily a bad thing. As I’m transcribing the first interviews I did I’ve realized how far I’ve come in interviewing skill and in really focusing in on my topic area. The interview I did last week was so much better than the ones that I did in March.

I guess the bright spot in all of this is that I promised my chair I’d be half done with transcribing the next time I met with her, which is a week from Monday. I only have seven interviews, so I only have to have three and a half transcribed.  I’m almost done.

Yay?

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maintaining a presence

Presence. Something to think about on many levels.

Here and now however I’m thinking about online presence.  How present am I in the online classes I teach, in the CritLit2010 course I’m participating in this summer, on this blog, on my Amplify blog, on Twitter and so on?  This is not a post about the Community of Inquiry Model – though that is certainly one way to look at presence and one I have used before.  This is more of a personal look at presence.

What do I do and what are others doing when I really *feel* present in an online environment?  What do I need to do for some critical mass of others to *feel* that I am present and an active participant in community?  Here on this blog and other blogs I have had in the past it’s mainly about me taking the time and energy to post something substantial on a regular (at least weekly) basis.  If I stray too long it’s very hard to come back round and re-engage.  (Note to self for dissertation progress as well. ) I like getting comments but I’ve never had a lot of comments on a blog and I don’t tend to comment on others’ blogs.  It’s just not a conversational place for me.

When you go to a class – either physically or in a synchronous online setting – you interact and get feedback and stimulation immediately.  There has been much written about the rapid give-and-take of synchronous meetings versus the time delay of asynchronous ones.  It’s the whole delayed gratification issue.  You send something out and by the time someone replies you may or may not have forgotten where your train of thought was going.  However, the anytime-anywhere flexibility of asynchronous is what attracts many people to online classes and communities in the first place.  And there is a line between being an active presence in a community/class and feeling tied to it 24/7.  I have spoken with faculty who are present in their online courses 7 days a week because they want to be and those who are because they feel they *have* to be and those who state up front that they will only check in the course 4 or 5 days a week and that specifically excludes weekends and holidays.

I was involved in a discussion recently about the minimum size for an online class to run and the real crux of the matter was how many people does it take to carry on a reasonably-paced conversation to maintain interest and motivation for learning?  Of course it depends entirely on how active the participants are but since there is no way of knowing that in advance you have to pick a number and live with it.  (we picked 8.) In the CritLit2010 class, there is not a lot of discussion going on in the course Moodle site but there is a lot of posting going on outside on blogs, Twitter, etc. I have blogged but haven’t participated in any discussion so I don’t really feel like I have a presence in the course yet. 

I had another dissertation interview yesterday and we talked a bit about hand grading papers versus typing in comments.  Is part of “presence” really about, as Virginia Shea would say, remembering that (normally) every user ID in an online setting is a real, live human? I hand wrote comments for one assignment this past spring, scanned them in and uploaded them to the course. It made me feel more present but does it help the students?  Most of the faculty I have interviewed record audio or video for their classes.  Some studies have found that students connected more to online classes if they could see the instructor.  In a smaller-enrollment graduate class (as opposed to a 50+ roster undergrad class) I wonder about the possibility and practicality of having students record audio or video on a regular basis?  It would certainly increase my perception of their presence but it would also increase the amount of time it would take to process their work – both for me and for the other students.  Reading is faster than listening. Are the trade-offs worth it? Is file size still an issue?

I could go off on a tangent about legitimate peripheral participation here but this is long and rambling enough so I’ll save that for another day.

If you’ve actually read through this far please leave a comment so I know someone is present 🙂

Categories: meta, online, teaching | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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