Over the last few weeks I have been compiling a list of blog ideas to write about when I finally catch up. Several relate to lessons learnt from failures in my open online research course where grades are being negotiated. There are several I want to share, but today for the 9x9x25 challenge I am going to focus on just one of these: the hot mess of confusion and disorganization that resulted from too many options.

In my course I fully embraced our College’s strategic vision of flexible and customized learning. I also offered students the option of engaging in an open or closed learning space on the course website (powered by WordPress), inside Moodle, or on another platform (which ended up being Facebook). Students were able to submit work on their individualized timeline in any of those spaces. I subscribed to their blogs, watched my email and routinely checked the Facebook groups.

What happened?

geralt / Pixabay

Because there was no firm due date and multiple places for students to hand in their work I spent too much time looking for work that students had not submitted yet. I write like this happened in the past, but it is still happening. I constantly felt like I was missing something and was far behind on my marking when in fact I wan’t. I still feel like I have missed something.

Sometimes I needed to email the students to find out where to look for their work. Often it simply wasn’t submitted in advance of their grade negotiation appointments and other times it was hidden in my flooded inbox. My inbox is not a good place to send work for grading. It is a lot to keep track of. Too much. I get way too much spam and other emails to be able to effectively track marking in my inbox. I need one place to look for student work where I can see just how much is submitted and left to grade.

Worse, because I got so behind on marking student work and re-submission of work the students sometimes submitted their work in more than one place. I told them part way through that they could upload their links to Moodle for me to mark their work, but several students posted it in an essay-like format instead of linking to their blog.

Guess what I did? … Marked the same thing twice. The good news is that I was consistent with myself. Students in this case also got feedback in multiple formats. However, it was a little frustrating since I was stressed out from working overtime just to catch up to my ever increasing work to mark.

Never again!

I pride myself on organization. It does not feel good for me to experience this kind of disorganization in my marking. My goal is always to get my students feedback as fast as I can – there is no time to waste looking endlessly for student work. I have since asked them to submit their work in one place: Our learning management system (LMS). They can still post their work wherever they want and link to it, but I need some measure of sanity.

I am not saying that you need to use a learning management system to be organized. However, giving up the LMS in favour of a completely open learning space has a few drawbacks. Students cannot (and should not) be forced into public learning spaces, which means that assignment submission should likely still occur inside some kind of LMS. Yes, I also have google folders for each of my students, but it is difficult to know when to check student work. For me the work of tracking what needs to be done is beautifully done inside the LMS. It is also something students are use to. Using the LMS for assignment submission is something I am going back to.

Next time, I hope to talk about the need for some kind of deadlines.

geralt / Pixabay



Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit http://nursekillam.com/.


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