literature review, under construction

I continue to have trouble understanding the assignments in this course.  This seems to be related to the course’s online nature (and my own obtuseness).

First, I’m never really sure what’s due.  That’s my fault, for not reading the syllabus, or for not paying attention (or taking notes) when I do read it.  What is due tonight is a weekly check-in.  That’s what I’m doing right now.  However, I’ve received a grade so far for “timeline” and “pre-thesis.”  Do these count as check-ins for their respective weeks?  I doubt it.  Did I get credit for my prior check-ins?

Second, my grades for these two items were 10 and 40, respectively. That would seem to be a 100% (10 out of 10) and a 67% (40 out of 60) on these assignments.  67% is not acceptable, personally, but that isn’t the end of the story: the comment reads “a good start!”  Does that mean I’ll be getting more points here as I fill in the thesis?  I can’t really tell.

Unrelated to that, I got the good news this week that I’ve been accepted into the MA program.  Since I started working toward this degree, in Spring 2007, I was seeking and being given permission to take each course.  I was missing only my writing requirement.  I passed the WREE in February.  My status as a student in the MA program is one big thing I no longer have to worry about.

Research for the literature review continues.  I am spending too much time on the search, limiting the time I have to write.  This isn’t good, but it isn’t horrible, since I can write quickly.  (I had a six-year career as a journalist in my 20s.  I wrote a lot, and I occasionally was required to write single-draft copy extremely quickly.)

My next decision is how to break what I’ve found into three sections.  My paper will be on the use of an online classroom-participation system as a tool to enhance participation, and I believe I’ve identified section three: do we even need participation?  I’ve found an interesting article that questions the fundamental assumptions about this popular grading component.  I’ll look for other articles to support or refute the importance of classroom participation.

I’m not sure what sections one and two will be about.  Most likely one of them will be a survey of existing participation-tracking systems.  Maybe section one will be low-tech systems and section two will be high-tech systems.  I welcome suggestions here.



  1. Darlene said,

    April 29, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Well Bruce, I’m not sure if misery loves company but I wasn’t happy with my pre-thesis grade either. I have to assume if we keep putting one foot in front of the other and putting out our best effort, the points will magically appear from somewhere. At least, that’s how my classes have worked so far. Have faith.

  2. Brian said,

    May 1, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Great questions and thanks for sending me an email alert to know to look for them!

    Being a successful student involves three things. 1. Figuring out what the person who does the grading thinks they want you to do. 2. Figuring out what you actually have to do. 3. Making the person who does the grading understand that you did what they think you should have done.

    In an online class this can be even tougher!!!

    I try to make it as easy as possible by putting all due dates in the same place, on the schedule page. If you check the schedule page you will see a link to the session pages and a brief idea of what that session is about in the first column. The second column specifies the assignments that are due in that session.

    Keep in mind that what is due in the session and what is discussed in the session might be two different things because some assignments take longer than 1 week to complete!

    As for grading. In a class like this you have some big assignments due, pre-thesis and literature review especially so. It is rare to get these “right” the first time you submit them. It happens occasionally, but rarely. You get points based on how well your submission is…. but if you get less than 80% of the possible points you should take that as a signal to work some more on that assignment and re-submit. This isn’t the type of class where you get one chance and it is right or wrong. The assignments in this class are structured such that you have to get them done, and done pretty well to be considered successful. But they aren’t high-stakes assignments where you get only one chance to do it right.

    So hang in there and you will find that as your literature review takes shape and you can plug that into your pre-thesis your points will “magically” appear! Then you can also add to your chapters 1 and 3 and more points will be credited to your point bank account! All you have to do to re-submit something is to email me a link or a file and a brief message to tell me what to look for. In other words what you have changed about the submission. If I have to hunt for the changes then you make number 3 from the success formula a lot harder.

    Hope this helps!


  3. Darlene said,

    May 4, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Dang. There goes my thesis on Magic Grade Theory (MGT).

  4. May 5, 2008 at 9:08 am


    I’ll suggest the concept of “control” over the learner’s participation: pro and con.

    Pro = scaffold progression

    Con = The learner is constricted to a dictated online procedure of representation that may or may not truly represent the learner’s participation. For example: if the learner’s primary learning domain is psychomotor how will tracking truly represent assessment outcome based on this type of student?

    There is also the increasing area of assistive technology.

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