Trouble at Marlborough Mill

Well, far from it, actually.  The class have been considering Elizabeth Gaskell’s  North and South (1855) for a couple of sessions and for the first time there is an online session to accompany their in-class discussions.  I’ve adapted an idea I’ve used on my Fin de Siècle course previously in online sessions for this one.  It’s a relatively simple idea of getting each member of the class to choose a chapter from the novel to discuss: they situate it briefly in the plot, and discuss in more detail what happpens in the chapter and what significance it has in the ongoing novel.  This means everyone has got something of their own to contribute by way of each student picking a different chapter.  They are encouraged not to duplicate each other’s chapters — hence they also need to keep an eye on what is being posted up.  I was pleased to see that posts were going up only hours after the Friday morning class as a few students were keen to make sure they could post on their particular chosen chapter.

Are we nearly there yet?

This exercise is of course partly trying to encourage the practice of good, concise, attentive close reading — skills which we all want to see in essays.  I’m pleased too to see some students are clearly doing some extra reading on Gaskell, and are bringing that to bear on their posts.

I respond briefly to a few of the posts — adding a question prompted by something in a post and/or trying to encourage the discussion on a bit further.  From my virtual distance the class are coming across to me as quite motivated in relation to the online activities…I’m not overly having to remind them to take part and there’s a good level of engagement quality wise in the tasks set.

0 thoughts on “Trouble at Marlborough Mill

  1. Hi Rosie,

    Thanks! I am bidding for some LTA funding – I’ll email you! There are issues around learning contracts and referals I have to sort out, but hopefully I can get this going.


  2. Hello Sue,
    It’s the nature of an online discussion forum that everyone is in there together, and my sense is that students get used to this very quickly. Very many of them are, after all, used to social networking sites like Facebook where the open nature of comments is now routine.

    Students are encouraged to write well — i.e. grammatically and coherently and lucidly — and for the most part this also seems to self regulate. A student posting in txtspk, for example, will be seriously marked down for that, and they are all aware of such things from the outset via assessment guidelines and criteria.

    Not sure whether you are a member of staff at Sheffield Hallam… If your Department would like me to come and demo some of what I’m talking about — i.e show you in the VLE what I can only describe in the blog — and hence show you loads of examples of student responses to online exercises — then invite me! I’m available for visits next term.


  3. Hi

    Enjoying your site very much! Would you mind me asking a question? How do students feel about their peers seeing their responses?

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