It’s the Fin de Siècle. I’m now into a new and unwanted regime whereby I only get to teach this module every other year, and therefore this module’s assessment pattern has had to dovetail with that of its sister module which focusses on the high Victorian period. Practically what this means is that the module is now running with more online sessions than when I previously blogged about it, and thus Ms E-Mentor has been making some new ones up.
For anyone new to this blog a brief outline of how I integrate online sessions with face-to-face teaching is as follows: across a teaching term of 12 classes there are 7 online sessions, assessed to the tune of 40% of the overall marks on the course (the other 60% is a research essay). From the outset of the course the students are clear where the online sessions dovetail with the classes as listed on the module guide. Online sessions continue and develop themes and issues that we have started exploring in the face-to-face classroom. This is a third year undergraduate course, and by this stage English students at Wolverhampton are familiar with using VLE discussion forums. They will have done so at least once, in the first year, but quite possibly more than once, in the second year as well.
I refer to the online sessions on this module under the acronym of FOE (the Fin de Siècle Online Experience). Our first FOE Session A is thus in Week 2, when we discuss Oscar Wilde and decadence. I’ve blogged about what we do in this session before so I don’t intend to repeat the description in full. What I noted this time round was that it took the students quite a while to get posting, to the extent that I sent round a couple of emails — on the Monday after the Friday class, and again on the Wednesday — encouraging them to take part. As the online sessions last a week (i.e. students have a week to post in the discussion forum, starting from the day of our class) several left it pretty late in the day to start joining in. Why was this? I don’t entirely know, although I was also able to see behind the scenes of the VLE that quite a few students were returning to the forum several times before they actually posted anything. So perhaps there was an element of ‘first session’ syndrome, with students wary or unsure of being the first to post without seeing what their classmates were doing.