Assignment Type: Online Discussion (update)

by Mike Gleicher on January 29, 2015

Link: Discussions on Canvas

When we originally designed the online discussion assignment type, there was a lot of uncertainty about how the class would be run. (both technically, and in terms of how people would respond). With 2 weeks of experience we can now be more specific and less confusing.

With the kinds of topics we’re covering in this class, discussion is important. Whether its talking about different viewpoints, or ways the ideas might be applied in practice, or critiquing designs, or even just clarifying ideas.

We will use online discussions as the primary mechanism for assignments in this class. Even for things that are primarily “handing things in”, there is value in conversation and critique beyond the initial submission.

Discussion assignments (either reading or design) will always be due the day before class. All deadlines are aligned with the “day” (so if its after midnight, it’s the next day).

So there will be two discussion assignments per week. If it’s a Monday or a Wednesday, there’s a discussion assignment initial posting due. Unless we explicitly tell you otherwise.

For discussion assignments, there is a deadline for your initial posting. Because participating in the conversation is important (and graded), we will not do evaluation for at least 1 week after the initial submission date. Effectively, the discussion is “open” for 1 week after the initial submissions for conversation where everyone has submitted their initial assignment. (of course, you can discuss before the deadline too).

So, at any given moment, you’ll have one discussion assignment that’s starting, one that you’re in the middle of discussing, and one that’s coming to an end.

Note: in addition to discussion assignments, there are also “seek and find” assignments, and 838 Bonus assignments. And there might be “non-assignment” discussions (either student initiated discussions, or non-required discussions, or …)

Grading Discussion Assignments

Discussion Assignments are graded. For this we are still working out the details – it is hard, since it is quite subjective, and we want to have enough bins to get differentiation, but not so many that the noise of subjectivity dominates. As of now, the scoring system for discussions is (sorry, we’re stuck with numbers because of Canvas):

  • 0 = did not turn anything in
  • 1 = minimal – not a complete assignment
  • 2 = late, but otherwise good assignment (minimal late assignments get 0)
  • 3 = complete
  • 4 = good / great
  • 5 = rare event – something notable

Note: we don’t expect that 5s are that common. For a “top grade” 4 is sufficient, a 5 is more like a 4 with a notation to ourselves that we want to remember it for some reason.

For a reading assignment…

  • to get a 3, you must really answer the given questions in a way that convinces the grader that you’ve done the readings and thought about it.
  • to get a 4, you must show depth of thought in your initial answer, and contribute meaningfully to the conversation.

For design assignments, we might need a different grading scale, and we might need to have separate grading for the initial posting and discussion.

Other Notes

We will divide the class into discussion groups (since having a discussion with 65 people is too hard). We will periodically shuffle the groups – not too often (since getting to know people is valuable). Canvas makes elements of this convenient, but there are issues when you are “in your group” you can’t see things outside your group.

Please be respectful of others in online discussions. There are lots of discussions of online etiquite (some nice ones are from CSU, Madison College, generic core rules, etc.) But the biggest thing: be a reasonable person and respect others. Remember that in this class, there is a wide range of students: people with different backgrounds, different levels, different abilities to write English, etc.). We reserve the right to remove inappropriate postings.

Learning Objectives

For reading assignments, the discussions are mainly to make you think about the concepts you are learning, and to build upon them by conversation with your peers.

For design discussion assignments, the goals are to give you practice at the skills of doing visualization (e.g. making designs, identifying tasks, critiquing, …) and also to re-enforce class concepts by having you reflect on others’ work and  getting feedback (and engaging in discussion) about your work

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