Interactive Communication – The online version

501 LogoYou may have noticed I have abandoned the idea of going all audio here. I’ve also decided not to echo every post from my grad courses here, but instead to do more periodic posts. And the periodicity will be rather long, since this semester’s classes are set up on a two-week cycle, in order to prepare for the shift from 16-week semesters down to 7-week courses. I know: yikes.

Today, allow me to introduce you to the Introduction to Interactive Communication Course, designed to be the first course people take when they come into the program. As former students know, I’ve taught some initial version of the “first graduate course” for about seven years now, in three different graduate programs. I like it because it is always, in some way, a survey, and it gives me the chance to try to set a trajectory for students’ graduate programs. I don’t know how successful I am at that, though, since many students end up thinking of it as that strange anomalous course we took at the beginning of the program. In fact, now that we are shifting the program, I think we need to be thinking about the curriculum again to make sure we are covering all our bases and not being more redundant than absolutely necessary, but that’s fodder for another post.

Like most of my grad courses, this one is blog-centric. The main course blog for the course may be found here, along with the start of a blogroll as students get their blogs set up. The assignment for the initial two-week “module,” may be found here, and includes a longish introductory talk and a shorter “nuts & bolts” overview of the syllabus. As the syllabus notes, the course provides a bit of a sampling of what the program is about, though the focus is less on design (found in more of the courses) and more on some form of overall social understanding of what interactive communication is and what it does.

As always, I’m trying something new with the classes this semester. (At some point, I’ll write about my experiments with Facebook as courseware last semester.) At the suggestion of an instructional designer, I’m trying self-assessments for each unit, to hopefully be able to get a better read on what students are getting out of the course–or not getting out of it–at each stage. I’ll let you know how that goes. Be sure to check out the participants’ blogs, once we get rolling, and I will likely point you to posts I think are interesting along the way.

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  1. Chet Atchison
    Posted 1/23/2008 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    I know that I’m still only a lowly undergrad student, but this class sounds very intriguing. I am a little bit of a geek and I spend a good portion of my saturday and lunch each day reading up on what’s going on all over the interwebs. I know that’s almost impossible to keep up with realistically, but learning how to really harness this power that is so readily available is a great asset for any profession. I myself hope to teach English at the College level sometime in the future and think that utilizing a blog source for student thoughts on writing or peer editing would be a great way to incorporate this new technology. And along with that topic thanks for the post about finding a teaching job. I think it will come in handy for future reference.
    Thanks again

  2. Posted 1/24/2008 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I really appreciated the course last semester. Alex teaches it “up”, challenging folks to really stretch themselves beyond the assignments and requiring folks to bring their own life experience to the table. As a result, we learned just as much from each other than we have from the actual assignments. Instead of teaching to the lowest common denominator, Alex set the bar initially very high and kept pushing us to get there. I don’t know that we came near to the level he would have liked from us, but it felt like things were constantly improving throughout the semester.

    The course achieved several non-syllabus objectives, too. It demonstrated a clear break in the instructional and learning patterns from undergrad days and clarified through example the role of graduate students as opposed to undergrads. The burden was placed firmly on our own motivation and our own ability to investigate the existing material on our own. It wasn’t enough to simply do the assignments to satisfy the requirement of having done them… doing the basic work was simply the minimum level needed to even begin to understand the class discussions. As an undergrad, my subtext was always “Tell me what to do now, and I’ll do it.”, and the 501 subtext became firmly reversed, with Alex’s position being always “Tell me what you’re going to do next, and I’ll help focus your efforts.”

    I’m not sure that everyone responded equally well to that mode of instruction, either. We were pushed beyond the comfort zone, and for folks who kept looking to Alex to establish *his* ideas and *his* expectations, it must have been very frustrating. Alex seemed to only want us to clarify *our* ideas and *our* expectations from ourselves. It made logical sense to me… we’re striving for a level of professional Mastery of this subject content. The ‘Master’ is final authority over their own work and given a credential which ideally confers a level of autonomy and authority in the professional arena. But what makes sense to me tends not to make sense to other people, so other students may find a struggle with adjusting to the challenges of the course materials all the while being thrust into a position of self-determination for what might be the first time in their academic careers. Or not, mileage will vary.

    Still, Alex gets major props for how he structured the timeline on the final project. Without the intermediary deadlines and due dates, I don’t think we would have been able to complete the project. Alex teaching 501 is a great class. I’m just sorry that this semester’s online students won’t get the full experience of a seminar/discussion group that meets face to face. I really do feel that 501 is sort of the grad school equivalent of Basic Training for the ICM program. If you can do well with Alex there, I don’t think there will be much of a problem with grades and performance elsewhere. In other words, a great gatekeeper course.

    My 2 cents. I’ll report back next semester on how ICM522 went, too, unless Alex decides to ban me from commenting on his blog. ;-)

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