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Encouraging Participation

September 12, 2017

I’m currently at the Open Source Summit in LA and I’ve been reflecting on our progress so far in our Freshman Seminar class. This is the third week of class and students are attending a required two-class sequence on Information Literacy put on by our library while I’m gone.

In the past two weeks, I’ve been concerned about how to foster more participation. In an ideal world, students would participate because they’re vested in the outcome of decisions made in class. However, I’ve had low participation, anywhere from 10 to 15 out of 27 students, in several recent online activities. Many students also seem to be reluctant to participate in class.

For instance, We’ve been brainstorming things like the grading distribution for three different kinds of deliverables to fulfill a Personal Development course outcome. We had a good conversation in class and came up with four different point distribution options with two modifications based on dropping the lowest grade. However, only 10 out of 27 students voted on the result. At this point, I can’t tell if this low response is because students are having difficulty navigating the course management system to fill out the surveys, if they don’t have time to fill out the surveys, or if they don’t care enough to find them.

This has left me wondering how to get students to stand up and take control over their learning experience. I’ve provided them with multiple opportunities to direct their own learning path, but students haven’t taken advantage of these opportunities and I’m not sure why. I understand that the experience in our Freshman Seminar is different than their high school experience and I also understand that this is a typical transition for freshman. When I get back next week, I will announce that I’ve rewarded two early contributors to our community with 1% extra credit on their final grade. I’m hoping that this will gain students’ attention, but I’d like to create some intrinsic motivations that go beyond course grades. Still pondering….

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