Video 3: Course Rhythm

Back to Video 2 (transcript):


The course is a bit like a sourdough starter, or as a friend recently called it: a digital yeasty beastie: if you feed it a little bit every day, it will be the basis for a fantastic experience.

In total, I suggest you budget about 6-8 hours per week to dedicate to this course. That includes reading and viewing materials (texts, podcasts, image galleries), writing a first impression post, engaging in a discussion with others on these posts through, and writing a weekly reflection, as well as working on your final project. That sounds like a lot, but I'm talking about 6 hours of focused, productive time, not 6 hours interlaced with chatting to friends, and Instagram or Tiktok scrolling.

You should also bear in mind that in a face-to-face setting you'd have about 3hours of class-time, which we now need to cover in a different way (and Zoom is not the answer!). Just to clarify: There will be optional Zoom check-ins on a weekly basis, but you can get an A on this course and never be in a single Zoom session. That's the power of an asynchronous course: you choose the time that works best for you during the day.

I don't expect you to complete all weekly components in a single setting, and assignments are sprinkled through the week. I highly recommend you look at your course schedule, and block out specific times for working on this course. Just because we don't meet in the classroom, or at a specific time on Zoom to be "in class", doesn't mean you can't have a structure. Avoid last-minute-panic, or "puncutated hysteria", and instead feed your digital yeastie-beastie a bit every day.

Feeding the starter

This is roughly the weekly rhythm, once we get into the swing of things from week 2 or 3 onwards:

  • On Monday and Tuesday, look through the course materials for that week, and formulate your first impressions in a blog post. That post is due by 11.59pm EDT on Tuesday.
  • On Wednesday and Thursday, you will read through at least four fellow students' posts, and use to comment on their posts; finish commenting by 11.59 PM EDT on Thursday.
  • On Friday or Saturday, you write a reflection post: how has your thinking about this topic changed? What have you learned? What is still puzzling you? And you'll add "Three Things I learned this week" add the end of the post.
  • On Monday, you'll provide feedback on two of these reflections from fellow students. You may have different perspectives on the same topic, or covered different topics; or you may be able to help a student to find better words to express their ideas, or have suggestions for answers to questions they still struggle with.
  • And then we start all over again with looking at the course materials on Monday-Tuesday.

Every now and then there may be a week where you run behind on this schedule. There will be small extra-credit tasks to allow you to recoup some of the loss. If this happens regularly, I'll be in touch with you to check how things are working for you; that does not mean you "failed" in any way, it's because I may need to find a way to adjust the course and you may not be the only student who'd benefit from a change. If you get ill and are out of action for more than a few days, we'll find a solution to catch you up. Everything is figure-outable for this course, so don't stress, but instead communicate with me, and if necessary with the Health Center and the Dean of Students or Dean of Academic Affairs.

Proofing the bread

From week 4 onwards, there will be some different pieces to write: these will be longer reflections, both on your learning such as how you're growing as a reader, writer, and historian of China; and on course materials, trying to make connections across the weeks. These are meta-cognitive exercises: you will be thinking about your thinking and learning. That will help you identify strategies that work, and those that don't work (and you'd better avoid in future), and to see connections between course materials, and deeper-running themes.

Baking the bread

In the second half of the semester, you'll also be working more on your personal research project for the online exhibition catalogue. If that sounds a bit scary, don't worry: let me use another food analogy. "How do you eat an elephant?" "Bite by bite" There will be small tasks to help you through the process of creating a small research project.

It is likely that in the first half of the semester you don't always hit 6 hours, and go over the suggested 8 hours in the second half.

But if you keep up with your regular work, and earnestly engage with course materials and each other's work from the start, this course will be relatively simple: just like your sourdough starter grows with regular feeding and a bit of TLC, this digital yeasty beastie needs regular attention to grow!

Link to video 4