What a Semester!

As we conclude the unexpected experiment in quickly transitioning to remote learning, I’m reflecting a lot on how things went, and I’m preparing for the likelihood of doing this in the Fall semester.  In both my classes, I did not incorporate any synchronous component, knowing that many students might have a lot of scheduling conflicts as they balanced expectations at home.  And so my approach generally involved posting lectures and asking students to comment on the readings via our Blackboard page.  This has the virtue of allowing me to count and track student participation.

This approach to participating is not ideal, of course, and students rightfully complain about just posting comments to post (a sort of “going through the motions” approach to class participation).  This is very different from the often vigorous back-and-forth that can characterize in-person discussions, especially in smaller classes.  And yet, crafting a post involves some thinking and reflecting, and that’s better than not thinking and reflecting, right?

So how did students do?  Below is a graph that tracks the percentage of students who posted on each class date’s discussion thread, along with a summary of how many students posted at least something on any day between late March to early May.


By and large, I’m quite satisfied with these totals.  Participation did seem to decline as the semester wound down.  But in general, about half of each class–or more–participated week to week, and nearly everyone participated at least once.  As usual, Bowdoin students rose to the occasion, and I was deeply impressed with their poise and intelligence.

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