Starting Monday I will be teaching a blended WRT307 course for Syracuse.
Blended, in this case, means that the course meets in person, on campus for the
second week of Maymester for two hours each evening, Monday through Friday,
before shifting to twelve weeks of online interchange and coordination via
Blackboard. The course is full. Twenty students are enrolled. Count
up the weeks and you get thirteen total (forgive me for flexing those
underutilized math skills, but this number is alarmingly relevant, as you will
see in a moment).
Syracuse offers this course in other formats: a six-week Summer I
course that meets on campus, a six-week Summer 2 course that meets on campus,
and a 12-week summer course that meets online. Sections following the
six-week on-campus format remain open. They have seats available, that is.
I wondered, "Why on earth would students so clearly prefer the thirteen-week
version, which includes a Friday evening session at the end of next week, when
these other options are available to them?" I floated this question in the WP
offices and heard about how great a preference many students have for actually
meeting a person. Might be exactly right. This falls into what I
think of as the "metaphysics of presence"-based critique of classes that meet
exclusively online: they’re too virtual, too dependent upon writing and only
writing, too far removed from the material commonplaces of fluorescently lit
bodies slumped over in badly designed deskchairs, classroom style. [I can’t make
up my mind about which emoticon to insert here.]
I accept that some students might be drawn to an online section where they
get to meet the instructor for a few face-to-face sessions. When I logged
onto MySlice this week to check the class roster, I found another reason that
could explain the attraction to this section, a section with a bonus week over
and above its 12-week online-only counterpart (other than the "metaphysics of
presence" shtick or the named instructor):
The class is listed as meeting only during Maymester. For half
of Maymester, actually: one week, instead of two. Ten hours total. I
won’t be able to confirm this suspicion until next week, but that crucial
qualification, Maymester Blended or Maymester +12, does not show
up in the online enrollment system. That’s…*gulp*. Worrisome, anyway.
So I went ahead and emailed everyone enrolled to explain that most of the
heavy lifting will get done in the 12-week online postlude to Maymester. A few
days since the email, the class is full. I welcome the full class (capped
at twenty, it’s a reasonably-sized group), but I can’t help but brace just a
little bit for Monday evening, for that moment when we take an earnest,
collective look at the schedule, when I’ll have no choice but to explain the
missing asterisk next to Maymester in the registration system.