Last weekend, I wrote my first essay for the course, a close reading of an Emily Dickinson poem I hadn’t read before. The suggested length was 500 words, but I finished mine somewhere around 775 words and still felt there were aspects of the poem I hadn’t fully explored (what’s with the snowy hats?!). Truth be told, while I can appreciate many of her poems, I’ve never really fallen in love with Emily Dickinson. While in ModPo we discussed the Whitman/Dickinson dichotomy as being somewhat false, I’ve long been a Whitman fangirl, and not an Emily lover. Sometimes when doing an explication or close reading, I’ll be doing the work, patiently annotating and scribbling down thoughts, and suddenly the poem will just crack open, and I’ll feel like I’ve accessed its true center. That didn’t happen with this one, but I think I did a fair enough job anyway.
One major value thus far has been simply the experience of being a student again. As an adult, I don’t have to keep reading or studying anything I don’t enjoy, while as a student, I felt keenly the torture of spending hours of my young life on subjects I detested, like math. Now in hindsight, I think that what I reacted to so strongly was not the subject itself, but the dismal feeling of plugging away at something that did not come easily to me, something I never thought I would truly be successful at, that made me feel stupid over and over again. I love poetry, but modern and contemporary stuff is definitely a challenge for me, and maintaining a dedication to pushing myself further is a good way to remind myself how hard that can be.
With this course, as with many humanities-focused MOOCs as far as I can tell, there is a system of peer evaluation for the written assignments. I submitted my essay Sunday morning, and at midnight, everyone who had submitted essays was also assigned four essays to review, using a structured rubric provided by the instructor. In addition to being reviewed by these four peers, each essay is posted in a discussion thread in the forums, available for reading and critique from anyone enrolled in the course.
The rubric suggests five groups of questions to consider when evaluating the peer essays, and I found the questions to be helpful and sophisticated. This is just a guess, but I suspect they will end up being too sophisticated for a good amount of the 30,000 students enrolled in the course. There are many complaints in the forums already that having the rubric only after finishing the assignment made it easy to feel that you had “failed” to complete the close reading in the way the professor intended. It seems as about ten percent of the enrolled students actually wrote essays; I’m not sure if that’s surprising or expected. I also wonder if the directions will be a little more specific for the future assignments. One essay I have evaluated clocked in at only 175 words, while mine was 775, and another student posted on Twitter that hers was 1770! Then again, it’s an important reminder that this is a big wild experiment for all of us, and that we are not being “graded” and should enjoy the limitless possibilities offered by the newness of the medium.
Lessons learned at this point: I’m definitely behind on my reading and not sure if I’ll be able to catch up with absolutely every poem. Participating in the evaluation process, despite some tech snafus, was fascinating, seeing what the other participants had produced, and how they illuminated my own understanding. Getting a somewhat curt/dismissive eval from one of my classmates definitely stung, but not for too long. I really wish I could transfer some of this energy into a face-to-face discussion, which have popped up in many of the locales with clusters of ModPo students.
Future posts: why I think this MOOC is working, what good MOOC pedagogy looks like, my thoughts on some of the readings, and thoughts on future assignments (I’m hoping at least one will involve writing a poem in the mod/contemporary style!). Will I ever be fully caught up on the readings? Will I continue to make the time to stay committed? Will I complete the course? Stay tuned to find out!
- ModPo Class: Week 2 – Close Reading (poetrycurator.wordpress.com)
- ModPo Class: Week 3 – Evaluations (poetrycurator.wordpress.com)
- Form is content, or ModPo! (enerihot.wordpress.com)
- ModPo Review: Week One of My Coursera Experience (alexrister1.wordpress.com)
- 30,000 students but no-one has to share a desk! (josephinecorcoran.wordpress.com)
- MOOCs, ModPo, and Me (Part One) (jackieregales.com)
- No-comfort Zone Week Ending Sept. 16 2012 (quillfyre.wordpress.com)
- Emily Dickinson – a close read (poetunderconstruction.wordpress.com)
- An invitation to join the Future of Education Mooc (moocblogcalendar.wordpress.com)