22 Dec 2009 [ Prev | Next ]

5. Course Requirements

The course requires
  • a willingness to concentrate on assigned materials
  • time-management and self-motivation
  • regular and in-depth online participation
  • a willingness to explore, organize, and revise what you already know about games
Engaging with Assigned Materials

As a student in EL250, your role is not to enter the virtual classroom as a passive, empty vessel, waiting to be filled with the facts you'll need to spit back for points on the exam. Rather, you will be asked to demonstrate the capacity to identify, develop, and defend your own original thoughts about the assigned materials (including chapters and articles to read, videos to watch, games to play).

There is no final exam in EL250 -- instead, there is a final research project in which you present what you have discovered about a game of your choice.  In order to understand what I am asking you to accomplish in that final research project, you will need to familiarize yourself with what other researchers have discovered about games that they chose.  And to do that, you will need to examine the assigned materials, and practice discussing with your peers what you have learned.

If you aren't used to this kind of approach -- where the emphasis is not on memorizing solutions to issues that the experts have already settled, where instead there may be multiple contradictory but valid answers to questions that haven't yet been settled, and where you are asked to come up not just with your own answers, but your own questions -- I ask that you trust the design of the course.   Keep yourself on track, ask questions when you're confused, share your insights when you're inspired, and let your peers and me know when we've said something helpful.  I'll ask the guiding questions that will help you stretch your comprehension, developing your ideas and strengthening your critical thinking process. 

Time-Management and Self-Motivation

An online course requires better-than-average time-management skills. 

Engaging with the assigned materials on a regular, routine basis, for a wide variety of games, not only gives you breadth of knowledge, but also helps you develop the vocabulary, methodology, and evaluative skills you will need in order to present your own original findings in the final project. 
A typical unit in EL250 will include:
  • Study Media (such as an online game to play, or a video to watch)
  • Study Readings (such as a magazine article, a fansite, or textbook chapters)
  • Online Discussion (an initial response to the media and readings, and active participation, over the next 48 hours, in the online discussion, on the course blog, on your own online reflection journal, and online interacting with the instructor and classmates)
  • Summative Exercise (a short written response, or possibly a video or some other activity, that you can submit for an assessment of your progress so far.  For example, at the end of a unit that explores gender in two or three particular video games, I might choose a different game -- one we haven't discussed in class -- for you to analyze.)
A typical unit will last for two or three days, with no more than four units active at any one time.  Units will close down so that we can focus on what's current and keep moving forward.  (Note: because the units expire, if you fall behind, you won't be able to pick up missing points by tackling a backlog of assignments just before the course is over.)

Online Participation

Regular online participation includes keeping a reflection journal (in which you will keep a record of your initial reactions to assigned readings, videos, and games, as well as your more in-depth reflections, and interactions with the online reflections of your classmates). If you do the routine work for each unit, your thinking will level up with the complexity of the course material.

While most of the interaction will be on the course weblog and on student weblogs, some will take place in other environments (inducing GriffinGate and Turnitin.com).  I'll always try to be very clear about what activity is to take place in what online environment, but if you ever have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Occasionally I will send out bulk e-mails to the addresses on file in GriffinGate. If you check a different address more regularly, please use SHU's e-mail forwarding service so that you don't miss important updates.

Here is a general outline for how I will spend my day.
  • 9am:
    • review late assignments that were due yesterday
    • close gradebook entry for yesterday's assignments
  • 10am:
    • review submissions that are due today
    • online office hour & check online discussions
  • 11-4:   assessment and preparation
  • 4pm:   new material posted to course website (including information on exercises due 2 class periods from now, and updates and clarifications for pending assignments)
  • 4-5:     online office hour & check online discussions
  • 6-11:   family time (I may very well be playing computer games with the kids)  
  • 11pm:  check e-mail & online discussions (I'll post brief answers when I can)

Writing and Revision

Informal and formal writing is the primary student product that I will assess in this course.

Any form of writing is a skill; it is not easy to learn (or teach), and meaningful progress only comes with practice.
  • In high school, your teacher may have called your attention to every single spelling and punctuation mistake on your rough drafts, and then given you points for correcting them.
  • In college, however, you are expected to develop the ability to edit and proofread your own papers. Hence, I do not plan to mark every mistake I find when I review your drafts.

I may mark up only one section of your paper, to show you the kinds of mechanical problems that you should address. In later assignments, it will be your responsibility to identify and avoid more of those same mistakes.

Please keep copies of rough drafts of papers; that is, instead of saving overtop of your old files, save each new version with a new name.  I may want to talk with you about your writing process before recording a grade.


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