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Starting with Students: Open Course Design

Book Chapter
Christopher R. Friend, Robin DeRosa, and Jesse Stommel
Doing More Digital Humanities: Open Approaches to Creation, Growth, and Development
Publication year: 2019

The Digital Humanities value openness and sharing—of knowledge, practices, tools, and data—all the way to its core. This openness is evidenced through the longstanding efforts of DHSI, through the recently announced Tech for Humanities collaboration site. The current movement toward Open Education Resources signals a broader trend to improve the accessibility of academic materials in spite—or in defiance of—the rising costs of tuition and enrollment. With all the attention given to the openness of DH’s resources and products, it is time to turn toward its courses and ask how they can be made more open.

This chapter will give needed attention to course design in Digital Humanities by positioning openness as a critical core factor in sound modern pedagogy. Starting from a position of student advocacy, we will argue that meaningful learning requires divergent thinking and genuine curiosity, and that those can best be facilitated through accessible materials and accessible courses, respectively. The authors will show how applying the principle of openness to the content, resources, and pedagogy of a course helps demonstrate the values of Digital Humanities through its teaching.

While this chapter has a more classroom-oriented subject than most in the initial Doing Digital Humanities collection, its emphasis on the value of openness reduces divisions between classrooms and the work of the discipline. Ensuring the openness of that work will allow various aspects of Digital Humanities to support and develop each other. Our goal is to show that openness should be second-nature for DH projects and courses alike.

Outsiders, All: Connecting the Pasts and Futures of Digital Humanities and Composition

Book Chapter
Christopher R. Friend
In Dorothy Kim and Jesse Stommel (Eds.) Disrupting the Digital Humanities. Punctum Books.
Publication year: 2018
Front cover of book. Text reads, “Bad Ideas About Writing, edited by Cheryl E. Ball & Drew M. Loewe.” A photo of rows of flimsy desks and 1960s-green chairs atop a hardwood floor, possibly of a gymnasium.

Student Writing Must Be Graded by the Teacher

Book Chapter
Christopher R. Friend
In Drew Loewe and Cheryl Ball (Eds.) Bad Ideas About Writing
Publication year: 2017
This chapter will assert that, if student writing is to be truly purposeful and genuine, the teacher is likely the least-qualified person available to assess the writing’s quality/effectiveness. Instead, members of the community to which students write should determine quality/acceptability. In other words, students — even in FYC — should for effect in the real world. Research derived from the work of Peter Elbow and Paolo Freire to establish a context/goal of student empowerment.
This argument incorporates other points, likely discussed in greater detail in other chapters. Specifically:
  • Writing Should (not) Only Be About Writing — Students need to determine the topics/purposes of their papers to authentically examine exigence.
  • The Research Paper (is not always appropriate) — Students enrolled in non-research-driven institutions are often in school to improve their employability in fields that do not use the research paper as a genre; training students to write them is of questionable use/import.
  • Writing is (not) Contentless — If “good writing” is defined by form(ula) and correctness, then content and purpose are irrelevant; however, if students write for their own reasons about their own topics, content and the intended audience are vital and should be accounted for in the assessment of student writing.

Overall, this chapter argues students should be the driving forces behind their own writing, and that the more a writing instructor attempts to constrain student writing, the less authentic — and therefore less relevant and beneficial — it becomes.

I address the concerns of consistency and curricular priority by asserting the importance of a curriculum that benefits the student, not the institution, and suggesting that an effective “standard” curriculum should allow “wiggle room” for students to shape the course to meet their own needs.

Writing at Scale: Composition MOOCs and Digital Writing Communities

Book Chapter
Christopher R. Friend, Sean Michael Morris, and Jesse Stommel
In Abigail G. Scheg and Daniel Ruefman (Eds.) Applied Pedagogies Logan: Utah State University Press
Publication year: 2016

Online writing courses have, up to now, applied digital tools to traditional writing classroom approaches. Digital workshop groups, peer-review, essay assignments — no matter how inventively framed using video, animation, code monkeying, and more — adhere, largely, to pedagogies created for on-ground classes (pedagogies that include assumptions of genre and form, as well as assumptions of learning objectives, outcomes, grades, and even the course itself as container for the writing done there). But new pedagogies, and new writing, must be invented to embrace all that digital writing may be.

In November 2012, as part of our work on Hybrid Pedagogy, we designed and co-taught a digital writing MOOC called Digital Writing Month (DigiWriMo). An adaptation of National Novel Writing Month, DigiWriMo sought to break open the boundaries of writing, beyond the concerns of genre and form, and to enlist people into an experiment designed to discover what digital writing is through the enacting of the same. Outcomes were also invented along the way. While we began with the goal of writing 50,000 digital words in one month, we quickly realized that the meanings of “digital words” and “writing” were up for grabs. Through improvisation, collaboration, and revision, DigiWriMo began to reveal the nature of online writing — a nature very different from writing in a traditional classroom — and the ways we learn to write in the digital age.

In the months following DigiWriMo, we’ve continued our investigation of teaching writing at scale through a series of articles on Hybrid Pedagogy and Twitter chats that respond to the recent rash of beginning composition MOOCs.

This article will discuss the discoveries we have uncovered during our exploration of the changing nature of composition and writing in online environments.

Critical Examination of Distance Education Transformation across Disciplines

A Kaleidoscope of Variables: The Complex Nature of Online Education in Composition Courses

Book Chapter
Christopher R. Friend, Sean Michael Morris, and Jesse Stommel
In Abigail G. Scheg (Ed.) Critical Examinations of Distance Education Transformation across Disciplines. Hershey: IGI Global.
Publication year: 2014

The relationship between composition courses and online education is complicated, and attempting to summarize that relationship in a blanket statement may be feeble or futile. As a field, composition faces the challenge of identifying best practices in online education at the same time that it struggles to identify standardized content for its courses. Assessment challenges also plague online composition courses. While other fields might assess student work with standardized methods or computerized scoring, the work of composition requires tedious and labor-intensive assessment methods difficult to delegate to software; indeed, a recent petition illustrates significant instructor opposition to computer scoring (Haswell & Wilson, 2013). This chapter illustrates the current state of challenging conversations within composition studies as a kaleidoscope of positions in which instructors using online education position themselves.