Last week at more or less the last minute I ran into a family conflict that required my missing class. I quickly took what I had planned to do in class: collecting and analyzing data on the size of the budget deficit, and repackaged it as two group assignments. I put the assignments on the wiki and sent an email to the class informing them that they would be on their own for the day.
How did it work? Not perfectly, but still reasonably well.
1. All the students stayed until the end of the class period.
2. They completed the assignments, though not perfectly, and posted their work on the wiki. The flaws were based on a slight misunderstanding of what I was asking for and they were very easy to fix.
3. Two students independently emailed me mentioning that the class had completed the assignments. I didn’t ask for any confirmation and found it interesting that they wanted to mention it to me.
4. I ran into another student the next day and she said, “Please don’t look at the wiki yet since we haven’t had a chance to add the graphics.” Again, I found that an interesting comment. Does it suggest they took the assignment seriously?
At the beginning of the next class period, I gave the students a brief survey to assess what they thought of the previous class. I asked them to rate the session on a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 indicated how productive the class was on a typical day when I was there. All but one student rated the session from 6 to 8. The unsolicited comments were revealing too:
* I think we completed all the assigned tasks, and I actually learned about the deficit.
* A little more chatting, but work still got done.
* Not many people involved in posting/discussion.
* Several people did work on computers researching, but I will be honest to say I did not.
* 6 out of 9 people participated in research (using articles, wikipedia, and making graphs)
* Everyone was on a computer getting work done but it took a while to getâ€¦warmed up.
* 1/2 the class was probably much more productive. I however, was notâ€¦I had a rough week and couldn’t focus.