Rob's challenge was about "office hours," but that is too instructor-centric for me; what I've designed instead is a new option I really want to use in class next semester to see how it goes: Thinking Out Loud. I will report back in August when I get the assignment actually set up for my classes!
This would be a blog post, something like the Famous Last Words option that people now do, but the difference is that instead of being a reflective post, it would be questioning post, where students bring a real problem to the table that needs brainstorming with input from others: it could be something related to the regular reading/writing assignments for class, something related to their class project, a tech problem, or a more "meta" problem about school/life problem in which the class is involved only tangentially. I would love it if students used this as a way to point out weaknesses in the class and proposed solutions!
I will commit to responding to those posts (with a back-and-forth dialogue in the post comments), and because the dialogue is taking place in the blogs, other students might chime in as well. This commitment from me is what makes it different from other blog post assignments; in my classes, the blog space really belongs to the students while I only chime in occasionally — but this TOL (Thinking Out Loud) post will have the distinctive quality that I will also be part of the process: I will respond to all posts, and I will be writing them too, asking the students to help me with problems I am trying to work on as I continuously (re)design the classes.
Here are some of the elements I expect could be involved in this activity:
Information: Instructions. There will be blog post assignment instructions, and this type of post will be included in the weekly orientation at the beginning of the semester, with hypothetical examples of how it could be used.
Method: Course information wiki page.
Practice. This activity does not have dedicated practice assignment, although students are doing blog posts and blog comments, and also working with images in blog posts, every week.
Information: Archive. There will be an archive of "Thinking Out Loud" blog posts for students to consult (during first semester this will be evolving; in future semesters, the archive of past posts will be available already); hopefully the archive of posts will inspire them to write their own TOL posts.
Method: Blog post archive maintained in Inoreader; perhaps also Diigo (for better searching, tagging).
Information: Blog Posts. The students writes a blog post describing the problem along with various solutions, with advantages and disadvantages for the solutions. I will also use this as a way to share my thinking about the class with students, writing my own TOL blog posts to request their help in finding good solutions to problem I am trying to solve with the class.
Method: Blog post following the usual format for class: a label to identify it in the blog navigation, plus an illustrative image, and keyword in title for Inoreader tagging.
Feedback: Instructor. I will respond to every TOL post (that is the "Office Hours" component); normally I do not respond to student blog posts, but this assignment is different: I will respond to every TOL post.
Method: I will use Inoreader tags to track every TOL post to make sure I reply, and activate email notifications so that I will see every comment on each TOL post.
Information: Active TOL posts. I will provide various channels for students to be aware of active TOL posts that could use comments.
Method: I will mention TOL posts in the class announcements when they are of general interest, and I will highlight TOL posts in the free-choice blog commenting assignment that students do each week.
Method: Students would see a TOL blog post as they visit other students' blogs, and I will highlight posts of general interest in class announcements also.
Dialogue. There is an ongoing opportunity for interaction between the posting student, other students, and the instructor.
Method: Blog post comments, with email alerts option.
Evidence for Post Completion. As usual, students will review their blog post, using a checklist for completion
Method: Gradebook Declaration.
Evidence for Comment Completion. As usual, students will write their comment as part of a commenting assignment, checking for completion.
Method: Gradebook Declaration.
Archive as Evidence for Activity Success. I will see the TOL Post Archive growing (or not... if this is a dud first time around, as sometimes happens), and I will revise the activity based on what I learn from the evolving archive.
Method: I will be relying on the automatically generated Inoreader archive of TOL posts, and after that archive grows, I might build a Diigo archive, tagging the posts and providing additional tags for searching/sorting.
Here's the diagram I made (total first for me: I never used Draw before... fun!)
(or click image for larger view)