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The Whole Enchilada

I finished setting up my three asynchronous classes for the spring semester of 2021.

To be fair, one of them, the second half of the art history survey, was copied over and updated. But I had to change the assignments because what I did last time was connected to the face-to-face meetings I had interspersed throughout the semester. For the most part, the links and discussion prompts did not change much. However, I did make some changes to the course in order to fit in more decolonized and diverse material.

The other two classes, African-American Art and Art of the Medieval World, had to be built from scratch. I had to rethink the course objectives (though I had devised them for when I proposed the courses), decide on what they needed to watch (from smarthistory) and read, and do, especially in terms of written or verbal assignments.  I've got a pretty lively assortment of options for students: games, debates, critical analysis papers, pilgrimages updated to the modern world, and blog entries on African-American artists.

I was thinking, however, that while I will need to check into each class during the semester as we roll, and I have to grade all those "lively assortments" of assignments, the classes are all done. I might have to put up some videos to explain concepts that aren't clear to students as I read through their discussion posts and learning journals. But the content is up. It's there. The intellectual ideas with which I want them to wrestle are set up and ready. I'm just waiting for students!

This strikes me as very different from how we normally prepare for the first day of classes or how we make up a syllabus. The syllabus tends to be the skeletal bones of the semester. Then, as the semester rolls along, we add the organs, the muscles, and the skin to the bones. In asynchronous teaching, I have the full "bodies" of my classes already done. Except for the actual teaching. The table is set, to use a different metaphor. It feels good. It feels different.

I wonder, though, if this kind of preparation for a semester is so foreign, so different than the way syllabi are traditionally created, that some faculty don't take to the online asynchronous class design.

What say you?

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