The fall semester will see me teaching two lit courses online, one straight on and the other as a hybrid course, where students meet with me once a week and make other time for meeting online in the foums of WebCT Vista. This may be my last online course for a while. I’ve taught online courses now going on close to five years and have become fatigued (“Captain, I grow fatigued”) with the environment. The next few years will see a concentration on intensifying the semester by using tech to “grow” the learning space beyond the “arbitrary” classroom. I keep going back to what my friends Larry Johnson and Robert Wren called the 24 hour classroom back in the late eighties.
One approach I want to try is having students talk about a piece of music online and in this way acquaint themselves with the Vista forums and the general geography of the learning space. Once they’ve done some work with the music, considering the lyrics and the phenomenon of music as something to “discuss” and argue about (much as we will do with the literature, then other areas of the course will open using Vista’s release tools.
This got me to thinking about guardfields in Storyspace and their significance to the experience of hypertext. The release tools in Vista behave like guardfields in that they restrict certain kinds of information from appearing in the new media space given a variety of conditions, much like levels in a computer game, which, until certain conditions are met, will open in all their glory. Pedagogically, this is one way of assessing a person’s path through the material of a college course.