Creativity: What Students Say

Update May 2017. I added comments from the Spring 2017 evaluations.
Update December 2017. I added comments from the Fall 2017 evaluations.
Update May 2018. I added comments from the Spring 2018 evaluations.
Update December 2018I added comments from the Fall 2018 evaluations.
Update May 2019. I added comments from the Spring 2019 evaluations.

In order to provide support for my (un)grading system, I collected student comments from my course evaluations about grading, and I decided to do the same thing this time for "creativity" since that is way more important. In fact, one of the main reasons I won't put grades on anything is because I don't want students to feel like their creativity is constrained by my judgment in any way.

So, I grabbed all the comments for the course evaluations going back to 2010 (when my school went digital with the evaluations), and I did a Control-F to find every reference to creating and creativity. Here is what I came up with: you can see that students put a high value on the opportunity to be more creative, and it sure looks like they would welcome more creative opportunities in their other classes too!

The numbers refer to these prompts in the evaluation form:
1. What were the strong points of the course?
2. What were the weak points of the course?
3. What should the instructor do to improve their teaching?
4. What is your overall opinion of this course?

1. I feel like the course helped me improve my creative writing, and it was cool to come out of it with a shiny portfolio website displaying my work.

1. Ability to be creative and express yourself through stories.

1. channeling creativity

1. Great feedback Develops writing and creative skills

4. This is my favorite course! I really like working on my creative writing and love that I could do it on my own schedule.

4. I love to write so it was a really creative outlet for me this semester. It was the most unique course I've ever taken.

1. It allowed students to be creative and also learn about writing.

1. Creating my own stories and storybook was the best part of the class and very fun.

1. Creativity was number one and it made life a lot easier and the class a whole lot more enjoyable.

4. This was a very creative course.

1. The specific strong points of this course was how Laura encouraged everyone to have fun with the subjects and be creative.

1. It has given me the desire to consider creative writing as an additional hobby.

4. This course was incredible! I had so much fun being creative and writing in this course.

4. The creativity component of the course was amazing.

4. I thought I wasn't gonna enjoy it as much as I did. Mz. Gibbs allows us to really get out there and creative with our writing which I enjoyed.

1. Being able to explore creative writing without restriction.

1. This course encourages creativity. I was unfamiliar with many concepts involving the Epics of India; however, through the courses creativity component I was better able to understand the epics.

4. I enjoyed the flexibility and opportunity to use my imagination in the creation of the many stories I wrote.

1. I loved how student-driven this class was, and I liked that it motivated me to be creative and try new things in my writing and learning.

1. I loved being able to create my own websites!

4. Loved it! At times it was a lot of work, but because of how creative and flexible the work was, I didn't mind.

1. Getting to create your own stories/make your own schedule

1. Laura was amazing to work with and her constructive criticism for my creative writing projects were deep and wholesome which I appreciate so much!

1. I appreciated having the ability to pick and choose my assignments and create my own weekly schedule.

1. Laura gives many options for assignments if one seems too tough or I am having a creative slump.

4. I stepped out of my comfort zone and completed projects I did not think I ever would be able to. I am walking away with more creativity and enhanced computer skills.

4. It was a very good class that exposes the student to numerous Indian epics and characters. It also incourages creativity and exploration which are gernerally discouraged in other classes.

1. Laura very good at helping motivate creative thinking. I did not think I could write a good story and was terrified at the semester long project in the beginning but it turned out amazing and I am so glad I did it.

1. This class allows a lot of creative freedom which I love!

1. The core curriculum gave a great foundation, but the real learning happened in the process of creative writing (researching people, places, and stories encountered). There was encouragement and highly effective feedback on the development of my project, and I had more fun in this class than I have in years at school.

1. Allowing the student creative freedom.

1. Laura encourages a lot of creative freedom and positive reinforcement to help keep her students on track, interested, but also developing.

1. the creative writing aspects

1. I enjoyed the reading material and creativity encouraged from the instructor.

4. I loved this class. It allowed a lot of creativity from the student.

1. the creativeness

2. i learned a lot of skills about creating websites and useful internet skills

1. It was so much fun. It enhances creativity and thinking outside the box.

1. The class demanded creativity which was fun and kept it fresh.

1. Readings and storybook/portfolio assignments. These assignments encouraged creativity and learning to use tech-based tools to put together a very fun project.

1. I really loved the creative aspect of it. The semester long project was my favorite part.

4. I loved this class. I really enjoyed the different readings as well as being able to use my creativity in recreating the many stories we read every week.

1. This course encouraged critical thinking about the reading assignments and allowed for creativity on the part of the students.

4. I loved this course. I really enjoyed getting to use my creativity and was definitely a nice break from my regular classes.

4. This course is an excellent way to learn about the stories of the world while having an outlet to express my own creativity. It is very well-designed, and I had so much fun reading and telling stories that I hope to continue.

1. The professor engages very well with the students and allows room for improvement, as well as, room for creativity and adaptability.

1. Allowing us to write creative stories was very different from other classes.

1. I just love everything about Dr. Gibbs format of this course - it really allowed me to use my own creative ideas, gather up points for my desired grade, and receive feedback from her and students in the class.

4. This class is a great way to learn to be creative with writing.

4. One of my favorite courses I have taken! It was so refreshing to be challenged in a more creative way.

4. Very engaging and liberal in allowing students to express creativity.

1. I love that it was online and that it was based off of participation and our creative thinking skills! I loved writing stories every week and expanding my writing skills, as well as knowledge about different Indian Epics.

1. I absolutely loved everything about this course! I loved the format, the readings, the assignments, and the group assignments that allowed classmates to get to know each other. I had so much fun being creative this semester and enjoyed letting myself have fun with a class for once.

4. Incredibly happy I took this course. It allowed me to try creative writing without too much pressure.

1. This was one of my favorite courses at the University. The entire concept of using blogging and retelling of stories really helped me understand what I was learning. The format of the course inspired creative learning and imagination.

4. This was a very different class compared to other OU courses and I really loved it. It encouraged creative writing, discussion among peers, and personal growth. I would definitely retake this if I had to or recommend it to others. I enjoyed the flexibility of it and was challenged, but I was never stressed by the course despite the coursework.

1. The class really encouraged creativity and gave students the freedom to express themselves through their assignments.

1. Laura Gibbs has a gift for making each student feel important. Not only was this a creative writing class over the Epics of India, but our instructor taught us a multitude of applications on the computer.

1. It encouraged creative thinking and improved my style. It challenged me to push myself as a writer and go out of my comfort zone.

1. This course had a lot of open options available for a person to express their creativity or just explore a new style.

1. I love this course! As a science major student, I am glad to have taken this course because it is like a little extra break I have from all the science courses. I was able to improve my createive writings through this course and I really enjoy most of the reading materials since they are super interesting to read!

1. She allowed you to express your creativity through many different outlets. i really appreciated this, as i learn in different ways.

1. I think the best part of this class was the fact that it pushed you to get out of your comfort zone sometimes and explore your creative output.

4. I really enjoyed the course and loved the learning style compared to other courses that provide a basic outlook. This course was creative and enough to help engage me. As a student that struggles to read and write as well as remain focused and seek the outcome of any assignment, this class helped alleviate the stress and allowed me to have fun as I learned and appreciate the progress along the way.

4. I enjoyed the class and material. I am not usually a writer or creative person so this was a fun way to explore that side of me.

1. Being creative and using good feedback to improve your own work.

1. The course really encouraged creativity and exposed the students to a variety of world literature.

4. The course was very good. It successfully encouraged creative thinking.

1. Creative assignments and usage of blogging, as well as exposing students to website design and story writing.

1. This course is probably the best I have ever taken at OU. Wow! It required a lot of work, effort, and time, but I learned SO MUCH. Laura makes it very easy to be successful in this class, but has structured the course so that one must put in the work and time. She also encourages independent thinking and ownership over the work by giving us the freedom to choose topics for our projects and allowing us our own creative liberties.

4. This class was so engaging, fun, interesting, creative, and meaningful! I LOVED it!

1. allows creativity

1. It was enjoyable and creative.

1. absolutely loved the creative writing aspect also, there were many varied assignments, utilizing different strengths and weaknesses, some creative, some analytical. The variety made the class even better.

4. I thought it was a very creative course. I am not usually using my creative side because I am an accounting major.

1. I loved the course! The epics were great reads and I learned a lot about another culture. The storybook project allowed us to be creative and unique.

1. It really forced me to think creatively and be independent and organized.

1. Great format, creative writing assignments, instructor's passion

1. It emphasized much more creativity than most courses that I have taken. It was a very nontraditional course but set up very well.

1. It was interesting and creative.

1. Laura is a fun teacher. Encourages our creative side, which I haven't found often in many of my classes at OU. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the content and format of this class.

4. Awesome. There was a lot of creative writing for this class and Laura took the time to read it all and give feedback. She really believes in her teacher goal and that makes the learning experience more unique and fun.

1. The diversity of the material as well as the creative assignments.

1. Lots of creativity was encouraged. The teacher did a great job of improving my writing skills.

1. This course is what online courses should be. And then the fact that we must read, analyze and rewrite the stories in each unit on our own forces us into a critical thinking mode we could never reach if the stories were being interpreted for us in a traditional setting. This way, our first introduction to the material is only our own initial thoughts and interpretation, and we're forced to create something with that knowledge which requires us to really examine, dissect and understand these stories. And then we are exposed to other students' interpretations, which broadens and challenges our understanding. And the storybook projects teach us both technical skills we may never have been exposed to and literary skills.

1. I love the design of this course. It encourages creativity yet calls for responsibility.

1. I think the strongest point of this course is that is encourages students to be creative. With all the storytelling we get to do, it really allows us to reach into our imagination and come up with something really fun.

1. This course was very interesting, I really enjoyed all of the different readings and creating my own story book was fun too. This class was unlike any class I have taken at OU.

1. Really wide range of subjects was great. The creative writing was also very useful to try again. Great course.

1. I like how the course had many different assignments that allows the student to be creative in their writing. It also gives the students the chance to read other student's work as well.

1. The professor wanted us to expand our knowledge and get better at using the internet and the technology. The professor also wanted us to be creative and use our imagination when it comes to writing stories.

1. The course really encouraged creativity on the students part which I don't get from many other courses.

4. Loved the class. I was able to be creative and she was very good at critiquing our writings.

1. I think this might be the first class I have ever taken that I knew absolutely nothing about the subject matter going into the class. I really enjoyed everything we learned and I was also able to have the freedom to delve into specific topics within the class that interested me. I consider myself to be a highly creative individual and I usually don't learn best in the status quo university situation, so I really thrived on the format of Laura's class.

1. I really enjoyed all the creative writing opportunities because I was able to work outside of my comfort zone (very little creative writing has been encouraged in my schooling) and make associations that furthered my understanding of the subject matter.

4. I loved this class, it was the perfect combination of reading and creative writing! I really loved regaining my creative voice. Thank you!

1. I love the way the course is set up, it encourages creativity well!

1. I really loved that, after reading the required texts, Laura gave us the chance to stretch our creativity by giving us assignments that let us use our imagination.

4. I have been able to be more creative in the class then any other class, which is good, because I like to consider myself somewhat of a writer!

4. I really liked this class. It takes time and effort, it's not an "easy A" or a "blowoff" class. I really appreciate that Laura lets us be so creative in our assignments. In fact, the more creative the better! That's difficult to find on a college campus!

1. Despite the workload, it was very enjoyable. The whole format of the course was very creative and engaging, especially for an online course. Overall, I think the course gave us an opportunity to express our creativity in a way not many other courses on campus do.

1. Flexibility and creative opportunities

1. Laura's classes (I've taken 2 now) are SO creative. They have been a breath of fresh air compared to all of my other college courses. She allows for creativity and flexibility while still sticking to the course objectives.

4. I think the course is excellent! It allows you to be creative which you just don't get in a lot of college courses---unless of course you are taking art classes. This class is excellent.

1. The course was creative and allowed students to get outside of the class room and actually do something creative, fun, interesting and learn at the same time. She goes out of her way to encourage the students to enjoy learning and I know I did.

4. I absolutely loved the course. I'm a creative mind so her class was right up my alley. I enjoyed the challenges her assignments presented to me, and I can honestly say out of all my time at both ECU and OU, I've never enjoyed a course like I loved hers.

1. There is a wide range of classes taught here at the University, but this class is very unique. The learning experience I had in this class was far beyond what was expected. Not only did I learn a lot from the wide range of readings, but I also learned how to write and think more creatively.

1. it allowed the student to be very creative

4. I really enjoyed the class. It was fun to be creative and read and learn about different cultures and their stories.

1. I really enjoyed being able to work at my own pace and the creativity involved in the storybook.

1. Being an art major, all the different stories we got to read really helped aid in my creativity. The way her course is set up is perfect, I really got the most out of her class more than any other class I have taken.

1. The instructor is one of the best in the world. I liked having flexibility in chosing between creative and analytical writing assignments. It was fun!

1. Allowing students to recreate the stories was wonderful.

1. Being offered the freedom of taking the course online as well as the freedom to be creative added to the course

4. It was a really interesting and unique course. Laura is creative and extremely encouraging.

1. There was a lot ways to do well in this course. It was filled with really creative and helpful assignments for the course.

3. Other than find ways to make this class more creative, I would have to say none.

1. The material we read was great. Storytelling is a great way to make sure we understand everything and I loved the creative writing.

1. I really loved that it had a creative component.

1. This course is a dynamic and creative approach to the exploration of myth in various cultures

1. It helped a great deal with my CREATIVE writing

1. The course really let you be independent and creative.

4. I learned a lot in this class and had a great time creating my storybook project.

1. Very interesting course although the course load was extremely heavy I was able to practice skills like blogging, creating a website, and writing

1. This course required a lot of creative thinking and mostly independent work. Every week I was able to provide some of my own work and my own opinion on other people's works.

1. The assignments we had were actually fun and creative. I used the "homework" for this class as a way to relax after the homework in my other classes.

4. I loved this course. I wish all of the online courses, heck all of the courses I have taken at OU, were structured and as much fun as this course. It was a lot of work but it was fun and creative.

1. It was such a great outlet to have a creative exercise, and the grammatical corrections/revisions are spot on. It's really impossible not to learn a thing or two and grow as a writer during this class.

1. The wide range of creativity and ability to work independently was great. I loved creating a storybook and being able to put my own spin on fairy tales.

1. I loved this class because it encouraged independent thinking and creativeness more than any other class I have taken.

1.  I loved how creative I was allowed to be in this class and I did not get docked any points from having differing opinions. I really appreciated being able to develop my own ideas.

4. This was one of my favorite courses of my college career. It was fun and I learned a lot. I also got to expand my writing styles. I am a History major so I wrote mostly about facts and there is not much room to put your own ideas into a paper. This class, however, allowed me to be more creative and really have fun with my writing.

1. This course encouraged a lot of independent and creative thinking.

4. I loved this course! I had so much fun with it and I loved being able to write creatively again.

1. I loved the creative writings, and they were a perfect break from essay writing.

4. I loved the storybook assignments. They were very open, and I could really create a dialogue I wanted about the epics.

1. the assignments encouraged creative thinking and helped keep my writing skills sharp

4. Great course. The teacher allowed me to be creative and really wants the students to enjoy the learning experience.

4. The assignments are combined with one's own creativity and knowledge of the subject which was a breath of fresh air.

1. The great collection of folklore and myths. Also, the way she evaluates comprehension. A great mixture of information based tests along with creative rewriting of the topics. It allows people to absorb the material in many different manners.

4. It was an awesome course with great readings and creative assignments, and I loved it.

1. Gave us the opportunity to be creative in many different writing styles. I really enjoyed doing the blog post and getting to interact with other students through them

1. My favorite assignment is the Storybook. I was able to do whatever I wanted, and it allowed me to be truly creative in a way that I don't get to in other classes.

1. It stimulated creative writing, something which I haven't experienced in any other course I've taken, and I enjoyed that thoroughly. It was challenging, but rewarding at the same time.

1. The strong points of the course were that I could work at my own pace and it made me be creative. SO many college classes are all about regurgitation of material but this class was structured so that I was able to use my mind and learn the material in a way that I will remember.

1. Types of homework (e.g. storytelling assignments) are put together extremely well and allow for creativity - Storybook assignments are perfect for this course because they allow for more study and creativity on a topic of the student's choice

4. I loved the course as a whole. It was constructed so wonderfully and it really sparked my creative abilities.

1. creation of collaborative classroom in an online course -positive nature of professor

4. This course allowed for students to develop and grow with their writing abilities in the funnest and most creative ways possible. The course is writing intensive, but for students who truly enjoy writing, this class is a breath of fresh air from typical textbook/exam-structured courses.

1. Laura uses a lot of the technological capabilities of Google and other services. I've learned how to incorporate these technologies into my life in a very creative way.

1. I like that you allowed and encouraged students to have different opinions and interpretations of the stories we read and that I could be truly creative with the assignments.

1. She really encouraged creative thinking which is very important.

1. Laura did an excellent job in creating structure and staying organized. She allowed the students to work independently and ahead if they so chose to.

1. Instructor enhanced students overall creative writing abilities in addition to course studies.

1. Retelling stories was a good way to practice writing and creativity, as well as to better understand the meanings behind the stories.

4. This has been one of my favorite courses thus far in college! I really loved the storybook project; it challenged my creative ability and my writing skills.

1. I loved this course! It really allowed me, as a science major, to use my creativity. I have never had a class where I just get to write for fun and use my imagination so I really enjoyed doing so in this class.

4. Now I still use Google docs and I had a lot of fun creating stories and reading about different countries myths and folk tales.

4. I loved that I was able to read about different countries' myths and legends and exercise my creative writing skills.

1. broadness of material covered in terms of temporal, thematic, and geographic range; interesting creative writing aspect;

4. I very much enjoyed this course. Through it I improved my creative writing abilities by learning to let my imagination do the work, which I have always wanted to do. I'm not as bad a writer as I thought, and that is comforting and encouraging. :)

1. It develops creativity and writing skills

1. the idea of making a storybook was creative.

1. This course strengthens the students' reading, writing, creativity, tech skills, and time management.

1. I loved how this course worked on an open point system. The interactive and creative assignments were so much fun to accomplish. I felt like I learned so much more by creating instead of taking a test.

1. Allowed my to express myself creatively through writing.

1. Professor Gibbs helped me learn more about grammar than any other teacher I have had. The storybook creativity was my favorite part.

1. Laura Gibbs has established a creative learning environment. We were able to read and write creatively while receiving constructive feedback on our work.

1. A multitude of resources were provided, creativity was highly encouraged

4. I loved this course. It has been quite a bit of work, but it was work that I liked doing and it was not stressful to do. The course has really inspired me to further my leisure reading of mythology and folklore tales. It's also made me realize that there's more creativity in myself than I thought. Anyone is capable of telling fun, interesting stories when they set their minds to it.

1. Not only were the topics each week extremely interesting, but the assignments ensured we understood the material while allowing us to be creative.

1. The assignments were consistent each week, and challenged us to explore the creative side of our brains.

1. It challenges you to be creative which is not something that is often seen in my class. It also greatly helped my writing ability.

1. Independent thinking, critical thinking, the teachers knowledge of the subject matter and creativity

1. I loved being able to write what I wanted and not be graded subjectively. It made it easy for me to be creative!

1. Not having exams alleviated a lot of unnecessary stress from the course. Being graded based on completion rather than content encouraged me to be creative with my writing.

4. The content was relevant to the class and I learned so much about perspective and creative thinking from the other students.

1. Truthfully, everything. Every aspect of this course was planned and executed perfectly. I love that the course was graded on accumulated credit instead of percentage of credit; it encouraged exploratory learning that was perfect for the material. I also really liked the storybook project as a semester-long creative expression, inspired by course material.

4. It was great and a lot of fun. I learned a lot about folklore and stories from the past. Everything was super interesting and the writing assignments were fun as well since it was creative writing.

1. Taking this course, you learn to write creatively and manage your time well.

4. I loved it! I absolutely love the format of this class, because it inspires students to be creative and take advantage of their ability to write and create, which is something I haven't done in years, unfortunately. I used to think that having fun in class was not possible, when you're constantly bombarded with heavy science courses and students are mostly suppressing any form of creative thought. But, this class has really revitalized that fossil of me years ago, where having fun, being creative and inspired through writing and reading about other cultures is celebrated. Overall, a wonderful course!

1. Laura is great. She really allows you to think freely and write in creative ways.

1. This was the best class. I loved how I was able to set my own schedule and that I could do my work when I wanted. I also loved that I was able to be creative while improving my writing skills!

1. The Internet setup and the ability to freely voice our opinions and not be criticized for our creativity.

1. Fantastic readings, assignments bring out creative side of students, medium for doing assignments teaches students more computer-based/internet usage skills (indispensable)

1. This class really encouraged creativity and critical thinking.

1. The final storybook project is always my favorite thing. It really allows for my creativity to shine, and I always love moulding the pages into what I want.

1. The freedom to be creative and put our own perspective into the stories was amazing. I've never taken a class like this before, and I loved every minute of it.

1. It allowed for critical and creative thinking and improvement in writing skills.

2. The only weak for me was that I had a hard time thinking outside the box and being creative with my posts. It took me a while to get the hang of it.

1. Definitely encouraged and developed my creative side, all while enhancing my knowledge of a completely different and totally captivating culture.

4. Fantastic! Really loved this course! Professor was accommodating and knowledgeable, and encouraged creativity while fostering learning.

1. VERY VERY organized. Allowed for the students to be creative. Wasn't boring.

1. The Professor was very good at staying engaged with the students. She showed a willingness to adapt to individual students to allow them to strengthen their writing skills and be creative.

1. I also like that some of the course was taken off of D2L and were were given the okay to be as creative as we wanted with out blogs. This made the class enjoyable.

1. The readings and creative writing assignments.

4. Amazing course, really improved my appreciation for writing and stirred up my creativity

1. The material was interesting and fostered creative learning. It helped my learn that I could write creative fiction effectively and that my writing could be interesting. I was able to retain a lot of the information from this course from the learning style fostered by the instructor.

4. I enjoyed this class. It encouraged me to be a more creative writer as well as a more independent thinker.

1. You were able to work well on your own and exert some creativity.

1. She did a fantastic job in promoting creativity and I loved every second of the class.

4. In my entire college experience, this class probably rates in the top 5 of classes I have taken. The way the course is structured and the other educational experiences that are involved with it (not just readings, but learning about social platforms and honing creative writing skills).

4. I loved the storybook that I wrote and had a lot of fun exercising my creativity this semester.

1. I liked that we had to dig into our creative side of our brain and create stories that build off of other stories.

4. Not only was this by far the best online course I've taken at the university, but it is up there with my on-campus classes as well. I learned more than I thought I would, not only about the subject matter but also about things I can apply in my other classes and in my life in general. This class was extremely helpful in learning about technology and expanding myself creatively.

1. This is by far the most amazing course I have taken in my whole college experience. The strong points that stand out to me include: time management choices, extremely well organized, creative, lots of choices, fun, encourages the use of technology, and let's not forget the instructor that created this whole amazing class.

1. There was a lot of activities that required creativity which made the course fun.

1. we created our schedule

1. Creativity

1. My creative writing skills greatly increased along with my storytelling ability. This class provided me with an ample amount of practice in these areas.

1. Being in a STEM major, I never get to write creatively anymore. Being in a class that encouraged me to write every day made me get back in the habit of reading and writing, which was fantastic.

1. Creative writing environment. I felt I grew as a writer and learned about new cultures! Very exciting to me.

1. Schedule available online, ability to write creatively, diversity of reading options, strong support and knowledge from the professor

1. I loved that we were able to break out of our shell and be creative. I also learned a lot.

4. It was very creative and helped with developing my writing skills.

1. I really liked how there were a lot of assignments and grades were given based on participation. I felt that I learned much more this way because the emphasis was on learning and creativity rather than a test.

1. Ability to think creatively, easy grading rubric, great help from the teacher

1. huge amount of creative freedom that made the class very fun

4. I really enjoyed this class and had fun doing the assignments. I felt like it gave me a creative outlet that I didnt have in my other classes.

1. The class encourages creativity and provides many helpful starting points for those creative projects. It's a GREAT tool for aspiring writers, or students who need to sharpen their writing skills, or anyone wanting to broaden their academic horizons.

4. I am very happy I took it! I think I learned a lot more about different cultures and their values than I ever had before, which was cool. I also learned a lot about myself- beliefs, likes, dislikes, etc.- than I thought I would since a lot of the assignments provoked personal thought about how my reactions. I think I also became a more creative writer through the class simply because I was exposed to more styles.

4. I LOVED THIS COURSE! Every student should take it, it teaches time management, organizations, creativity, and how to become a better technical writer with no judgements.

4. Thank you for a wonderful and creative semester!

4. It was amazing! I wish that it could last longer. I feel as if there is more to learn, know, create and dissect.

1. I think the weekly stories are very important in developing creative writing skills.

1. I love this class - it encourages out of the box thinking and creative thinking which i love.

1. I loved the format of the course. I enjoyed taking the readings and synergizing them into a story of my own. It allowed for so much creativity and upper-level thinking about form and topics, it was just a blast

1. Everything! It was a great class to explore one's own creativity and trying our best!

1. I loved the ability to be creative in this course while still learning about Indian epics and culture.

1. Having the option to do what we wanted, when we wanted, how we wanted. I think that she was very encouraging, and that she was very good at nudging us in the right direction. I also think that the free reign on our creativity in the class was very cool. It was a nice break from writing classes that want a regurgitated form of the rhetoric they expect.

4. Very fun and self paced. It really encouraged creativity, something I feel most college courses lack.

1. The subject matter for this class is interesting, and we had the opportunity to express our creativity by writing new stories each week.

4. I loved this class, and I would recommend it to anyone! I had the opportunity to read stories from multiple cultures/areas of the world, and think creatively by writing my own stories. I'm very happy that I took this class because it helped me realize how fun storytelling can be.

4. I really enjoyed the course! I was able to express my creativity and work on my writing skills at the same time.

1. Very fun, got to express myself creatively

4. This was by far my favorite class I have taken at OU. I love that it encourage creative thinking in a fun and interesting way. It also encouraged learning in new technological ways. I had never made a blog before, but I thought that this was the perfect way to learn how. It was a fun and engaging course and I enjoyed it very much.

1. I love that we are able to complete the course more or less on our own time.  I also loved that it gave me the opportunity to work more creatively than most college courses.

1. My favorite part of this course is that I get to be really creative and I'm not writing to please the prof like in other classes. She is always interested!

1. I love how Professor Gibbs allowed us to express our creativity, and she helped us get there with small steps.

(Un)Grading: It Can Be Done in College

This is a guest blog post that will be appearing in Starr Sackstein's Ed Week blog: (Un)Grading: It Can Be Done in College

I'm an instructor at the University of Oklahoma, teaching General Education courses in the Humanities. In this post, I'll explain my (un)grading system: the students do the grading, while I focus on feedback. I developed this approach based on my students' needs and my own belief that I can do a better job as a teacher if I take myself out of the grading loop. Here's how it works:

My Grading Challenge. I meet all kinds of students in my classes. Many are seniors who enroll in whatever Gen. Ed. courses fit their schedule. As a result, some students are interested in the subject; others have no interest at all. Some students want an A; others just need to pass. The courses are writing-intensive, but few of the students see themselves as writers, with majors ranging from accounting to zoology and everything in-between. They might love to read, or they might see reading as a monumental chore. You get the idea: diverse students, diverse goals. So, I need a grading system that respects those differences.

The Solution: Choices and Points. Each week, students choose the assignments they want to complete. They do one or two reading assignments (there are lots of reading options to choose from), they write a story of their own, and they leave comments on other students' work. They also work on their semester-long project. As they finish each assignment, they complete a "Declaration," a true-false quiz consisting of a checklist. When a student answers "true," the points go automatically into the Gradebook. I do no grading; all the points for all the assignments are recorded by the students themselves. Some students may be aiming for an A (more points), or for a B or a C (fewer points); that is all up to them — not me.

My Role: The Coach. Because I put myself outside of the grading loop, I can focus all my efforts on feedback and encouragement — on teaching, not grading. I provide detailed comments each week on the students' writing, and the students use those comments for future revisions. The comments are not a grade; instead, they are meant to help the students become more confident and skilled as writers. The students are also coaches, commenting on each other's work every week. We are all working on our writing, not thinking about grades.

Here are the things I like best about this approach:

1. The grades are objective. Students know exactly why they get the grade that they do: they manage the grading, and they have no grade complaints at the end of the semester. They might complain that the class is a lot of work, or they might complain about some other aspect of the class (which is good: I need their feedback!) — but there are no complaints about the grades, and that is a relief both to the students and to me.

2. The system is simple. Students do the work or not; they get the points or not — it's that simple. At any moment of the semester, students know exactly where they stand.

3. Grades are not a judgment. Students know that they can choose to work towards an A or B or C for their own personal reasons. An "A" student is not a better student than a "C" student, and getting a "C" in the class is not a punishment. A student might decide to take a "C" for their own reasons (heavy workload in their major classes, other life commitments, unforeseen events of all kinds), which is fine. As long as students pass the class, they are making progress towards graduation — and that's the goal!

4. There is no grade anxiety. Grades can be a terrible source of anxiety for college students (just ask them; they'll tell you), and if grades are making students anxious, they are not going to do their best learning. Removing anxiety about grades can refocus their attention on the learning itself. That goes for teachers too: I know I am a better teacher because I don't have to spend time worrying about grades.

5. The system promotes good time management. The assignments are meant to be completed in a single work session; some tasks might require 15-30 minutes while others might take an hour, but not more. I hope that as students see the benefits of this iterative, task-based approach, they can apply that same strategy in other classes where there might be only a few high-stakes assignments which the students must segment and schedule on their own.

Are there drawbacks to this system? Of course there are: if the grade is what goes on the transcript, students will think of the grade first and the learning second. I would far prefer to use a pass/fail grading system combined with portfolios of student work, thus highlighting the work itself, not the letter grade. Realistically speaking, though, I don't expect to see an end to ABCDF in my lifetime. I am just glad that as a college instructor I have the freedom to design a grading system that can minimize the damage grades can do. If you'd like to learn more about my (un)grading system, I've collected some materials at, including comments from my students. And if you have questions, let me know; this is an important topic that I am always glad to talk about! You can find me at Twitter (@OnlineCrsLady) or by email:

#DailyLEM13 Wikipedia Trail of Reading

Reading: Extra Credit. I've been wanting to expand on the "extra credit reading" options for my classes; that was a really good addition to the class last year because students can use it to just do more reading (if they like to read) or they can use it to make up for a missing reading assignment earlier in the week (there are two reading assignments, but it's fine if students just do one... and then, if they have time at the end of the week, they can use this extra credit to make up what they missed).

Wikipedia Trails. So, in the past, the extra credit option was just based on the regular reading options for the class. What I'd like to do next year is think about different kinds of reading options that could work for extra credit. One idea I had was a re-reading assignment (go back to something you read earlier in the semester, read it again, and see how it strikes you now in your next learning context), and another idea I want to try is this thing I am calling the "Wikipedia Trail." I wrote up a sample here: Wikipedia Trail: From Kalanos to the History of Hippies. I've also got a rough first version of the assignment guide there in the post.

Challenge Questions. Here are my responses to the challenge questions:

What is your desired experience for this activity? I want students to use their own curiosity to build a trail of learning, and I want them to share the results with the rest of the class. I hope they will be surprised where the trail leads. I did not expect to end up with hippies when I clicked on the ancient Indian philosopher Kalanos!

What kind of explanation or context is ideal for this kind of assignment? This fits easily into the class as I already make heavy use of Wikipedia in the notes and reading guides for both of my classes; students are already using Wikipedia in the class, so now the idea is to encourage them to be more adventurous in their use of Wikipedia.

How important is evidence in your model? The documentation of the trail is really important: if you don't keep track, it's easy to forget how you got from one place to another. I want students not just to find something cool at Wikipedia, but to document how they started at one place and ended up somewhere else.

What are some possible constraints for this design? I've suggested that students visit four articles minimum and find at least one image to share... I am curious if that is a good size constraint; I'll need to see how it goes to get a sense of that.

Sharing the Trails. I'll ask the students to include WikipediaTrail in their blog posts, and then I can use Inoreader to automatically populate a Pinterest Board with the results. I'm excited that I learned how to do that automatically when I did the Community Portfolio Challenge. That Wikipedia Trails Board is one that I can use together for both classes and also over multiple semesters. It will be a growing document of people following their own curiosity!

Make Learning Visible. So, I'm really excited about the possibilities that this can open up. As part of the whole "make learning visible" strategy, I think this idea of building Wikipedia trails could be really fun, and I will highlight people's blog posts in the daily announcements to encourage them to choose this option. I would be thrilled if everybody wanted to do this every week even if it is just extra credit! I'll probably do one every day myself just because I love to explore Wikipedia and see where it takes me. And it looks like the hashtag #WikipediaTrail is already being used at Twitter as others share their Wikipedia wanderings. Perfect!

Based on my first post, I started the Wikipedia Trails Pinterest Board, and I should be able to get it nicely populated with my own curiosity trails before the semester begins.

And here's the design drawing (click for full-sized view at Google):

LEM: Community Portfolio

Below is my response for the Learning Design Challenge #10: Sharing Individual Content via Community Portfolios. #DailyLEM10

This is something I really want to do for my own classes next year, both with memes created by the students (and their thoughts about those memes), and also the stories they write. For this example, I pursued the meme idea since that fits in nicely with the workshop on open content that we did earlier this summer, but without specifying the nitty-gritty of the community space: Incorporating Open Content.

Right now, students have their own blogs and/or websites as individual portfolios, and I curate content myself (I pin new stories to Pinterest Boards like this one: Indian Epics Fall 2016 which students see at the Project Directory class page), and I keep a lasting archive (eStorybook Central), but I would like to create something more student-driven, where they are putting content into the community space based on what they consider their best work. Right now I don't even have mechanisms in place to harvest the memes they share/create; I only curate stories.

As I've been wrestling with this question for a long time, I see it more as a technology problem than a design problem: I know what I would like to have happen but I had a hard time finding the technology to support it... until now! While on my evening walk yesterday, I had a real brainstorm, and I'm excited to share that here!

What is your desired experience for the activity?
* I want students to be able to share the best things they create (memes, stories) with other students in the class, and I want students to be able to easily discover that content. My goal is to diminish my curatorial and administrative role in order to hand more of that over to the students; after all, only the students know what they consider to be their best work!

How will you motivate participants to engage in “authentic” sharing?
* Students already create content in their own spaces, and they visit each other's spaces as a mode of sharing and learning, and motivation there is very high — so I don't need to do any motivating; students will be even more motivated if I can help them drive the curation process more actively.

What kind(s) of feedback make the most sense for this kind of environment?
* I already have some good student commenting processes in place; my goal here is to add new avenues both of sharing and of discovery which will improve the commenting: the more students are identifying their own best work and, consequently, finding content that is really high quality, the better the commenting process will be.

What are some possible constraints for this design?
* The real constraints are technological: specifically, the mechanisms for sharing (students identifying best content that they put into the shared space) and the mechanisms for discovery (students exploring the shared space to discover what they like best).

Plus: A technological nice-to-have...
* I would like to have one version of the solution be Canvas-friendly; I personally don't use an LMS for my class space, but if I could find a way to make this work in the Canvas space, it is more likely to be an option other faculty at my school would consider.

EURKEA: Inoreader! The key to my solution is this: I will use Inoreader (which currently aggregates all incoming content from my students' blogs), and specifically I will use Inoreader Rules. So, if students include a keyword in their blog post somewhere, I can use an Inoreader Rule to automatically assign a tag. I will just need to write up instructions for how students can add a simple but distinctive keyword (like MemeGallery, one word) when they want to flag something as best content. I can also manually add the tag, if needed, and if a student changes their mind, I can also remove the tag manually. (I already have some processes like this in place for student-generated content; for example, here is the stream of stories for the class — but without a student self-nomination process: Myth-Folklore Stories.)

Once the self-nominated content is tagged for the Gallery, I can then easily redisplay that content in all kinds of ways!

I can put it in Canvas, like this: Meme Gallery. To do that, I use Inoreader's export to HTML feature:

Even better: IFTTT will deliver that content to all kinds of platforms! In IFTTT, the trigger is "Inoreader: New tagged article" (including articles tagged by a rule). Then, the IFTTT action can really be anything. Just to show one example here, I set up a Tumblr that will be filled with content automatically. Here's the IFTTT recipe:

And here's the resulting Tumblr: Meme Gallery Tumblr. Of course, I can play with the gazillions of Tumblr themes to find the best display. I also have access to all the features of Tumblr too. Lots to explore there! I just set this up super-quickly as a test case.

Why Tumblr? An excellent Tumblr feature for my purposes is the randomizer. Randomizers are essential for browsing and discovery for this type of content, and Tumblr is great at delivering posts at random (just add /random to the Tumblr URL). Here's the link: Meme Gallery - Random! I also included that randomizing link in the Canvas page.

VERY happy with this. The real magic is in the technology here, not so much the design. I am so excited to try this out with real student blogs in the Fall!!!

Click here for full-sized view:

Update: I had faked the Inoreader tag to test this out, but I also put a rule in place that will scan all my blog posts just like I want to scan all incoming student blog posts... and it worked! I just published my Growth Mindset Cat meme and because the keyword appeared in the post, presto, there it is in Canvas!

Update: I also created an IFTTT recipe with Pinterest... and that worked too! There's the cat, automatically sent to Pinterest:

LEM: Semester Project / Student Choices

Because I used my existing courses to do the Learning Environment Model design challenge for today, I decided to put the post here. Unlike the LEM challenge I did yesterday (see post), this time I did the drawing first and then wrote the narrative to accompany the drawing. The semester project has a lot of elements I cannot capture with the modeling tools, but I tried to surface the key aspect of the design challenge for today, which is the element of student choice. You can see that multi-stage choice process running down the middle of the diagram. See below for a narrative to explain that choice process.

(or click on image for larger view)

Exploration/Planning. What I tried to show here is how there is a brainstorming process that happens in the first few weeks of the class in which students brainstorm and plan their semester writing project (downward arrow flow on the left of chart; this process can last for up to 4 weeks), and then they create the project through an iteration of writing stories and revising for the rest of the semester (11, 12, or 13 weeks, depending on how many weeks they spend on the planning process — the writing process is on the right side of the chart). 

Project Choice. Each student creates either a Storybook Website or a Blog Portfolio. The Storybook consists of a set of interrelated stories on a topic of the student's choice (see Storybook Archive for examples), while the Portfolio consists of a curated section of the student's class blog, containing their best stories. I started offering the Portfolio option a couple years ago when it became clear that there were always a few students who were not really enthusiastic about their Storybook project (for all kinds of reasons); the Portfolio is a way to create the same type of semester-long writing project with the flexibility of choosing new topics/styles every week. The challenge, then, is how to help students choose which type of project will be best for them! As a general rule, it has turned out that about half of the students choose Storybooks and half choose Portfolios.

Iterated Choice. As students go through the 2, 3, or 4 weeks of planning, they are pondering a big choice, which I show in the middle of the chart; there are three vectors as it were that they can follow as they go through this iterated process. Since the Storybook is an entirely new kind of idea for most students in the class, I ask them to spend some time in Week 1 and Week 2 exploring Storybook possibilities. Then, after they get feedback from me about the Storybook topics they have proposed (I focus on connecting them with useful online resources), they can decide if there is a topic that grabs them... or not. If they really don't have a topic that grabs them, they can start their Portfolio in Week 3. If they do have a topic that they are excited about, in Week 3 they start planning how the Storybook would actually work (stories to include, styles to use). They then get feedback from me again, and again they choose: if things are not falling into place, they can start their Portfolio in Week 4. If the Storybook plan is going well, then they build their Storybook website in Week 4.

Writing Project. By Week 5 of the semester, everybody is engaged in their writing project. The Storybook and the Portfolio have the same writing "experience" — writing, feedback from me, feedback from other students, revision, more writing, more feedback, more revision, and so on. The difference is just the content (semester-long topic in Storybook versus weekly topics in Portfolio) and the medium (Storybook is a separate website while the Portfolio is a labeled section of the student's class blog). Everybody ends up on their own schedule since they might start the writing part of the project in Week 3 or 4 or 5, and any give story might require one or two rounds of revision. By the end of the semester, a Portfolio might have as many as six stories in it; a Storybook might have as many as four stories plus an introduction — but it varies a lot; there is no fixed requirement about how many finished stories each student might write.

Themed Portfolios. One really nice surprise that happened as a result of the students exploring the Portfolio option was that they started creating something like a Storybook inside their Portfolio, pursuing a theme over several weeks or even over the whole semester. That was not something I suggested, but the students started doing that on their own... so now I also suggest that in my comments on their Portfolio stories! Unlike the advance Storybook planning, these Portfolio themes evolve in an ad hoc way as the students react to the stories they are reading for the class or as they discover through their own writing a style and/or character that they use to connect their Portfolio stories.

As you can see from all the elements in the drawing, there is a lot that goes into this process, and I'll return to this drawing with more narrative in future posts... which will probably help me improve the drawing too! But for now, I am really happy with how this version of the drawing surfaces the element of student choice and how there is an overall learning process that the students can share together while each going through their own discovery process to launch their own project.

Anatomy of an Online Course: Table of Contents

Scroll down for the complete Table of Contents. Here at the top of the page, you will find posts related to my school's D2L to Canvas transition. I keep my use of the LMS to a minimum, but I am excited that Canvas courses can be public and how they can also contain live content. See below for details!

Here are other posts related to the online courses I teach:

Overall Course Design: These posts provide an overview of my course design strategies.
  • 10 Ways to Give Your Students the Gift of Slack. Yep, it's SLACK that matters... not grit. Giving your students slack is a great gift to give.
  • Un)Grading. This is a guest blog post for Starr Sackstein's Ed Week blog.
  • Grading. I wish I could not give grades at all; this represents my best attempt to reduce my participation in the grading process to zero.
  • Grading: What the Students Say. This is a collection of student comments about grading from the end-of-course-evaluations.
  • Writing-Feedback-Revision. Providing feedback that students use to revise their writing is how I spend most of my time each and every week.
  • Tech Tips. Even though it's just extra credit, teaching students about web-based tools is a fun part of the class for me!
  • Randomization Wonderland. This post explains how I use randomization both for course content and for student participation (comments).
  • Some Q&A about student choice, challenges, etc. Answers to some questions posed by a reader. :-)
  • Traditional Syllabuses. I recently had to prepare traditional syllabuses for my classes, so if you are curious, you can take a look.

Growth Mindset. Starting in Fall 2015, I've made Carol Dweck's "growth mindset" an explicit component of my classes, hoping to promote a growth mindset among my students and in my own work too!

Scheduling and Pacing: One of the most powerful aspects of teaching online is the flexible scheduling..
  • Self-Scheduled, Not Self-Paced. This post explains the overall scheduling strategy which I use in my courses.
  • Sample Assignment Schedules. These sample schedules can help the students turn this class into a M-W-F class, a T-Th class, or a weekend class — whatever works best!
  • Week 8: Review Week. During "humpweek" both classes have some special self-assessment and student-to-student interaction assignments.
  • The Grace Period. This post explains the "grace period," a no-questions-asked extension available for all class assignments.
  • Spring 2015: Grace Period Reminder Tracking. I am trying to find ways to intervene with students who get grace period reminders every day.
  • The Half-Reading Option. The "half-reading option" is another way I am trying to accommodate my students' busy and chaotic schedules.
  • Safety Nets. This post provides an overview of the various safety nets to support students with time management and workload management.

Orientation Week: These posts are dedicated to the special activities for the Orientation Week.

Storybooks and Portfolios: These student projects are the heart and soul of my classes!

Student Blogging: These posts describe the role of student blogging in my courses.
  • 10 Tips for Building a Student Blog Network. These are my thoughts about student blogging as of Spring 2016. Happy blogging, all! 
  • Student Blog Assignments. This is a listing of the different types of blog posts that my students complete each week.
  • Weekly Blog Comments. The students read and comment on each other's posts each week.
  • New "Comment Training" Strategy. Starting in Spring 2015, I'm trying to be more proactive in teaching students how to make detailed comments.
  • Comment Walls. Student create "Comment Wall" posts at their blogs where other students can leave comments on their Storybook projects.
  • Randomizing Blogs. This is a step-by-step tutorial for randomizing blogs using a simple spreadsheet... and it includes a screencast! :-)

Inoreader: I use Inoreader to manage the class blog network.

Communication Strategies: These posts explain the various communication strategies I use in my courses.

Content Development: This explains the various tools I use for content development and sharing that content with my students.

Indian Epics Untextbook: This is where I will document the development of an UnTextbook for the Indian Epics class.

And now . . . a cat from the Growth Mindset Memes blog:

Revision Challenges: What Students are Choosing

I just flipped through the revision assignments that students turned in over the weekend, and it is so much fun to see the different "revision challenges" people set for themselves. I thought I would take a minute to write them out here and show the results of how that works. I guess it is my favorite innovation to my classes this semester! You can see the projects that the students are working on here: Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics.

In the past, I used to ask students to choose a revision focus but I did not have a specific list of challenges to choose from. Now it is going so much better! Here is the list of challenges the students browse through: Grow Your Writing: Editing Challenges. And, yes, the list itself keeps growing because sometimes I'll add a new challenge to the list when I'm reading a student's story during the week; a good challenge for one student might work for others too! Over the summer, I'll try to prune and reorganize (I don't want the list itself to become intimidating), based on the choices I've seen students making this semester.

Using the language of growth and challenges fits in nicely with the growth mindset theme I am trying to promote throughout all the class activities, and the element of choice is also powerful. Earlier in the semester, a lot of students were choosing the punctuation and other writing mechanics challenges, but now they have (re)learned how to cope with those topics. As a result, the research challenge is becoming more popular, which I think is great. There is always more they can learn by doing research, and they can share what they learn in the author's note even if they do not revise the actual story.

Most importantly: instead of seeing revision as just "fixing mistakes," the students can get a sense of revision as something open-ended, driven by their own choices from many possible strategies.

So, without further ado, here are what students chose as their challenges in the stack of assignments I am looking at right now from this weekend. I get such a boost from reading this list and seeing what the students wanted to learn about!

For this week I used dialogue punctuation check for my editing challenge. I liked it because I tend to add more commas than necessary to be safe, and this helped me edit them back out. 

The editing challenge I used was the Author’s Note. My author’s note was pretty short, so I did some research and expanded on that.  

For this story, I used the Research and Learn challenge. I worked on looking up more details about the animals that I mentioned in the end of the story so I can be better prepared to write the next story! I'd love to use this challenge again. It's very helpful!

Active and passive verbs. It went well. There were a lot that I changed.  

This week I chose “Slow down and read out loud”. I actually found quite a few typos when I read the story out loud. I read through the story silently before I turned it in, but it is obviously more effective to read it out loud when error checking. Hopefully I will simply do this every time I turn something in.

This week, I did the ‘names’ editing challenged. I attached links in my author’s note to each pig’s name to show readers where they originated from. 

I decided to do vocatives once again. In this story I added more vocatives in the middle of sentences rather than the beginning. It is also the biggest grammatical problem that continues to show up on my stories. I also decided to work on semicolons. I never actually payed much attention to the use of semi colons. Next story I actually made a goal to have no more that 2 vocative problems!

I chose to give my author’s note a make-over for this editing challenge. After reading the comments, I saw that I was mostly just summarizing my story. I chose to provide a little history about the different religious practices in India so the readers could see that Vishnu and Shiva are still widely worshiped today and Indra is not.  I think this challenge went well and I learned a little history along the way.

This week I decided to do the challenge that prompts the author to read the story more slowly aloud in order to catch more errors. I found this challenge to be extremely helpful because I caught so many more mistakes than I would have if I had just been reading on the screen! I printed my story out with size 14 font, which felt really big. It allowed me to really see the story as a whole, though. It also gave me the freedom to read each sentence individually and make notations as I went. All in all, I felt like this was a really good challenge for me. I should probably make a point to print out my story and read it very slowly aloud for the rest of the semester!

I chose the paragraph length editing challenge. I thought about my paragraph lengths after reading some other peoples stories and thought I could break mine down some. I split a couple of my paragraphs in half and think it works well.

I did a research challenge this week! It was interesting to see that Coyote had its own section on the Wikipedia page for "trickster." It seems that in many myths from all different cultures, the coyote has the role of the trickster that dominates over other land creatures.

For my editing choice, I decided to add more clear details throughout my story. I also added a blurb at the  beginning of the story to tell where the tale came from. I wanted my readers to get a better sense of the stories background and history! 

This week I chose the research challenge. I read a traditional version of this jataka where the tale was told by the Buddha himself. I found this version very interesting. I liked how the tale was given context. The Buddha was walking through the garden of a squire when he came upon area that was without vegetation. The squire's gardener explained how the bald spot came to be and the Buddha replied with the jataka. This gave it a parable-like feel that had reminded me of some of the tales that Jesus told in the Gospels.

For my editing challenge I focused more on my author's note. A lot happens in the story of the twenty-two goblins and I had left a lot out in my story to make it fit. This made it important for me to include what the reader missed inside of my author's note. I think it went really well and it is something I think is very important so I may use this challenge again. 

I read over the apostrophe rule and maintaining the same tense throughout a sentence and the use of commas.  I always thoughts that commas were used when you wanted to slow the flow of a sentence like you were taking a breath. Now I know there are different types of commas.

I used the research challenge once again. I was really happy to find the video I included at the end, because it discussed a lot of symbolism surrounding the festival, and especially the gudhis, that I hadn't run across while writing the story. 

Keep on learning, people:

10 Tips for Building a Student Blog Network

I teach fully online classes, and blogs are "the classroom" where we meet online; it is how my students and I all interact with one another, and I've been using blogs this way for over 10 years now. There are lots of different blogging tools out there, but I've tried to make the tips below software-neutral, focusing on what you can DO with blogs... and then you can decide on the specifics of how to proceed with your own classes. So, hoping for a world in which everybody blogs (!), I've listed 10 Blogging Tips below... plus four pre-semester strategies to gear up and get ready to go.


Become a blogger yourself. Before you start blogging together with students, take a semester (or summer) beforehand to do your own blogging and see what it's like. Create your own blog, post regularly, and read other people's blogs too. Are there other people at your school who blog? Get in touch with them and see what advice they can offer. Ask questions, and learn how to make the most of your blog. Your experience and enthusiasm will be a big boost for your students as they get started! You might blog on topics related to your course, or you might keep a blog based on some other personal interest or project. For example, I don't teach Latin anymore, but I do keep a Latin blog: Bestiaria Latina.

Learn how to use a blog aggregator. A blog aggregator, also known as a feed reader, allows you to follow lots (LOTS) of blogs so that all the posts are consolidated in one place. You can organize the incoming posts in folders, and a good aggregator will also help you keep track of read/unread posts, along with options to search, filter, and label post content. Many people use Feedly, but I far prefer Inoreader. If you don't use a blog aggregator now, try Feedly first (it's very user-friendly), and then you might migrate to Inoreader later when you are ready to take advantage of the wider range of features that Inoreader offers. When your students start blogging, you will definitely want to have some kind of feed reader in place in order to keep an eye on their posts as they accumulate (see below).

Commit to a platform. For many years, I've been using Blogger (Google's free blogging platform), and I provide my students with all the technical support they might need to use that platform. I like Blogger because it is very easy to use and also because it is very javascript-friendly; those are priorities for me, and you need to discover what priorities are important to you. So, experiment with a couple of different platforms yourself, see what you like best, and then commit to supporting that platform with your students. But note: there is no reason that all your students have to use the same platform; Blogger is the only platform for which I provide technical support, but if a student is already using another blogging platform, that's great! I define the platform requirements in very basic terms — linkable post labels, no advertising, and full RSS feeds for both posts and comments — but beyond that, the students can make their own choice. Since very few of my students have ever blogged before, almost all of them choose Blogger, but every semester a few students use WordPress, and I am really glad that they do; it's a chance for other students in the class to see what different blogging platforms offer.

Build the blogging into your course design. In my classes, all the student work happens in the blogs; there are no quizzes or tests, and there are no papers. Your classes might also use blogs intensively, or you might just use the blogs for a once-a-week reflection activity; it's all about what will work best for you. To see the kinds of work my students do in their blogs, take a look at this week's assignments: Week 9 (and that's a typical week; my courses use a week-by-week module design). Just how blogs will fit into your course design depends totally on the course. As a general design principle, though, I would advocate for consistent assignment(s) so that your students will get regular practice and reinforcement; that's especially important if your students are new to blogging. After a few weeks of doing the same type(s) of assignments each week, the blogging will become easy and familiar!


1. Start students blogging right away. After a brief overview of the class, the very first thing that my students do is to start their blog. Here's how that assignment works: Create a Blog.  I follow that up with a fun ice-breaker type of assignment: Picture a Favorite Place. My goal is for students to feel confident and excited about what they can do with their blog right from the very start. It's also a great way for me to start to get to know the students; I subscribe to their blog posts and comment feeds in Inoreader (see below) as soon as they create their blog, and that allows me to keep an eye on their work from the very first day of class. I also make sure to cover important technical issues right from the start: labels on blog posts, comment configuration options, name display / profile settings, creating links, inserting images, etc. That way, later assignments don't have to cover technical issues and, even more importantly, students can feel confident and in control of their blog right from the start.

2. Encourage students to customize their blogs. This is easy to do since the students are highly motivated to customize and personalize their blogs; some of them start customizing their blogs immediately, which is wonderful to see! To give them the support they need, I use "Tech Tips" for extra credit; the Tech Tips are not just limited to blog development, but the blog tips are definitely the most popular. Here is my Tech Tips list for this semester: Tech Tips: Blogger. The classes I teach are not technology classes, and some students are not interested in developing their technical skills at all... and that's okay. The extra credit Tech Tips are there as an option for any student who's interested. What's nice is that as the semester progresses and students watch each other's blogs take shape, even those students who were not originally interested in tech exploration often become curious about how to customize their blogs too. Also, while I've never had a student actually lose their blog, I encourage students to learn how to back-up their blogs along with any other work they are doing for class: Back-up, Check-up and Review.

3. Use labels/tags for blog navigation. If students blog every week (and my students are posting several times per week), their blogs are going to fill up with content quickly. Using labels for navigation is then essential: the consistent navigation that labels provide is how other students can quickly find posts at any blog in the class. So, for example, students label their Introduction post with the label "Introduction," and that makes it easy for other students to find that Introduction post later (see below); so too with the "Comment Wall" post, etc. I make sure to provide explicit instructions about labeling posts in each blog post assignment starting from the very first blog posts. Here's a screenshot of label navigation in a blog sidebar; some students opt for horizontal label navigation instead, and either way is fine of course — it's their choice:

4. Encourage use of multimedia in posts. Right from the start, I emphasize the use of images in posts, along with giving students a crash course in image licensing and helping them to find public domain and CC-licensed images to use in their blogs: Finding Images. I also make the use of images (and image citation) part of their blog post assignments. Then, as the semester goes on, I also encourage the use of video and other embedded media in blog posts; here's an example of a video-based assignment that I use in the review week mid-semester: Music for Your Comment Wall. Being able to work with images and video in their posts is something that can be highly motivating for students, especially for students who are less confident in their writing.

5. Build blog commenting into the class. Students are posting in their blogs every week, and they are also commenting on each other's blogs. I don't use discussion boards at all; instead, I use the blogs as the locus of conversation. To help the students get to know each other week by week, I use randomized blog groups, and that randomization also helps ensure that each student gets more or less the same number of comments each week. How it works: each week, I sort the class into groups of three students at random (I just use a spreadsheet with a randomizing column to do that), so each student is thus commenting on the blog of two other students each week while receiving comments back from those same students, and I also offer an extra credit blog commenting assignment for students who want to do more commenting. I also make sure to show students how to check their comments, using email notifications and/or the blog dashboard.

6. Revisit Introduction posts. Each student writes an Introduction post in their blog during the first week of class. Then, as they comment on other students' blogs each week, they comment on the post(s) for that week AND they comment on the Introduction post so they can learn something more about that student, learning about each other. As a result, the Introduction posts get the most comments of any other post at the blog, and I encourage students to tinker with their Introduction post all semester long, adding pictures, videos, etc. Since my classes have appx. 40-50 students, the Introductions are important because students are meeting new people in class every week all semester long. Because they are Gen. Ed. classes with students from all the different colleges and majors, the Introduction posts are a lot of fun: the students are doing so many different things with their college careers!

7. Use Comment Wall posts. In addition to creating an Introduction post, I ask each student to create a "Comment Wall" post. The Comment Wall post provides a space where someone can leave a comment that is not in response to a specific post at the blog but instead as a conversational comment left for the blog owner. In my classes, the Comment Wall space is useful for all kinds of reasons: they provide a place for following-up with someone who may have left a comment at your blog, for complimenting someone on their blog design or asking them a question about their blog, and also for leaving comments about class work that is not blog-related, such as comments on project websites. Of course, just how that might work for your class depends on your course design and activities. Like the Introduction post, the Comment Wall space is where students are "presenting" themselves to other students in the class, so I encourage them to add a picture to the post, and later on to add video of some kind, just for fun.

8. Use randomization to increase discovery. Especially when a class is on the large size (as mine are), randomization is an important way to help all the students get to know as many other students as possible without a lot of work on my part. I use random blog groups each week for commenting, and I also build a blog randomizer so that students can visit the blogs in class at random: Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics. If students are looking for a specific other person in class, they can use the Blog Directory, but if they are just browsing, they can use the randomizer instead. (I build that randomizer with a wonderful free tool built by one of my students which you can find at I also use the blog randomizer when I have some free time, especially at the beginning of the semester, so that I can spread my attention throughout the blogs randomly!

9. Reuse blog content. A great way to let students see that you value what they are writing in their blogs is to reuse that content. So, for example, in one assignment I ask students to reflect on the commenting culture in class, and I then collate their comments into a webpage: Thoughts about Comments. To get even more use out of their remarks, I create a randomizer which I can then use as part of the commenting assignment itself, reminding them about the different ways that people value the commenting process; you can see the randomizer at work in the yellow box here: Week 7 Comments. Of course, just how you want to reuse the content in your students' blogs will be based on your course design overall; the key is to think about the possibilities for reuse that blogs can offer, very different from classroom discussion which is not so easy to harvest and reuse. In addition, I try to design assignments so that the students themselves are reusing and revising their previous blog posts, building on past work for new assignments and also learning from what they read and see at other students' blogs.

10. Be blog aware. As the students begin blogging, I comment on their first posts, but after the first week, the commenting is very much student-to-student, and I comment only very occasionally on the blogs. At the same time, I keep a close eye on them using Inoreader as my feed reader. I have a folder for the incoming posts in each class, and I also have a folder for the incoming comment stream. This lets me easily keep an eye on all the posts as they come in, and I also try to keep an eye on the comments. This way I can get a "vibe" of how things are going in the class, seeing what students are thinking about, questions they have, etc. If I notice a problem (the most common problems have to do with image formatting), I can quickly comment, and I also cover questions and problems in the daily class announcements (and my class announcements are in blog form of course) based on what I learn from watching the blog stream. There's always a lot going on, but with a feed reader you can keep an eye on it all, learning and observing. Here's what my Inoreader view looks like, and you can do much the same with Feed Reader or whatever other blog aggregator you prefer:

So, I think those are the main points that I have in mind as I use blogs in my classes, but please let me know if you have questions I have not answered here or if there are questions you have as you build a class blog network of your own. I am a huge fan of blogging as a tool for creating and sharing online, and that means I'm always glad to brainstorm with others about how they might be able to make blogging a part of their classes too. Blog on, everybody! :-)