Ideas for a Survey Course

Thinking about my sophomore survey course here…

This is an article about ditching the history survey courses. But the idea is a relevant one and interesting for English too.

We still have survey courses, though some less than others.

What do we do with a survey course to make it more practical for students? How can a survey of literature be useful for students?

I have, over the course of time, tried to find comic strips and cartoons (political or otherwise) that imply or require an understanding of the texts I teach in order to understand them. This gives the students a sense that the knowledge they are getting in my classroom might be worthwhile outside of that setting.

I am thinking, right now, that I should put together a PDF of all those works and send them to my students before class starts and again towards the end of the semester… It would be an interesting way to tie the class together.

Maybe I should even go back and find more. Maybe I could rewrite the final exam based on those clippings, asking students to identify what they could contribute to a conversation that started based on one of those points. (Oh, I like that idea. I don’t think I have clips for all of my readings, but maybe I should search harder.)

Here’s a point that I want to respond to in the article, as well.

For example: we admire technology, but we do not understand it well enough to use it well, and we fear the speedup and proletarianization it seems to facilitate. We are sentimental about the intellectual traditions that made us who we are, the masterful lectures delivered by world-class scholars, but we know that these forms of learning aren’t working for students any more.

Actually, I have not found the technology my students use to be beyond me. In fact, though I am at a small liberal arts university and your mileage may vary, that I know more technology than my students. I use an iPhone, a computer, an iPad. I have had a blog since 2002. I have written a book in iBooks Author. I regularly use Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and Pinterest, for social media examples. Many of them have never created a Prezi, PowerPoint, or KeyNote. I have done lots. Many of my students, prior to my courses, have not ever created a digital presentation. I have done several.

It is true I am not a programmer. I would hope that the computer science students are beyond me in technology (though I have not always found this to be true for my freshmen and sophomores), but for everyone else, I am at least as proficient.

I am not particularly invested in lectures. I know that I am not a good lecturer and I really don’t want to present lectures in twenty years using notes from this year. However, I have found that my students want lectures. They want to know the “right” answers. So I put my lecture notes into a readable format and added them to the iBook.

That means that in class I can add the interesting things I have learned or thought of since the book was created, we can work on “flipped classroom” type activities, and students can do group work during class time.

One thought on “Ideas for a Survey Course”

  1. I love the idea of the final exam – and if you really wanted to go assessment crazy, you could use it as a pre-test/post-test.

    I teach at a large state university and I find my experience similar to yours as far as tech goes. They know a lot about texting…some about Facebook (even then, not totally proficient) and little about anything else on average. I use a class wiki and it is almost always a foreign concept to the majority of my class.

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