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Dale Maeder

How Dale Maeder Grades Participation in His Online Courses

Dale Maeder, Professor of Educational Psychology, UCLA

My online students often wonder how their participation in class discussions is going to be evaluated. Although I know that your grade here is probably not your greatest concern, you may be interested in knowing how I will be determining the participation portion of your course grade.

Suffice it to say that there are two fundamental principles I consider when calculating this portion of your grade:

(1) No one is punished for not speaking up, i.e., you all will receive a minimum amount of points (110/160) for participation since I'm assuming you're reading all of the notes;

(2) I'm more interested in quality over quantity whenever possible, i.e., notes an issue raised in text/lecture or information about new developments in a related field are always going to carry significant weight. The main point is that active discussants will be receiving more points.

Nevertheless, just like in a face-to-face classroom, sometimes the group discussion steers into a topic that doesn't wag your tail. In those instances, it's tempting to sit in the corner and work on your own, (I know, because that's what I do -- except for the tail-wagging part).

But here in the virtual classroom, you have the opportunity to "interrupt" and change the subject without being rude! Isn't that great? You can simply jump in and introduce a new idea -- classmates can ignore you and continue "talking" or some/all can switch over to the new topic.

My suggestion is to forget about how I, or anyone else, envision the class discussions and simply comment when you feel led to. If the discussion topics aren't about what you'd like to talk about, then bring up a new topic. There are enough of us participating in the course to give us plenty of opinions on the various issues.

So if the current topics under discussion don’t seem to float your boat, then jump in and ask for comments on your own areas of interest. You know that people will have opinions on everything and are probably more than willing to let you know how they feel. Online courses depend heavily on class discussions to drive the learning process.