Why Isn’t There Class on Wednesdays?

One of the distinctive features of this course is that it’s a three-credit course that only has two face-to-face (F2F) hours, on Monday and Friday afternoons. The remainder fo the week is devoted to a variety of online and other activities. So why Intro to History being offered as a hybrid course? (read the Course Mechanics section of the syllabus on this same topic)

The F2F portion is easiest to explain. Unlike our department’s other 200-level courses, HIS290 doesn’t cover a set topic, theme, region, or period, and my role as teacher is less about delivering information (so don’t expect lectures) than facilitating student discussion and inquiry. Expect lots of discussion and reflection activities.

So why not also meet on Wednesday at 1:50pm? The reasoning has changed a bit this time out.

The first two times we taught the course, that midweek third of the class was entirely online: using assigned readings and a departmental webisode series (Past & Presence), students wrote and responded to blog posts, sustaining conversations that ended Monday in class through the week and priming the pump for discussion to resume on Friday. The webisodes also let all of our faculty (and several of our alumni) have a role in “teaching” the course.

Some of that approach remains this year: most weeks, you’ll watch a video conversation involving Bethel history faculty or students, as a supplement to assigned readings, and you’ll comment on blog posts that I create out of your response papers. So we’ll still be able to use the online environment to sustain a wider conversation that bridges what we talk about on Mondays and Fridays.

But not all weeks will function that way. You’ll actually meet all of our faculty (and some of our alumni) face-to-face, so it seemed less important to have the department webisode. And dropping it creates some space for two other kinds of activities.

Twice during the semester, you’ll be working on group projects: in late February and early March, a small digital history project facilitated by Prof. Goldberg, the director of our new digital humanities major; then in April and early May, a presentation on how past is presented in American popular culture. Having no class on those Wednesdays makes it much easier for you all to find time to work together as a group.

Finally, there will be four weeks during the semester when I have you engage in more experiential learning, doing an activity on- or off-campus that helps fulfill our course objectives in a different way. The first of those comes up right away: an interview with a Bethel history prof. (Reminder: you need to schedule that interview soon; it’s one of your pre-semester assignments, due Thursday 2/2 at noon.) Giving up the third class hour each week creates plenty of space for you to arrange those activities in a way that fits your schedule.

Just recognize that all this makes HIS290 a rather unusual 200-level course: much less structured than your typical 1st/2nd year class, it trusts you to manage your time well on your own and to keep up with tasks without a professor hanging over your shoulder. That’s both a great opportunity and a considerable challenge. Let me know if you’d like to talk about strategies to use that time well!


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