To my Spring 2021 students:
I'll try to make this brief. But please read it in its entirety.
First, I hope everyone's healthy and able to find some peace and calm in the midst of this weird mess.
Second, for what it's worth, I hate that we're having to do this remotely. Over the past several months, it's become very clear to me that the thing I enjoy most about teaching is the face-to-face, often spontaneous interaction that takes place during lecture and discussion. And that's extremely difficult to re-create online (even nowadays, with things like Zoom). But we'll do our best!
Third, I'm teaching two courses this semester: (1) PHIL 102: Introduction to Ethics, and (2) PHIL 257: Moral Psychology. For a few reasons, I've decided to teach both of these courses in the same basic format, which will involve both synchronous and asynchronous elements. (Details below.)
Some of you may find that you wish there were more synchronicity, e.g., more group Zoom meetings. If that's the case, please reach out to me via email. Maybe we can meet one-on-one sometime during the week, or on the weekend. Others may find that they're unable to participate in the synchronous elements, and feel like they're missing out. Again, if that's the case, please email me. Let's see if we can work something out.
(For what it's worth, this is how I did things during the Fall 2020 semester, and for the most part, it seems to have worked fairly well.)
Finally, to be more specific, here's how things will go:
- At the start of each week, on the course website, I'll post (a) the reading assignments for that week, and (b) a few videos (15-20 minutes) of me "lecturing" about the readings. These videos will focus on the main points that I want you to get from each reading, and they'll be accompanied by PowerPoint slides.
- You can handle this in whatever way works best for you. You might do all of the readings before watching any of the video lectures, as would be the expectation if we were meeting in the classroom. Or you might watch the lectures before doing the readings, so you have a better idea of what to look for in the texts. Or maybe just skim the readings, then watch the lectures, and then do the readings more thoroughly. Probably this last approach is best, but again: do whatever seems to work with your learning style, with your schedule, etc.
- As you're doing the readings and watching the videos, if there are questions that you'd like answered immediately, or comments you'd like to share for immediate feedback -- whether from me or from classmates -- you can post these in the class discussion forum on Moodle. I'll check the discussion forums a few times throughout the week.
- Alternatively, if you have questions or comments, but you'd rather not share them in a public forum, you are welcome either to send them to me in an email, or request a one=on-one Zoom meeting. Or, if you're one of the students who'll be living on campus, we could also meet in-person. For the record, this will be what my "office hours" look like this semester: email correspondence or one-on-one Zoom meetings (or, perhaps, in-person meetings with any students who might be living on campus).
- Later in the week -- Thursday afternoons for PHIL 257, and Friday mornings for PHIL 102 -- we'll have a group Zoom meeting to discuss the readings and main issues of the week. I might start these meetings with a quick 3-5 minute review of the material from that week, and then open things up for discussion. This will be the main synchronous element of the course. It's your opportunity to ask me to clarify or expound upon anything from the readings or lectures, and so forth.
So, instead of thinking of the course in terms of 2 or 3 meetings per week, with readings assigned per meeting, you should think of the course in terms of 14 units, one unit per week. Each unit will feature a few readings, a few corresponding video lectures, sporadic Q&A in the discussion forum, and an end-of-the-week group discussion on Zoom.
If you have any questions or comments about any of this, please email me.
P.S. In the interest of finding a little humor in the present circumstances, read this article to get a sense of how many of your professors are feeling these days. Obviously, it applies more to this past Spring than it does to the present semester. But it's still somewhat relevant, and very funny.