There are three types of assignments in this course:
Each of these are explained in detail below.
Each week there are readings, some of which are online essays by me and by others, and some of which are primary sources. The readings form a major part of what you will actually learn in this class.
The reading assignments are on the Schedule. You are welcome to read ahead of that schedule but it's important not to fall behind. You won't like it.
I can't require daily reading. I can't grade your reading. I do, however, look for evidence in your online discussion that you not only have done the reading but have understood what you have read. So, while your reading is not graded directly, it is graded indirectly, in the form of your discussion participation.
Students who don't stay up with the readings struggle with the course overall. This is an observation drawn from years of running this course format. It is also what students over the years have told me directly. So, take the advice from your peers: keep up with the reading, every week.
The best way to keep up is to read regularly. It doesn't really need to be every day, but if you can establish that regimen, you'll be glad you did. If three times a week works, then do that. I assure you, trying to read everything in one sitting, once a week, doesn't work. At least, that's what students have consistently told me over the years.
I recommend you first read the essays by Knox, Kreis, Nelson, etc. Then read the primary source materials. The order doesn't really matter, but if you're looking for an approach, try that one.
Discussion participation is absolutely vital to the course. If you don't participate in discussion you will fail the course. This, again, is simply observation based on facts.
You are required to a minimum of three messages a week. I encourage more than that minimum. All that posting the minimum does is guarantee you won't get a D or worse for discussion, assuming those minimum posts meet the requirements below. Posting more than the minimum doesn't guarantee any improvement in grade. I have observed that those who post more frequently tend to get better grades, but I think this is because they are more engaged in the course material. As you will find, posting requires you to read, to think about what you read, and to be thoughtful when you write about that. This in turn means you will learn more. And that's why I encourage a higher rate of participation. It's like exercise: if you do more of it, you improve.
I have placed a detailed explanation in the Study Guide, so that I don't have to duplicate the same information for all my courses. Be sure to read all of it, as I hold all of it as being part of this course's Syllabus.
In general, though, I do evaluate your posts on quality. The best posts are those that have these qualities:
- show that you have read the material and aren't just talking in generalities
- cite sources
- show thoughtfulness rather than first impressions
- offer analysis rather than opinion
- show that you have tried to find the answer for yourself rather than just asked without researching
For each study section you will identify and explain the historical significance of one event, person or term. Each must be in essay format (complete sentences, well-formed paragraphs). Each essay must be no less than 400 words long and no more than 500 words long. Word count is for the body only, not including notes, title, or bibliography.
I'm very serious about the length limit. Any essay less than 400 words long will be given a D. Any essay more than 500 words will also be given a D. Make sure you know how to use the word count feature of your word processor.
Each essay must contain your name, the text of the essay topic you are covering, and your bibliography. Don't worry too much about the format for the bibliography. What matters is that the information you provide is complete and correct; the format is secondary.
Your essay must have a minimum of two sources. One may be from a web site, but not from an encyclopedia site. The other may be from either a scholarly journal article (online or in print) or one scholarly book. Note that the website for this course does not count as a source!
Choosing a topic
You can choose from a list of essay topics. For ease of reference, I've broken them out into separate files, one for each section.
I've written a fairly detailed rubric that is intended to help you in judging your own work before turning it in. I recommend you read it.
Turn it in
Email your completed essay to me as an attachment. Be sure you have reviewed the Study Guide!
I can read OpenOffice, RTF, or Microsoft Word (see Study Guide for specifics). The assignment is due by midnight of the due date. I'll acknowledge receipt within 24 hours; if you don't hear from me, contact me.
After I've acknowledged receipt, I'll take up to a week to grade the assignment. Then I'll email it back to you with comments embedded in the documents, plus a grade.