Author Archives: Mikayla Zagoria-Moffet

The Composition MOOC and Peer Review Based Grades

This MOOC came to my attention a month or so ago and it struck me as particularly interesting. We’d talked previously in class about the effectiveness of the MOOC and the concerns and questions it raises about best practices in teaching, but I don’t think that at that point, anyone had talked about the existence of a composition or writing-based course.

I glanced over it again last night, after our discussion on peer review in the classroom and how to structure effective peer reviews– modeling, the amount of time given to sections of papers, whether students should be paired or put in groups, and so forth. The FAQ section states that this MOOC goes as far as to give peer reviewers the authority of being the only feedback they will receive on their writing and the basis of the grade in the course (and presumably, the verification of completion necessary to receive the Statement of Accomplishment).

I feel like this not only complicates the model of the MOOC, with peer review based assessment and composition as a topic, but also assumes a lot about peer review. Is it even remotely possible that several hours of lectures on MOOCs could make a peer so effective that their feedback is the basis of the grade? Online peer review has been immensely more complicated than in class review for my students this semester; coordinating emails and communication has been challenging and it becomes near impossible when students withdraw from the course or don’t “show” for a week when a peer review is expected. When peer review is online AND the basis for assessment of performance throughout a class AND the completion rate of these courses is so low, is there any way that this can possibly work? Or is this just an experiment in (a potentially colossal) teaching/education failure?

Anyone interested in utopian/dystopian narratives?

Hey all,

Given the wide range of interests in our class, I thought that I would take the opportunity to (shamelessly) promote the Utopian Studies Seminar at the GC. The Seminars often involve questions of technology and ethics, and I thought some of these things might be intriguing to certain members of our class. There’s a seminar tomorrow evening (4:15 in room 3209) focusing on Nature, Utopia, and the Garden. Here’s a link to the Utopian Studies Seminar blog with more information on tomorrow’s event if anyone is interested:


A Few Provocations on Collaboration

Hey all,

I’m sorry I’ll be missing you today in class– I’m having some health issues. While I think we’ll probably have more of a discussion on collaboration later on, I did want to post a few ideas or thoughts that I had in response to the articles we read for last time to prompt discussion.

– In Collaborative Futures, the authors make mention of the privilege inherent in collaboration. That is, it takes a certain amount of privilege in order to be able to pursue collaborative projects, as it assumes extra time, energy, and other resources to work on any collaborative project. I think this is certainly a valid point and I’m glad it went acknowledged, but I didn’t feel at any point that viable opportunities to remedy this were provided. It was kind of like, ‘Well, it sucks that collaboration is a classed process, but what are we going to do about it?’ So– would there be any ideas on rethinking collaboration so that it isn’t as much of a classed processed?

– It seems across the articles that collaboration is relied upon as a buzzword now and has lost some of its intrinsic value as a result (or so it was suggested by a few of the pieces). I think we had this conversation about the word ‘gamification’ as well last week– but what’s in a word? If something becomes buzzy or catchy or trendy, does that mean that we need to find ourselves a new word in order to continue our work? Or are we taking a very hipster-ish approach in our unwillingness to use words that have been appropriated by other establishments…especially business-centered ones?

– Once more, I’m going to draw from Collaborative Futures— mostly because I had some bones to pick with the book in general, if that wasn’t abundantly clear. There’s a whole chapter on how the book might be useless. First, well, yes, isn’t any text…that depends on who you are as a reader and your experiences interacting with the text, in my opinion. As a second point, the argument that seemed to be made about this uselessness was not, in fact, about the content but was instead about the fact that we’re all collaborative beings in the first place and we’re reliant on others for xyz and shouldn’t we just really all think about how interconnected we are. I’m oversimplifying, but I did take major issue with the idea that breastfeeding was used as the example that got the writer thinking about the collaborative nature of life. To me, that’s not collaborative– that’s one being feeding from another being and dependent on it for survival. The breastfeeding mother does not need to breastfeed in order to survive, nor is it common for more than one person to breastfeed a child in Western cultures. So the questions that arise out of this issue for me are: 1) are they trying to reconcile too many different ideas of what collaboration might be to make their point? 2) even though humans tend to be a social species that do involve themselves heavily in the goings-ons of other humans, does this count as ‘collaboration’? and 3) how do these ideas of interconnectedness  connect back to the idea of privilege? Or do they? I see a clear connection between the way that these chapter presented the idea(s) of collaboration and the way that the authors had initially brought up about the privilege inherent in collaboration.

Stop, Collaborate and Listen.

Let me preface by apologizing for the title– I can’t steer clear of a tasteless reference to Vanilla Ice for really anything. 🙂

I’m first going to discuss what I felt were some of the more interesting definitions or ideas about collaboration, in thinking about the nature of collaboration itself, before turning to some of the issues that I’ve experienced in collaborative situations– especially when it comes to creating a concrete outcome for any given project. In the third section of this post, I’ll raise questions about collaboration and its place in the academy, working off of one of the main prompts for this week’s reading.

The Nature of Collaboration

The nature of collaboration, especially in several of these pieces, seems to focus upon the digital and upon digital tools to help foster collaborative relationships. In Unsworth’s piece “Creating Digital Resources: The Work of Many Hands” there is a suggestion that the collaborative is unmistakably intertwined with the digital. He writes, “Computers make it possible to pose questions, to frame research problems, that would otherwise be impossible to imagine. The computer provides us with the ability to keep track of enormous amounts of information, to sort and select that information rapidly and in many different ways, and to uncover in reams of mute data the aesthetically and intellectually apprehensible patterns on which understanding depends.” He goes on to talk about some sort of utopian space of the future, where computers will understand us, but says that for now, we must rely upon those who understand computers to get those messages across for us (presumably for those academics, like me, who might be a bit technologically challenged). Now, this idea doesn’t seem collaborative in the slightest to me. It seems like a frustrated thank-you to someone Unsworth *needed* to complete a digital project, without having the know-how himself. Does this seem like a vision of collaboration to be upheld and praised? Or is complicating the idea of collaboration (which is such a positive, upbeat sounding word) what we need?

In Collaborative Futures, the authors suggest that we can view collaboration as a sort of open relationship– we set guidelines and a different sort of ‘social pact’ in order to help us in our partnerships, rather than adhering to the monogamous relationships imagined here, which are deemed potentially ‘too fragile a social fabric’. They write that “Under a contract, the terms of collaboration are clear and legally binding. When collaboration is open and there is no explicit contract, the binding terms can be a shared passion, a common goal, a sense of community (or the lack thereof), but nevertheless, the need for implicit and explicit structure remains” (40). This definition of collaboration (and the overall theme, throughout the course of the piece, that the collaborative endeavor upon which the authors were embarking might be an exercise in futility and needless work) seems to me lovely but perhaps impractical. Perhaps I’ve ever only heard of drama involving “open relationships” and the metaphor confused the message they attempted to get across, but it seems that an acknowledgement of the need for structure, coupled with the idea that sheer passion is needed to propel the collaborators through the project, is a bit idealistic and does not address the very real potential concerns in an open collaboration.

Collaboration and Frustration

Perhaps this is my own challenge– perhaps everyone else has had extremely fruitful and successful collaborative exchanges that leave them feeling like all partners were honest and equal contributors to a labor of love. The idea of collaboration speaks to me and I think those who write about it (including, but not limited to the authors we’ve encountered this week) generally do so in a way that leaves me thinking, “Yes! This is what I’m missing! Sign me up!”

And then I engage in a project of a collaborative nature and run into the same frustrating challenges. One of us has misunderstood the intentions of the other, despite hours of communication. One of us has the governing idea for a project, which goes unrealized by the other team members– or perhaps is unyielding when asked about it. One person isn’t good about deadlines, another has an issue checking his or her email, and a third has run into a major personal crisis at the eleventh hour, leaving the rest of the team members to fill in the gaps. Each collaborative project I’ve participated in that resulted in some concrete outcome– that is, some kind of paper or proposal– there have been complications that have left me feeling more frustrated by the experience than able to enjoy those wonderful ‘Ah ha!’ moments that only come in working with groups.

Here, I guess, my question is: what are some of the things that collaboration can give us that other modes of work cannot? If you’ve found collaboration frustrating or perhaps ‘not worth it’ in the past, why? What can we do or how can we think about collaboration to diminish those attitudes and increase the positive outcomes of collaboration?

Collaborating in the Academy

One of the questions steering this week’s reading was: ‘digital scholarship and pedagogy rewards and often times requires collaboration at a level not previously expected of academics. How does this change the labor we do, our approaches to imagining and designing projects?’ I thought about this in connection with a story I recently heard from an adviser of mine, who admitted that she was reprimanded during her annual review for doing “too much collaborative work” and not enough on her own. Now, she works in a much more ‘traditional’ academic field, but the comment made me think twice about the role of collaboration, especially in tandem with the digital humanities or digital scholarship in general.

I think, like alternative forms of publishing, digital scholarship pushes the envelope in academy. So I’d like to add to this question– not only how does the collaborative expectation change the work that we and how it is imagined, designed, and implemented, but also, how is that work viewed by the academy and by society in general? Does collaboration change the way we view the work that has been done– and if so, how?