Why I Opted Out of the Participation Marks

Last week students in the AU 622 partition of the Openness in Education course were presented with the option of opting out of the participation assessment portion of the course. There was some mix up with the grading scheme, or something, I really didn’t notice about that. I am going to take advantage of the opportunity, though, to opt out. It’s not a big deal, but I thought it might be worthwhile to state the few reasons why.

First, I’ve never been a fan of assessing dialog or giving grades to forum participation. Some sort of allocation of marks has been present in all my courses in the MDE so far (except for one or two) and my feeling is that measurement changes the nature of interaction. Measured interaction is less authentic than non-measured interaction. It’s kind of like a social Uncertainty Principle that I’ve developed (and by ‘developed’ I mean made up based my own passing observations, but still…). I’d rather not write or read responses that have been constructed just to meet some required minimum amount of interaction, nor ones that read like long answers to formal essay questions. I’d rather just state answers in the formal style (which may even result in more specific professor feedback on any given issue), and then interact at will to suit my own comfort.

Second, I don’t think that opting out will affect my participation levels. I believe in the participatory style of learning (perhaps more so with each passing month, these days, although still only to a certain degree…not all socializing is inherently good) and it’s positive effects on learning. Especially for a course like this. There have been some issues with the amount of participation not being detailed enough, or the heavy weight of the participation marks – these aren’t such big issues for me, as I suspect any discrepancy could be easily clarified.

Finally, and I think this is the main reason, I see this course designed with two distinct sections of interaction. One is closed within the AU limits, the other is outside. So far, I enjoy the outside interactions and in the long run I think they’ll be more useful. Both are advantageous, however, time is limited and I wouldn’t want to cut down my outside, more natural interaction in favor of the AU gated interaction. The issue of defining interaction might be raised here, though, on the outside, as cruising through the #oped12 content often leads to digressions on people blogs, etc. Would this be counted as interaction? would it not? Does it depend on the content? Does it depend on the place? I’d rather not bother with these types of discussions of definitions when engaged with a professor.

Basically, opting out gives me more flexibility, which is important as it is, and could become a major factor if things in life get hectic, which they often do these days. Why risk it? It’s unfortunate, because I think my interaction will be plentiful this course, and I hope it means feedback on my interaction will also be. I’d hate to be ignored simply because I chose not to be measured.