Starting point:

The seminar is a mandatory course that has to be taken by bachelor students in the second or third study semester and is usually undertaken with no prior knowledge of Dutch-speaking literature.

For the students the seminar - in accordance with the SPO (study examination regulations) - provides not only the first and only systematic overview of periods, genres and groupings of Dutch literary history, but is, as a rule, their first contact with literary texts emanating from the Dutch language area.  

A special challenge - especially with a view to older texts - are the at this early study stage the not fully well-developed foreign language skills.


Formalities

  • This seminar is half of a semster-overlapping module and connects to te introductory course "Literature analysis". 
  • The forms of active participation are, in accordance with the current SPO, "seminar discussions, preparatory reading of relevant academic texts, individual as well as group presentations (oral/written), e-learning based self-learning phases".
  • 2 weekly hours face-to-face, on a weekly basis 4 hours of preparatory and follow-up work (5CP).
  • The complete module is completed with a term paper that focuses on one of the module parts, as a rule the introductory course.

Aims of the blended learning concept:

  • Even though the SPO describe sthe course as a "seminar", it usually has - due to the immense content (the entire literary history of the Durch-speaking areas from the Middle Ages to today), more of the character of a lecture. Blended learning should help here to focus more on the dialogue-based character of a seminar.   
  • Students should be pointed more in the right direction regarding the preparatory reading of literary texts (on the respective era or genre) in order to use the limited time in the face-to-face sessions more effectively.
  • Partially it is desired that the worked-on content is conserved on a long-term basis for the students (as reference works, as a support for term papers, etc.). 


Table of contents

Course

Course titleHistory of literature
Course typeSeminar
Department/InstituteDept. of Philosophy and Humanities, Institute of German and Dutch Languages and Literatures
Degree programDutch Philology (Bachelor)
LecturerJohanna Bundschuh
No. of participantsapprox. 8 - 15
Phaseduring the academic lecture period
Durationone entire semester, ongoing
SWS/CP2 SWS, 5 CP

Tools

Blackboard learning environment:

  • Wikis
  • Tests
  • Glossary
  • Announcements
  • Forum

Concept

Aims of the course

  • Gaining knowledge and being able to reflect this (on individual authors, genres and periods)
  • Understanding relationships (especially between general history, the history of ideas and the history of literature)
  • Analysis (of various interpretations of the history of literature)
  • Assessment (well-informed selection of secondary literature of a certain genre, evaluating the effects on the presented research results presented there)
  • as well as applying knowledge stemming from the first module section (introductory course on literature analysis) 


Function and face-to-face as well as e-learning phases

  • Weekly rhythm, always interchanging between face-to-face and e-learning
  • The contents provided via e-learning are solely for the preparation of the respective next face-to-face session
  • The contents are, as a rule, provided one week before the face-to-face course

Visualization

Example of a detailed view

Realization

The Blackboard course was set up and pre-structured to a high degree. The following points played an important role:

  • Announcements: The announcements are used on a regular basis during the course of the semester in order to point out preparatory tasks etc.
  • Screencast active participation: A screencast for the stipulations of active participation was created and made available to the students. Thereby it was the goal for the first session to spend as little time as possible for organizational explanations. 
  • The concept of the wikis was presented as a collaborative working format by using an interlinked external introductory film as the students had to work with this quite often. 
  • Discussion forum: A discussion thread for organizational questions was posted. The students were supposed to exchange thoughts about any open questions they may have peer-wise or with the lecturer regarding active participation, what one should do if one is sick etc.  
  • Using "course material" links were provided for the already digitalized and publicly accessible primary literature which was supposed to be prepared for the individual sessions.
  • 6 Wikis were set up in accordance with the semester plan and these were pre-structured in a quite detailed manner based on given questions. In the descriptions for all of the wikis it was once again pointed out that there is a real need to actively participate (and, in individual cases, the specific way of participating was pointed out).
  • A glossary was set up which the participants could access when creating the wiki. 
  • Two Blackboard tests were set up, whereby the second test was activated using the adaptive activation feature after the first test had been successfully completed. Both of these tests can be seen as one unit and serve as preparation for the seminar sessions of weeks 4 an 5.

In the original concept only one test was planned. The deviation from this plan came about due to the fact that sensible questions regarding the content was only possible with relatively many "open" questions (short answers, essays). However, I wanted to ensure that the students received an immediate feedback after they had logged in their answers as I hoped that this would have a motivational effect. Therefore I integrated all of the "closed" questions (question types multiple answers, either/or, unsorted text) into the first test. Only when a good result was achieved there (75% of the answers were correct) was the second part of the test with the open questions activated. The answers given there needed to be corrected by the lecturer and should be evaluated within a time frame of 48 hours.    

Experiences made by the lecturer and evaluation

Basics:

Setting up a well-designed Blackboard course is very time-consuming and can only be recommended if one re-uses this course - then definitely!

Problems and solution strategies that were developed:

  • Due to the quite rigid structures of the blended learning concept spontaneous changes regarding the course program are quite time-consuming: the already programed activations etc. need to be adjusted. The clear advantage, though, for students: Even when they are absent the structure always remains clear and accessible for them. 
  • I found that the pre-structured wiki at the start of the semester was very helpful, especially to demonstrate to the students what relevant questions can be. However, it also leads to a more school-like teaching method in that only content provided by the lecturer is worked on. in order to give the students the possibility of setting emphases themselves and developing research approaches, at the end of the semester I asked them to use the wiki only for the documentation of their own research questions.

Evaluation:

The seminar was evaluated very positively, the question as to the sense of the e-learning elements, however, was on average evaluated a bit more negatively than the other traditional elements of a course such as lectures. Reasons for this were however not really given in the free text fields provided.

In one case feedback was received that the wikis led to a classroom / schooling situation.

The Blackboard were positively assessed with regard to the possibility of checking one's learning and comprehension.

The students felt that they were properly challenged; they found that the time spent on the course though was a bit too much. 

Lecturer impressions:

  • The time of involvement by the students is increased by working on the online tasks. The time requirement goes beyond the 4 weekly hours stipulated in the SPO with regard to preparatory and follow-up work only for a few individual cases; on average, seen over the whole semester this is definitely not the case. 
  • In the past I also offered this same seminar without blended learning components. I could make out a definite improvement when it came to the students' preparation, both quality- and quantity-wise. I would say that this has to do with the rather concrete exercises assigned and the (very school-like) check that participation in the wikis etc. took place. 
  • The possibility of getting a real overall view of the text comprehension and the work done on the assignments, especially with regard to quiet participants in class, is very practical as this was made possible through the (forced) participation of all students of the seminar in the wiki creation tasks. This makes it possible to delve into problems in a more target-oriented manner during the face-to-face sessions and to remove any misunderstandings that might have cropped up.  
  • The form of the wikis that were not pre-structured into independently created and worked on research questions should receive more weight in the seminar in order to avoid a school-like teaching environment. 
  • The in relationship to other points not so enthusiastic evaluation of the e-learning components I would base on three points (due to the fact that there was no clear and concrete feedback to these points):
    1. the workload
    2. the school-like teaching setting
    3. the little time during the face-to-face session that was available to be able to demonstrate the relevance of all the content that was additionally developed in the wikis and the tests.

Point 1 is covered by the SPO and can therefore be ignored. Point 3 is independent of the teaching format in this concrete seminar - the contents can hardly all be pressed into one semester even if there is a stark reduction. The problem only seems solvable if the SPO is changed. Point 2 seems to me to be essential and if this Blackboard scenario is reused then a more independent research and study format needs to be found for the students.

Support offered by CeDiS

  • Consulting services for the implementation of digital solutions in teaching: The Center for Digital Systems (CeDiS) has extensive experience of many years when it comes to the implementation of digital media and systems within the fields of teaching, learning and research. We offer a wide variety of consulting services on the implementation of these tools and systems within the entire academic scope and especially at Freie Universität Berlin. 
  • Training courses and workshops: For lecturers at Freie Universität Berlin (professors, employees, tutors) as well as lecturers of other universities CeDiS offers training courses and workshops on the topic of teaching and learning with digital media. These course enable participants to implement online elements within their own sphere of teaching.
  • The Executive Board of the Freie Universität supports e-learning initiatives: With the e-learning funding program financial resources are provided to lecturers that enrich and improve their courses quality-wise by implementing technological and media-related support. All of the academic staff teaching, the lecturers or even the institutions of the Freie Universität - without the Charité-Universitätsmedizin - can be supported within this program.

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