A Syllabus for a fully online “Introduction to International Studies” class

I have been teaching hybrid courses for nearly two years, but this quarter I taught my first fully online class. Contrary to what people expect, I find that I come to know my students better than in a face to face class. In traditional courses -even in a seminar- four or five students may dominate most of the discussion. In my course, every student has to two discussion posts every week. Because students know that their posts are shared, they tend to put a great deal of thought into what they say. This means that I come to know the students well. Equally important, because the students are broken into smaller discussion groups, they also come to know each other. There is an online community, which I think is meaningful to the students.

A couple of years ago I was in a meeting with a dean who asked: “I don’t understand why you need to have caps on the number of students in an online course?” I realized that they thought that online courses are like a machine, which simply work students through the learning process. Of course if you have discussion posts and someone did say something inflammatory on a Tuesday, you cannot wait until Friday to respond. My students also do a great deal of writing. In practice, they often go over my suggested targets for discussion posts. If every student writes 400 words an average in discussion posts a week, and 300 words a week in their quiz, that’s 700 words a week for each student. If the class has 40 students, that means that I am reading 28,000 words a week. While this can at times be challenging, I also believe that my students have has much practice writing as in any traditional format class, albeit through briefer assignments.

One aspect of online classes that I like is that there is no place for a student to hide. In a traditional class, you may rely on a final written exam to evaluate the students’ comprehension with the reading. With an online class you know that they’ve done the reading every week, because they have a weekly quiz that covers the material.

Many people worry about the danger of plagiarism in an online class. But in an online class every weekly quiz is worth so much less than in a traditional format class that the incentive to plagiarize is quite low. In a regular class, you can go to a website like “Course Hero” and look for materials. That’s not really possible when the quiz question asks you to respond to an academic article or textbook chapter. And students are unlikely to be able hire someone or coerce a friend to write three paragraphs for four percent of their course grade. If the Professor randomly assigns different quiz questions to different people in the class, it may become more work to plagiarize than to simply do the quiz. Of course, if you rely on multiple choice questions for a large percentage of the assessment, then cheating is inevitable. But I think that the risk of plagiarism is lower in a well-designed online class than in a traditional format class. Having taught for twenty years -and been a graduate assistant for years before that- I can also report plagiarism also existed in traditional format classes. Yes, I have had a paper submitted to me that still had the web address from which it was printed on the bottom of every page.

Next quarter I will teach my “Introduction to International Studies” class as an online course for the first time. Here is my syllabus for the course. The syllabus has embedded links for the content, particularly the videos. Because all of these videos are available through the “Streaming Video and Music” database from my library, I’m afraid that you won’t be able to access this content. But you likely will be able to find these documentaries through your own library, particularly if you have access to the “Films on Demand” database. Please note that I am using the second edition of the textbook; the chapter ordering would be different with the first edition. I would also love to hear about your experience with online teaching, so please feel free to leave a comment.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

 

Introduction to International Studies (INTL 201)

A fully online class

Spring 2014

Professor: Smallman

Office: 345 East Hall

Phone: 503-725-9978

E-mail: smallmans@pdx.edu

Office Hours: Friday, 1-3pm by

Google Chat or in my office.

 

Description: This course is designed to introduce students to the interdisciplinary character of international studies, and to acquaint them with major trends and themes in global affairs today. Students will also acquire knowledge regarding the origins and development of international relations, as well as the role of international organizations in the conduct of international relations. There are four components we will work on simultaneously:

 

  1. discipline-based concepts, analytical tools, research theories and ideologies
  2. region-based information, perspectives, issues, and theories
  3. economic, political, and cultural perspectives on globalization and development
  4. content topics revolving around food, energy, health, security, and environment.

 

Class Format and Requirements:

There are no regular class sessions for online classes. Instead, the course is organized around the weekly class activities – mainly the Discussion Boards and Quizzes. These activities will be evaluated based on the students’ ability to demonstrate they have completed the assigned readings and videos. Therefore, it is essential that students complete reading assignments prior to partaking in the online discussions and quizzes. In general, students should plan on spending about eight hours a week dedicated to course readings and participation in the weekly activities and assignments. This is equivalent to the time requirements for the on-campus Introduction to International Studies class.

 

Expectations for Online Students

 

The online format is a new form of university learning and requires personal discipline to succeed. Time management is a major factor in online success. Students should follow these basic rules:

  1. Block out time for your online class.
  2. Set your personal weekly times for “attending” your online class, just like when you attend a campus class.
  3. You should reserve the time that you would budget both to attend a regular format class, plus study time.
  4. ALWAYS, start on your work early in case of a computer problem; don’t wait until the last moment.

Accessing D2L:

To access D2L, go to the d2l.pdx.edu. To login, enter your odin ID and your odin password. If you do not have an odin account, or are not sure what your odin ID or password is, go to https://www.account.pdx.edu/ or contact the Information Technology Help Desk (help@pdx.edu) or 725-HELP. For D2L help in person, please go to the 2nd floor computer lab in the Broadway building. All assignments will be submitted in D2L.

Communication with the Faculty Member:

Please e-mail me directly rather than through D2L. Please feel free to contact me for further clarification of the assignments, if you have questions about the materials, or if you have personal concerns that will affect your academic performance. I make every effort to respond to email in 48 hours. If you have lengthy or complex questions, we can arrange a phone call or Google Chat. There is also a “Questions and Answers” page on the discussion board, which is a good place to post general questions about the class.

Required course textbook: Shawn Smallman and Kimberley Brown, Introduction to International and Global Studies (University of North Carolina Press, 2015). 2nd edition. This book is available at the campus bookstore in both used and new versions.

 

Basis for Grade:

On-line Discussion (40% of the final grade): Every Monday I will post a question to the discussion board. The goal of this is to facilitate an academic community that engages in an online conversation. The class will be divided into small discussion groups of five to six students. Every week you will have to respond to my post by Wednesday at 11:59pm (150-200 words), and to another student’s post (100-150 words) by Friday at 11:59pm. Students will receive a midterm discussion grade for the course after week five.

Students are expected to demonstrate, at all times, academic integrity and respect for others. Posts that do not meet this standard will not be given any credit, and will impact a student’s overall discussion grade.

Map Modules (10% of the final grade): Students will complete two online modules, which will ask them to learn the locations of sixteen countries each in Latin America and Africa. Students will receive points (5% of final grade each) for completing these modules. This is a “participation” grade that is based on completion, rather than the results of the quiz. Students should still master their knowledge of this geography.

Midterm Reading Quiz (10% of the final grade): Students will take a multiple-choice quiz that contains 20 questions on the material covered in the textbook. The quiz will be held on Friday of week five.

Reading and Video Quizzes (40% of the final grade): Students will complete brief reading quizzes on D2L throughout the term as indicated on the syllabus. Quizzes will cover both the assigned videos and the textbook reading. You will be given one question, which you should answer in two to three paragraphs. Be sure to answer all parts of the question, and to make specific references to the readings or videos. You will have 90 minutes for each response. You may have only one attempt to take the quiz. If something so important comes up that you are unable to complete the quiz, please contact the professor. Different students may have different questions for the quiz. In other words, you cannot always count on having the same quiz question as a classmate. You will need to have read and viewed all the content before you start the quiz. The quizzes should be completed no later than 11:59 pm on Thursday. There are ten quizzes in total, as there is one for each week.

Please disable all pop-up blockers before taking a quiz. If you write a quiz response in Word, and then cut and paste the response into the quiz, please be certain to save the document before submitting it. It is your responsibility to confirm that your quiz was submitted, and to check your quiz grades every week. To see the feedback on the quiz you can go to Activities at the top of the D2L screen and click on quizzes. You will then click on the drop down menu next to the quiz and go to submissions. That will bring up a screen that will bring up all of your attempts and feedback. Please remember that your quiz will have a score of zero until I grade it; this is normal.

 

Grade Information:

Basic grade cutoffs:

A: 90%

B: 80%

C: 70%

D: 60%

Please note that I do NOT round up grades in D2L.

 

Plagiarism:

Plagiarism is the submission of another’s work as your own. It is also a serious academic crime. Any instance of plagiarism will result in an automatic “O” for that assignment, and may lead to a referral to the Dean of Students. All students are responsible for reading, understanding, and complying with the PSU Student Code of Conduct (http://www.pdx.edu/dos/psu-student-code-conduct).

 

Disability:

If you are a student with a documented disability and registered with the Disability Resource Center (725.4150 or TDD 725.6504), please contact me immediately to facilitate arranging academic accommodations.

 

D2L support: If you are not familiar with D2L, please view the Online Class Support page. This will tell you how to access D2L, take part in discussions, do quizzes, and view your grades. I have designed the course using templates, which means that for most features you can just click on embedded links, which makes the course content easier to navigate. If you have any further problems or questions regarding D2L you can call 503-725-HELP.

 

Videos:

Please note that some videos are easier to view on computers than on tablets. If you leave town for a weekend, you may want to check that the assigned movies play on your tablet before you leave, or to bring a laptop. You will need to sign in with your odin ID before watching the videos.

 

Please let Professor Smallman immediately know if a link is broken. You can, however, also click on the links in the syllabus for most course content, or search for the title on the library website from “Films on Demand” in “Streaming Video and Music.” Almost all videos are from this source. The library site for these videos can be found here.

 

Course Schedule:

True academic inquiry must proceed at its own pace, so there may be changes to this schedule, such as to include new items based on world events or respond to student interests.

 

Week 1, Introduction and History

Listen:

Audio Introduction to the class by Professor Smallman.

View: Map of Central America and South America

Watch: What is Globalization Part One by Nayan Chanda and The Color of Money: Colonialism and the Slave Trade

Read: Students should read Chapters One (Introduction) and Two (History) of the textbook.

Do: Complete the online quiz by 11:59 pm on Thursday

Do your first discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

 

Week 2, Economic Globalization

Watch:Greece’s New Odyssey” and Meltdown, part one.

Read: Chapter Four, Economic Globalization.

Do: Complete the online quiz by 11:59 pm on Thursday

Do your first discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

Practice the map quiz of Latin America; there is no grade for this quiz.

 

Week 3, Cultural and Political Globalization

View: Map of Africa.

Watch; Globalizing the local and localizing the global; Inside the European Union: Parliament under Pressure; and Google Earth’s collaboration with the Surui people in the Amazon

Read: Chapters Four and Five, Political and Cultural Globalization

Do: Complete the online quiz by 11:59 pm on Thursday

Do your first discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

 

Week 4, Development

Watch: Han’s Rosling’s TED Talk: “Let my Dataset change your Mindset” and Water First.

Read: Chapter Six, Development

Do: Complete the online quiz by 11:59 pm on Thursday

Do your first discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

Practice the map quiz of Africa. There is no grade for this quiz.

 

Week 5, Security

Watch: Juárez: Mexico’s Murder City (warning: this video contains graphic images) and the Wide Angle Video: “Japan’s About Face.”

Read: Chapter Seven Security

Do: Complete the online quiz by 11:59 pm on Thursday

Do your first discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

Do the Midterm Reading Quiz. The quiz will have 20 multiple choice questions on the reading for the first five weeks, and will close at 11:59pm on Friday.

 

Week 6, Food

Watch: Black Gold and The Future of Food: Sustainability and Security

Read: Chapter Eight, Food; “Bioterrorism and Chocolate” blog post.

Do: Complete the online quiz by 11:59 pm on Thursday

Do your first discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

 

Week 7, Health

Watch: TED Talks: “Hans Rosling on HIV” and Wide Angle: H5N1

Read: Chapter Eight, Food.

Do: Complete the online quiz by 11:59 pm on Thursday

Do your first discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

 

Week 8, Energy

Watch: “Meet the Frackers: Energy Independence or Environmental Nightmare” and “Nuclear Aftershocks.” A transcript of “Meet the Frackers” is available here.

Read: Chapter Ten, Energy

Do: Complete the online quiz by 11:59 pm on Thursday

Do your first discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

 

Week 9, Environment

Watch: Cod Comeback and Sticky and TED Talk: Stewart Brand: the Dawn of Deextinction

Read: Chapter Eleven, Environment

Do: Complete the online quiz by 11:59 pm on Thursday

Do your first discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

 

Week 10, Careers and International Travel

Watch: No videos this week.

Read: Chapters Twelve and Thirteen: Where to go from here and Conclusion.

Do: Complete the online quiz by 11:59 pm on Thursday

Do your first discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

 

There is no final exam in this class. No assignments are due after week ten of this class.

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

 

I just completed my weekly quiz, but it shows a score of zero. Why is that?

The weekly quizzes are not graded automatically. You will see a “zero” grade until I have graded the quizzes. The quizzes will always be graded by Tuesday at 5pm of the following week, or you will have a message from me to let you know otherwise.

 

How do I see the feedback on my quiz submissions, or check that it submitted properly?

Please go to Activities at the top of your D2L screen and click on quizzes. You will then click on the drop down menu next to the quiz and go to submissions. That will bring up a screen that will bring up all of your attempts and my written feedback. You should do this every week so that you can track your progress, make sure that the quiz submitted properly, and read feedback before the next quiz. But if you only want to see your grade, you can click on the “update alert” icon to the left of your name on the top bar (the icon looks like a paper with a thumbtack in it), which will display your grade.

 

Learning Outcomes for International Studies Majors

 

Majors will acquire knowledge of techniques and materials that enhance development of intercultural competence and enhance ability to tolerate cultural ambiguity.

 

Majors will acquire knowledge of the origins and development of international relations and the role of international organizations in the conduct of international relations.

 

Majors will acquire a critical understanding of the historical origins of the nation-state and its role in international studies.

 

Majors will acquire a critical understanding of the concepts of colonialism, post-colonialism, nationalism, and other major ideologies and structures that shape international relationships.

 

Majors will apply knowledge of diverse cultural frames of reference, and alternate perspectives of race, gender, sexuality, class and ethnicity, to think critically and solve problems related to the development and conduct of international relations.

 

Majors will apply knowledge to evaluate U.S. foreign policy within the context of international relations.

 

Majors will acquire a solid understanding of the cultures, societies, histories and traditions within one major world region.

 

Majors will attain third-year level proficiency in a second language related to their region of focus and apply language skills and knowledge of another culture to extend access to information, experiences, and inter-cultural understanding.

 

Majors will understand their own culture in a global and comparative context and appreciate cultural differences.

 

Majors will develop an inter-disciplinary/comparative framework of critical inquiry regarding global issues through participation in a range of adviser-approved courses across PSU programs and units.

 

 

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