With over 31,000 students now enrolled in the course, the enthusiasm for Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, or “ModPo,” is running high. This week, when the course opened on Monday, I was overwhelmed with teaching my college class; studying for my graduate course on First Amendment issues in mass communication; and attending all sorts of meetings and events for the organizations I’m involved with. I thought to myself, How in the world am I going to complete this course? Is it worth it to take ModPo right now?
Thankfully, things settled down by Wednesday, and by the end of the week, I was really enjoying my experience in ModPo. Week One was all about Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. This week, I read and analyzed three Dickinson poems and portions of Whitman’s “Song of Myself” alongside Professor Al Filreis and his team of smart, engaging TAs. I took two quizzes on Dickinson’s poems and posted a few responses on her poetry to the discussion forum. Today, our first writing assignment will open, and I will be tasked with analyzing a Dickinson poem on my own. I can’t wait to see how those writing assignments will work. Though not all 31,000+ students will complete a poetry analysis, I have no idea how the ModPo TA team will be grading our work or providing feedback for us. Apparently, there will be a lot of peer review… How we will peer review one another on a discussion forum is still new territory, but I’m excited to see how that works.
This week, I stumbled upon a wonderful discussion thread and several posts that I felt I could carry with me in future Coursera classes, future UCF classes, and into the classroom I lead. When I tried to find that thread and those posts again today to share those ideas with you, I realized the biggest downfall of ModPo: the discussion forums. The forums are impossible to navigate and desperately need a makeover. There is no “search” feature, no way to find the ideas you’ve posted, no way to clearly navigate through hundreds of thousands of posts. Though I’ve tried for an hour to find these great lessons to copy word-for-word for you here, I’m throwing in the towel. I give up. Great things are definitely happening on the discussion forums; it’s just too confusing to find those great things.