Laura Gibbs commented on a post on Blogger.
Thanks, Michael, what a great opportunity - much appreciated! I had missed this post (busy couple of weeks), but I saw someone's blog post responding to the invitation, and I wanted to do the same. 

(Western and Non-Western Culture Gen. Ed., upper-division, University of Oklahoma)

Brief description of practice.
In addition to their reading and informal writing for my courses, students publish a Storybook website on a topic of their choice. It contains 3-4 traditional stories, retold in their own words and using their own style, along with an Introduction and Author's Notes for each story. Here is an archive of student work; students in both of my classes - Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics - create these Storybook websites:

In what ways is the practice effective or transformative for student learning? 
Unlike the typical writing assignment completed in haste before a deadline late in the semester, the Storybook projects begin already in Week 1 of the semester. The overall process improves student writing by offering semester-long feedback both from the instructor and fellow students as the modular project is developed step by step. Here is the overall process:

What’s the evidence? How do we know? 

Anecdotal evidence. Students are extremely proud and happy with their work, and proud of the other work of students in the class, too. I get their positive feedback in emails and also in comments they make in their blogs. Here is a comment I received just today from a student in an email:
"I'm so pleased that you enjoyed my Storybook this semester. I must say that it was such a blast to create, and this class has been the greatest experience of my undergraduate career. Being able to connect to home and my ancestors has been absolutely amazing, and I wish my great-grandmother could see it. I'm so thankful that I was finally able to enroll in this course, and the amount of knowledge I have acquired in this class is immeasurable!"

Class evaluations. Although I'm not a big fan of our evaluation process, my classes are consistently ranked in the top quintile for my college (all courses are ranked with percentiles).
My completion rates are also very high, typically 95-100%.

Meaningful Writing Project nominee. My campus is participating in a three-campus study of "meaningful writing," and my courses were nominated by students in the randomly selected interview pool. I was very proud of that: apparently only ten faculty were nominated more than once, and I was nominated three times. The Meaningful Writing Project is very relevant to the topic here, since one of its main research questions is what types of "meaningful writing" can happen in Gen. Ed. classes as opposed to classes for a major. Details here:

How does the practice reflect the digital world as lived student culture? 
Although most students have not created websites before, the multimedia nature of the writing (including images, video, and other media) is something students mention often as a positive aspect of the class. Especially for reluctant writers, the opportunity to work with multimedia is highly appealing.

What are the skills and content associated with the digital practice or environment? 
Basic website creation (Google Sites) and basic image editing (although some students put their existing Photoshop skills to great use), along with online research (students use online sources and then retell stories from those primary sources). I offer a wide range of supplementary technology tasks and tools for extra credit if students want to go beyond the basics. 

How does the practice deepen or shape behavior of students with digital tools and environments with which they may be variously familiar?
By looking at other student work, students are inspired to try new things (web design, image editing, storytelling styles), and they also receive continuous encouragement from me to explore and experiment. Although some students are shy at first to share their work, they quickly overcome that fear. I wish university faculty could be so fearless about sharing their writing and exploring new technology tools!

What does it take to make the practice work? 
This is my full-time job. I teach three sections of 25-30 students each semester. I spend 40 hours per week, every week, doing everything I can to make these courses a success, both in terms of helping the present students and also in seeking out ways to improve the courses in the future. I have no research or service duties. My long-term investment in these classes has paid off; I have taught the same classes for over 10 years, and they have improved dramatically since I started, and they continue to improve. With each year, I am more and more excited about what I do. The creative, open-ended nature of the student projects means that each semester is a new and exciting experience for me. 

What is the impact on faculty time? 
See above. I work 40 hours per week - but no more than 40 hours. For both the students and for me, the modular nature of the coursework means that there is a steady workflow from week to week, very easy for them to manage and for me to manage also. No binge-and-purge roller-coaster as is typical of many college classes, with intense bursts of activity followed by periods of inactivity. Work in these classes is very steady from the first week until the end of the semester, with no final exam.

Does it take a team to design, implement, assess?
No team; the development needs for this course do not require team support. I do not use video of any kind, and I require no special computer programming, although I hired a student years ago to write a custom program for me (available here: — the money I paid for that javascript generator is some of the best money I ever spent. I use randomizing javascripts constantly in my course materials and also in various course assignments. 

What are the implications for organizational change?
I think my course represents a very viable model to address Gen. Ed. needs at an affordable cost. I am an instructor (FT with benefits), not a professor, and I teach for an online course program that was designed specifically to increase access to upper-division Gen. Ed. classes required for graduation. My courses are generating money for the university (if you look at instructional costs versus revenue, I am as a profitable as a federal research grant, generating the equivalent of a 65% indirect cost rate for the university to spend ad libitum). More important, the flexible scheduling of these online courses makes it possible for students to enroll who, for all kinds of reasons, might find it hard to include an additional classroom-based class in their schedule.

How is it applicable to Gen. Ed. (if example doesn’t come from Gen. Ed.)?
My courses are both designated Gen. Ed. courses, designated as Western Culture (my Myth-Folklore course) and Non-Western Culture (my Indian Epics course). They fill instantly because upper-division online Gen. Ed. courses are in very high demand; each semester I usually turn away anywhere from 50 to 100 students because I do not have room for more.

Are there references or literature to which you can point that is relevant to the practice?
I read lots (LOTS) of blogs and follow the work of other teachers (K-12 and college) online; that is what helps me in my work. So, that is how I spend my reading time; I don't read the research journals.
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