E-mail Outside of Class to Enhance Discussions
Marva A. Barnett, Department of French and Teaching
- To participate, students normally need to read and think about texts
- Students' comments demonstrate some misunderstandings that you can
then address in class as appropriate.
- You can better see and reward the depth of interpretation of some
students who are quiet in class, or whose written language is better
than their spoken language.
- E-mail can be a good way get students to admit what they don't understand
about a text or assignment, as well as a chance for them to be analytical
about what they are studying.
- Begun early, e-mail can help students create a rapport among themselves-and
- Some students seem to feel more comfortable using e-mail than other
modes to communicate about the course: for example, asking questions,
commenting on how class is going, explaining what's going on in their
lives that's affecting their work in class.
Realities, sometimes unpleasant:
- At some schools, some students have to make an effort to get to a
terminal at which they can use e-mail.
- It takes time to read and respond to e-mail. (Still, many find that
engaging individually with students a strikingly open form of communication
and believe that knowing more about what more about students are thinking
is an advantage.)
- Depending on class size and the frequency with which you ask students
to write on e-mail, students may find that reading (and responding to)
e-mail takes too much time.
- When teachers add e-mail discussion to their course without otherwise
reducing the workload, students can sometimes be overwhelmed with work.
- Make sure that your e-mail assignments are not overloading students.
- Consider having only some of the students write to the rest of the
class for each assignment, just as teachers sometimes read only some
students' journals each week.
- Timing can be difficult when not all students have access to e-mail
where they live. It can help to make e-mail assignments early and encourage
students to work ahead of schedule.
- To have serious e-mail discussions, you need to grade e-mail participation