I ask students to post a brief analytical comment or question about the reading to a Canvas discussion board before every class. I make them due an hour before class starts, and I read them before class. This requirement lets me walk into class with a sense of what students were most excited or most confused about in the reading, so I can tailor my class session a bit (or sometimes a lot) in response. The requirement also lets students who are usually more quiet show me that they are intellectually engaged in the reading. I will often specifically call on a student to share with the class something particularly interesting or smart that s/he posted; this makes for easy participation for the student, especially if s/he’s shy, because s/he already knows that the comment or question was a good one, and it helps integrate quieter voices into discussion.
For my own sanity, I don’t grade individual posts or give any credit for late posts. I do keep track over the semester of completion and quality with a check/plus/minus system as I read posts. Then I assign one holistic grade at the end of the term. Students can miss a few (usually four) posts without penalty, which keeps me from having to field excuses.
On November 12, 2019 Muhlenberg colleagues gathered to share their teaching hacks. Teaching hacks are relatively simple strategies that we might use to improve student learning or reduce our workload. These strategies might free up additional class time, increase the efficiency of our practices, or better support our ability to work on scholarship or service.