During the lockdown I had a number of teaching experiences that I’m going to try to integrate into my attempts to impart Writing Process Reengineering to doctoral students and early career academics. In November, I will be running a four-week course here at the Copenhagen Business School, which will also have a “massive online”, if you will, presence. I thought I’d write a little post today about what I have in mind.
The course consists of three 3-hour on-campus meetings: an introductory seminar, a masterclass, and a capstone seminar. In between meetings, participants will do 20 hours of writing, but they can leave some of this for the week of the capstone seminar, which is on a Monday. At the end of the course, they should have a complete first draft of a journal article and 40 very explicit writing experiences. They will also have given and received feedback and discussed the problem of academic writing from philosophical, rhetorical, and literary perspectives; they will have been exposed both to the grand ideas of Writing Process Reengineering and its grimy little nuts and bolts. And they should depart with a good sense of how they can continue to implement it in their research and writing processes going forward, hopefully throughout a long and productive career.
As an ambitious explorer of media, I’ve decided to add a podcast element to the course. In fact, I’ve decided to organize it in such a way that a “podcourse” is available to people who can’t attend the live sessions. Participating in this way will require a little extra reading, but if they make a little effort, they should be able to get almost as much out of it as the flesh-and-blood participants.
This is something I learned from a writing course I co-teach in one of our master’s programs. The standard set-up is to meet with students for whole (8-hour) days separated by a few weeks. Moving these sessions online during the lockdown was quite exhausting for both the instructors and the participants, but it was not possible simply to shorten the days and have more of them. (Our professional master’s programs are designed for people who have an easier time devoting a whole day to study than taking a few hours out of their workday.) So we came up with an elegant solution. The last two hours of every day were organized around two pre-recorded 20-minute podcasts, each with a short exercise that could be completed within about half an hour. This allowed participants either to leave it for later in the evening, or even another day, or go straight to it (since they may already have freed up the time.) It offered a good combination of structure and flexibility.
To get them away from the screen, we encouraged participants to take the podcasts with them on a walk, and we even designed the exercises so that they could be done unaided by anything more complicated than a pen, a piece of paper, and their imaginations (in some cases, their imaginations were actually equipment enough). This is what I want to try to replicate for my course, but on a daily rather than semi-weekly basis.
Starting in early November, therefore, I’ll begin to post short 5-minute podcasts with reflections and exercises to prepare participants for the writing they will do on each (most) of the days between meetings of the course. There will be twenty podcasts in all, five days a week for four weeks. The idea is to listen to them as the last thing you do in your working day, just before deciding what you will write in the morning. I recommend you listen to them in a relaxed mood, perhaps while taking a walk. When the course is over, the twenty podcasts will remain on the course website, so you can take the course again anytime you want to devote some deliberate hours to getting better at writing. You just book some writing time into your calendar, and listen to a brief podcast at the end of each day.
I’m looking forward to seeing how well this works. Both as a supplement to the on-campus course and as a stand-alone podcourse. Any feedback, even at this early planning stage, is much appreciated. Let me have it!