On an intensive web design course

I’ve taught a semester-long intro to web design course at LCC about 15 times now. That’s a lot of web design. This semester I ended up teaching an intensive version instead – 5 weeks instead of 15, with the same amound of classroom hours and the same content. Here are a few observations:

First, the class met for the first 5 weeks of the normal semester, so the students had other classes. Those classes didn’t seem to get busy until the third week of the semester, and so the students were almost exclusively focused on my class the first couple of weeks. It made week 5 much less pleasant than a normal semester, as the other classes were in full swing, and the space for my class was getting squished.

Second, grades, attendance, and participation were higher than a normal semester. I think there’s a correlation between attendance/participation and grades, and part of that is because I am implicitly grading their ability to follow the instructions. (If I should be attempting to grade that ability less than I currently do is a different discussion!) Part of the higher grading and participation was simply that the course took up more mind-space than a normal semester. There wasn’t the mental discussion ‘Do I have homework for x class?’ – the question was ‘What do I need to do for web design for Wednesday?’. I do wonder if that hurt grades or attendance for other courses, but I don’t have any evidence either way. 

Third, five weeks was about the right length. It was 9 hours of class each week (MWF, 3 hours/day). We had discussed teaching it in 3 weeks (15 hours of class/week, 3 hours every weekday), but decided to space it out a bit more. 3 weeks would be overly-stressful for students, I think, and they wouldn’t have time for larger projects/homework between classes. A day between each class opens up possibilities for larger homework projects.

Fourth, I had to make choices about curriculum that I wouldn’t normally make. For example, I make them find a client for their final project normally. This semester, I assigned a project to everyone, as they wouldn’t have time to find clients and get feedback from clients throughout the process. This was both good and bad, I think. They received a slightly-more-focused version of the course, but there was less space for exploring the interesting questions that come up in classroom discussions. 

Overall, I think it was a positive experience, both for me and for the students, and I’d do it again next spring if it is a possibility.