Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Intro Phil Hybrid

Leo asked what the syllabus for my hybrid course looked like. Most of the actual syllabus is taken up with college and department policy, but I do hand out a syllabus summary (the syllabus itself is kept in Blackboard rather than handed out in hardcopy), so here's the syllabus summary, plus a few extra details about assignments from the full syllabus. It's all very much a constant work in progress.


Plato, Republic.
Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy.
Descartes, Discourse on Method.

There will also be minor additional readings, available through Blackboard.

Technical Requirements

Because this is a hybrid course, it is important for students to make sure they have access to computer equipment sufficient for participation in the virtual half of the course. You will need:

• Browser: Mozilla Firefox 3.5, Internet Explorer 7 or higher, Safari 4.3.2 (Google Chrome and AOL are not supported for Blackboard)
• Java 1.5 or later
• Adobe Flash Player and Macromedia Flash Player
• Pentium 233Mhz or faster
• 256 MB Memory
• Sound card
• Speakers or headphones (microphone is optional)

Course Evaluation

(I) Core Modules: There will be required core learning modules available through Blackboard, on the following subjects: initial orientation, logic, ancient philosophy, medieval philosophy, and early modern philosophy. These modules will serve to give students practice in key skills relevant to philosophy, to give them acquaintance with important philosophical names, terms, and concepts, and to allow more room for class discussion on days when the class meets on campus. The modules are largely self-paced, but there will be key deadlines that must be met in order to facilitate class discussion and timely grading.

(II) Quizzes: There will be three required quizzes: a logic quiz, a quiz on the history of philosophy, and a cumulative quiz for the course. All three quizzes will be take-home; they should be turned in through Blackboard or, failing that, through email.

(III) Dialogue Project: The required elements of this project are as follows (additional guidelines will be provided online):
(1) Philosophical Dialogue: Students will write their own short philosophical dialogue, consisting of at least five to six pages, on any topic they choose.
(2) Dialogue Outline: The outline will be a detailed sketch, using complete sentences, of the underlying argument of the dialogue.
(3) Peer Comment: Every dialogue should be turned in with at least one signed one- to two-page criticism of the argument of the dialogue from another student. Every student for another student (and indicate for whom they provided one on their dialogue outline). Both of these components (the peer comment from another student and providing a peer comment for someone else) are essential for this part of the Dialogue Project grade.
(4) Post-Comment Reflection: Students will also provide a one- to two-page reflection on how they might re-write their dialogue to take into account the points raised by the peer comment.

Students are strongly encouraged, in addition, to submit relevant supplementary materials with the Dialogue Project, in order to show their interaction with philosophical issues and topics during the course: journal entries, poems, short stories, dialogues, drawings, or anything else relevant to the philosophical content of the course. At the discretion of the instructor some of these may, if they are sufficiently relevant to philosophy and show the student to be thinking thoughtfully about philosophical topics beyond what is required by the course, count toward a small amount of extra credit for the course. In addition, there will be numerous extra credit opportunities throughout the term. All extra credit work is to be turned in with the Dialogue Project, including self-paced extra credit modules as they become available.

(IV) Course Participation: A key part of the final grade is course participation. This grade will have three components:
(1) Campus participation
(2) Virtual participation: The virtual participation component will have two parts. There will be regular chat sessions throughout the term during virtual office hours; students are encouraged to attend when they can and are required to participate in at least four or else arrange for an alternative. There is also a class discussion board; students will be expected to participate in the board on a weekly basis.
(3) One-on-one with instructor: Each student is required to meet one-on-one at least once with the instructor prior to the final two weeks of the course, in order to discuss any difficulties the student may be having. The one-on-one may occur either face-to-face or online, as the student finds most convenient. Office hours are the preferred time for such meetings, but when necessary students may make appointments for meeting outside those hours. Students should bring any questions they may have about the course or its content. It is the responsibility of the student to arrange for these one-on-one meetings.

The final grade for the course will break down in the following way:

Completion of Modules 20%
Quizzes 25%
Dialogue Project 30%
Course Participation 25%

For further information, see the syllabus in Blackboard.

On-campus meetings will often involve essential information for the course. Because of this, attendance at all on-campus meetings is mandatory. Only documentable medical or family emergency excuses will be allowed. Failure to attend an on-campus class without a documentable medical or emergency excuse can result in the student being withdrawn from the course by the instructor. Students should not assume, however, that absences will result in automatic withdrawals from the course.


  1. Leo Carton Mollica6:00 PM

    <p>Thanks for the quick reply!  I think I would very much enjoy this course.  The dialogue project sounds especially interesting.  Have you had students write dialogues before?  How well do they generally turn out?

  2. Leo Carton Mollica6:00 PM

    <p>Thanks for the quick reply!  I think I would very much enjoy this course.  The dialogue project sounds especially interesting.  Have you had students write dialogues before?  How well do they generally turn out?

  3. branemrys7:17 PM

    I always have students write dialogues -- I don't like essays, so I avoid assigning them if I can get away with it, and I think the dialogue is, all in all, a genre more suited to philosophy (as opposed to sophistry) than the essay is. And I think the result is universally better than you get with essays; they are usually quite decent -- very limited, and far from the quality of Plato, but decent. I find, too, that when you require students to give their work to other students for review that they tend to produce better work -- i.e., they write better if I'm not the only one going to read what they write. And so turning the dialogue project itself into a sort of dialogue between students ends up giving a result much better than I think I could get with any ordinary essay assignments. I get some weird topics, occasionally, and students have difficulty getting the idea that a dialogue is not two people lecturing at each other, but as any reader of Plato's dialogues knows, many intelligent people in ancient Greece had that problem, too.

    It probably helps, though, that by the time they start writing the dialogue they've read two examples of philosophical dialogue already. In my non-hybrid intro course there is another, earlier major project that involves analyzing Plato's dialogue (the Gorgias, usually, but this term the Republic) from the perspective of one of the characters, so in that course they've also picked a dialogue apart a bit to see how it works.

    Far and away the part of the dialogue project that students do best at is the peer comment, though; I do get some perfunctory ones, and some that just focus on minor issues, but overwhelmingly they are quite good.


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