Video 3: Assignments and Course Rhythm

Back to Video 2 (transcript)

The course is a bit like a sourdough starter, or as a friend recently called it: a digital yeasty beastie: if you feed it a little bit on most days, it will be the basis for a fantastic experience.

Overall there are five modules, or big chunks of time and material, in this course, and they run for 2-3 weeks each. I suggest you budget about 6-8 hours per week to dedicate to this course. That includes exploring the materials through reading, viewing and annotating (texts, podcasts, image galleries), writing a weekly blog post, engaging in discussion with others on these posts through, and creating “show-and-tell” projects and periodic reflections on your learning. That sounds like a lot, but I’m talking about 6-8 hours of focused, productive time, not 6 hours interlaced with chatting to friends, and Instagram or Tiktok scrolling.

You should also bear in mind that in a face-to-face setting you’d have about 3 hours of class-time, which we now need to cover in a different way (and Zoom is not the answer!). Just to clarify: There will be optional Zoom check-ins on a weekly basis, but you can get an A in this course and never be in a single Zoom session. That’s the power of an asynchronous course: you choose to work at the times that work best for you.

I don’t expect you to complete all weekly components in a single setting. I highly recommend you look at your course schedule, and block out specific times for working on this course through the week. I’ll talk more about the natural rhythm of the course in the next segment. But just because we don’t meet in the classroom, or at a specific time on Zoom to be “in class”, doesn’t mean you cannot have a structure. Avoid last-minute-panic, or “puncutated hysteria”, and instead feed your digital yeastie-beastie a bit every day.


The first category of assignments is called “Exploration”, because you will be exploring materials, and Chinese history in general.

After the Orientation in the first week, I will every week provide a “Basic set” of materials to get you started, and a small selection of “Exploration Packs”, as well as optional extra credit tasks for the week. Everybody engages with the same materials in the “Basic Set”, and you select one “Exploration Pack”. (Of course, if you’re curious, you can always explore the other Packs as well.) By the Thursday of that week, you will write a blog post on the insights you gained from your exploration of the contents and topics of the “Basic Set” and the “Exploration Pack” of choice. On Friday, the materials for the next week become available, and you will be randomly assigned four posts from fellow students to provide feedback, using By Monday of the following week, you will give feedback on 4 other students’ posts. You collect your points for these tasks by filling out a true/false Declaration in Canvas.

Every few weeks, as we conclude a “module”, you will also create a “Show and Tell” project, and three times per semester you will complete a Learning Reflection.

Every now and then there may be a week where you run behind on this schedule. This is where the small extra-credit tasks allow you to recoup some of the loss. If this happens regularly, though, I’ll be in touch with you to check how things are working for you; that does not mean you “failed” in any way, it’s because I may need to find a way to adjust the course and you may not be the only student who’d benefit from a change. If you get ill and are out of action for more than a few days, we’ll find a solution to catch you up. Everything is “figure-outable” for this course, so don’t stress, but instead communicate with me, and if necessary with the Health Center and the Dean of Students or Dean of Academic Affairs.

It is possible that in the first half of the semester you don’t always hit 6 hours, and go over the suggested 8 hours in the second half. But if you keep up with your regular work, and earnestly engage with course materials and each other’s work from the start, this course will be relatively simple: just like your sourdough starter grows with regular feeding and a bit of TLC, this digital yeasty beastie needs regular attention to grow!

Link to video 4 (transcript)