How would Terry know, as the one student claimed, that "people talk back and forth to each other" since the instructor wasn't privy to any more of students' private or small group discourse than I was? What measurements of "participation" would Terry use? And, what measurements of "non-participation"?
"It's so hard, you know, this grading thing," Terry said in an interview in the early part of the semester. "I mean, it's all such an individual thing. I look and I look at it, like, 'Well, they didn't introduce themselves, so what should I do?' OK, that's like a minus. Well, how much of a minus? Well, then he or she did participate in this really well. Then OK, so that kind of tilts the scale and--that's how I do it." Terry would look for "trends" over the semester, rather than planning each point in grading ahead of time and counting "participation" in terms of numbers and lengths of e-mail.
Much of the "silence," from Terry's perspective, was to be expected and planned for, based on the experience the previous year. "I think if I hadn't done this in [the] course last spring, I would think something's wrong. See, it depends on how you measure things." The "measuring stick" was the on-line course where Terry had been a "lurker," before either teaching experience had occurred. The people who had participated--all undergraduates, from "all over the world"--were "very much into writing and reading," Terry said. So I went from there to the [co-taught] course and it was like, 'Uh! What happened?' And then I thought, 'Well, these are business students, you know, a different mentality. They're terrified of technology. And you look at all these variables, and say, 'Hmmm.' So, now when I'm doing it, I remember all of that, and I think, 'Well, we got them on-line and joking and saying things about themselves'.
The sheer fact that all the students had gotten e-mail accounts, most of them had introduced themselves online, and some had even "interacted" represented "success" at that point in the semester, Terry said, when compared to the previous year's experience.