Balancing Reading Workload in Long Undergraduate Class

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templar:
I'm teaching a once-a-week evening undergraduate course in novels about basketweaving, for the first time in this configuration -- I've taught this course in the standard twice-a-week 80 minute form, but never this way (~ 2 1/2 hours on Wednesday nights). I'm wondering if forumites might have any suggestions about how to rebalance the reading load for this kind of schedule -- it seems different from both the usual 2x/week form and a weekly graduate course (which could allow for more extended assignments). In its usual form, this course is equivalent to a 300-level discussion-based course of mostly majors and almost all upperclassmen in any case, and I've assigned ~80 pages of novel reading for each class meeting -- but I imagine that this framework can't support ~160 pages assigned for each weekly class, and I'm hesitant that a larger assignment like that raises a considerably larger risk (i.e. the possibility of students not being prepared for a week's worth of class/roughly half a novel rather than not being prepared for one day of four on a novel). By the same token, I don't want to have too little to discuss or take too many weekly meetings to get through a single given novel.

Anyone have experience with similar cases to share, or suggestions beyond the simple logic of splitting the difference at something like 120 pages? Maybe that's the best option, but I'd love to hear other thoughts as well...

mountainguy:
Welcome to the forums, Templar!!

I don't teach literature, so take my advice for what it's worth. My immediate thought is that however many pages per week you assign, it might be useful to build some sort of mid-week check (like an online quiz or discussion board) as a means of encouraging students to begin reading well in advance of the next class meeting.

didotwite:
I taught a course like this and did not cut the reading assignment at all.  But I explained to the students that X amount of reading is expected when the class meets two or three times a week, and that since they were getting the same number of credits, they needed to do the same amount of work.  Then I asked them what would happen if they waited until the day before class to do the reading.  Then I had them design a way to force themselves to break up the assignments.  The most effective method they came up with was to form a discussion group that met midway through the week to talk about the first half of the reading.

It seemed to work for most of them; I wasn't involved at all.  I just let them take the time to figure out something together.

new_bus_prof:
I would simplify the process.
 - Put the whole novel up as reading for the expected weeks it would normally cover. Don't break it apart.
 - Provide discussion or reading questions to guide their progress. Students will stop reading once they feel they are able to answer the questions. You'll be able to tell if they are reading to where they need to.

templar:
Thanks for these replies, all -- it sounds like the initial consensus is something like an equivalent amount of reading to a 2x/week class (so ~160 pages a week) with some sort of written work to help students pace that load. I've been doing weekly blog posts in all of my courses for some time now, usually due midnight the night before one of the classes, just to insure thoughtful preparation overall. But if this class meets Wednesdays, when do I logistically assign this work? Make it due Monday so that students don't get crunched? Or do I then need two pieces of writing, one due earlier and one due sooner before class, to make sure that they don't only read one half of what we'll discuss that week?...

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