Blended Coursework in the Humanities: Student Perspectives

The Language of Social Class is a new English elective offered to juniors and seniors first introduced in an USNOW article that appeared in the fall. The course mission is twofold: to explore through critical analysis of literature and contemporary culture the ways language unites and divides us, and to prepare students for fruitful online and blended learning in a future which will increasingly include them. Our literature so far has included works by George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Elaine Hansberry, and Junot Diaz. We are now beginning a unit on contemporary culture. We asked our students to reflect on their experiences in the course so far; here’s what they wrote:

A large part of the appeal for The Language of Social Class is its focus on student-led learning. In part because of the significant online portion, our class has been instrumental in creating discussion prompts, essay topics, even in defining how certain aspects of the course should be run. Most recently our infamous Google Docs discussion, which by most accounts was a mess, required planning an entire format (albeit very quickly) for discussion. It is my understanding that the two separate groups in this specific talk arrived at different means of carrying on through the inherent confusion, and that alone I find immeasurably interesting. Beyond that, we have pushed for certain media to be used, introduced tangent lines of discussions to be pursued when relevant, and chosen what I anticipate to be some very interesting presentation topics. The Language of Social Class, both in meaning and in practice, is a very open concept, allowing for virtually limitless research, conversation, and thought, and while the focus on technical writing keeps us grounded in the texts we read, this opportunity is, doubtlessly, exploited by teachers and students alike. – Quinn Shivel

The Language of Social Class has been an odd, albeit interesting class for me. At the beginning I was skeptical about the online portion, because, even though I use technology every day, mixing it with school was difficult, as I think most kids in the class would agree. I would describe my struggles like trying to teach your grandparents how to text; while they can understand the concept, putting it all together takes practice. I think by using the online platform though, we are working towards the inevitable future of online life and classes. The Language of Social Class has been working to show all of the different aspects of a society or class, how they intermix, how language and race play a rather large role in the dynamic, etc… This class has been constantly forming as we have progressed and I’m excited to see where else it takes us. – Liv Stockley

This class is the first I have been in at Waynflete that demonstrates experimental learning each and every day. Every day we are trying something for the first time–figuring out a different online medium for a discussion, or delving into a topic that no one had planned for us to talk about. It seems our teachers, Taffy and Phuc, are on just as educational a journey as we, the students, are on. While it is often good to take a well-rehearsed class, where the course’s trajectory is tried and true and has existed for years, I think it is both fascinating and challenging to be in such a fresh, untried class, with so many experimental components and themes. – Misha Linnehan

Language of Social Class is quite a bit different than your standard English class. With both linguistics and online learning at the core of the course, I can easily say there is no other class quite like LOSC at Waynflete. Since the class is experimental in nature, students and teacher(s) together share a similar collaborative journey: deciding what way to discuss the material, how quizzes should be assigned, or what way to complete the homework. Learning to adapt to both the themes and mediums of the course has taken skill and practice but in the end will count toward a rewarding, empowering experience. In LOSC we juggle typical literary analysis with linguistic analysis on top of the online component. Yet during those times when these three click (which is often for our section) there is definitely a sense of insight that makes everything more interesting. – Jonathan Silin

This course has pushed me to focus on the different aspects of language and how it can be used within texts, media, and conversations. I have really enjoyed the chance to use online resources. This course has exposed me to a variety of online material and discussion forums. It is a unique class that I am grateful to have signed up for. I appreciate the fact that since this is an experimental course, we as students have a voice that is heard, relating to assignments and discussion forums. I think the course has been challenging but has also pushed us as students to experience a new type of learning, which can often times be confusing. I hope that I will take a lot from this class and use it in future courses as I predict that many courses in the future will include online learning.  – Maeve Donnelly

The Language of Social Class is unlike any Waynflete course that I have taken. The emphasis on interdisciplinary learning is significant and allows us to have a greater role in directing our own learning. The fact that this is a new class means that when an aspect of the class isn’t working smoothly, we can simply change it. We frequently explore new websites and venues for discussion, and with almost equivalent frequency we run into problems that force us to alter the lesson. In any other class this would be a problem, but the malleable structure of this class makes for easy transitions from one form of class to another. In addition, I have never taken a class taught by two people and I have grown to appreciate the combined teaching style of Taffy and Phuc. Both Taffy and Phuc bring unique and experienced backgrounds that give them the liberty to provide us with accurate and extremely constructive feedback. Overall, this is a great class and I enjoy exploring the subject of language and all of the elements of language that I have overlooked for my entire life leading up to this class. – Meredith Nelligan

The Language of Social Class has opened up my mind to the idea of communication. What is communication? Communication is a necessary tool for life. People express their feelings, their intentions and questions. It dawned upon me that this was the true value of languages. It binds entire populations together. Language creates a sort of standard that most people follow in order to communicate. So why is language so important? Why do we create these bonds? I believe it is out of our inherent need to understand each other that we created language. The LOSC made me understand the principles of human interaction. There is plenty to be said for different types of communication. In class, we have online discussions through different online mediums. We have used chat forums, Google drive, Google chat and Schoology. While each of these has its own series of pros and cons, all were adequate examples of communication. As times change, people need various ways to communicate. As the means of communication continue to change, so will language and its meaning. As long as we continue to effectively understand one another, the changes in language will not belittle our existence. – Will Manny

This class has definitely become a major focus in my life, not only for the rigor, but equally for the interesting material. The course has taught me so many interesting things from the minuscule details of how sounds are made to much larger in-depth questions and discussions about the role that language plays in our lives. This class has played a big part in my understanding of communication and language. It is also a joint online and in-class course which does take getting used to, but overall proves itself to be very efficient and helpful with maximizing learning potential. This has been very interesting as an experimental learning environment and is something that can help or hinder any learner depending on the effectiveness of its use. I have enjoyed this class very much despite the large time commitment that is required. – Graydon Nuki

This class is definitely out of the Waynflete norm. Most English classes I’ve taken are all about plot and literary devices, taking a test, and writing an essay. This class is geared more towards the why instead of the what, which I really like. I really like the literature we’ve been reading; it’s such an assortment. We’ve ranged from 19th century England to 21st century DR. I will say that even though this class is very interesting, it’s not what I was expecting. The articulating phonetics was really cool, but I think I’m kind of swimming it all the language talk because I’ve never done anything like this. This is a really cool opportunity to see another aspect of literature, but I wish we had done a little more with language itself before we dove into the text. – Helen Gray-Bauer