Wednesday, February 27, 2008

OE by DL, anyone?

I've had several people who don't live in Troy express an interest in taking my Old English class via distance learning. Now, the problem here is the phrase "express an interest," which is meant to imply a noncommital comment.

At the moment, my Old English class is scheduled to be a traditional "brick & mortar" class meeting TTh 11:30-12:45. I can fight to get an evening slot instead, however, and see if I can get the University to let me teach it as a distance learning class.*

To do this would take a expenditure of political capital, as well as a big chunk of my time, not to mention re-designing the class to work in the DL environment. It's worth doing if I get enough people wanting to take it via distance learning, but definitely not worth it for two or three folks.

Therefore, I am willing to fight to change this to a DL class if I get enough commitments from you folks out there to take it. Notice I said "commitments" -- that is, you promise to take the class if it is at all possible -- a general vague interest is not enough. Please also note that the University isn't going to use all this expensive infrastructure for people who want to, ehem, "unofficially audit the class." You'll have to commit to actually taking the class as an official student.

This class is intended for undergraduates with no previous experience with Old English. Folks who have previously studied OE will not find much of use here, but on the good side there is no prerequisite. We'll start with a brief bit of the history of the English language, followed by a week's study of modern English grammar (which we'll use as a basis for the study of OE grammar -- those of you with Latin background will already know all that stuff). After that, the first half of the semester is learning grammar and vocabulary, so grading will be mostly by quiz, though you'll also be expected to do an oral recitation of some OE verse.** The second half of the semester will be translations of verse and prose.*** Every day I'll assign a certain number of lines for you to translate, and every day in class we'll go over the translations together. The final project will be to translate a certain number of lines of verse (usually around 20-30), and to write an accompanying essay defending the translation and editorial choices you made.

So, the upshot is this: If the above class sounds cool, and you are willing to commit to take the class from August to December 2008, e-mail me this week. If I get enough commitments, I'll fight to get a DL slot. If not, well, I hope you can find an Old English class near you. By the way, when you e-mail me, please also include your real name and contact information, not just your nom de blog.

*i.e. real-time, not e-mail, wherein distant students are watching on a monitor and participating via video cam and microphone.
** This is the part that current and future high school teachers find particularly useful -- confidence in pronunciation.
***No, we won't be translating Beowulf. I find it's too hard for beginners, though I may find a very tiny easy section for us to translate. We will however, be translating a few dirty riddles near the end of the semester as a little reward for those who have survived the Old English boot camp experience. Riddles are really, really hard to translate, but are so much fun that they're worth it.


  1. I'm not interested in the course myself, but have to wonder how much a new student to Troy would have to spend.

  2. I'm curious about the expense, too, because I think it would be really, really pedagogically useful for me to take someone else's OE class, especially someone who, you know, actually works on OE stuff!

    But if I can't afford it or it doesn't work out, I'm also just curious to see your syllabus. I spend 2/3 of my semester on the grammar and only 1/3 on translation and I'm wondering how you do the grammar in just 1/2 a semester. I imagine we have more or less similar student bodies in terms of preparation.

  3. I'm informed by one of our office staff that after application fees, tuition, and other hidden fees, the final real cost would run something like $500 or less.

    As for the fraction spent on translation, the 1/2 was meant to be representative, not denoting the fraction with precision. If it were offered in the spring, I'd say something like, "Grammar & vocab until about spring break, translation after." If I sat down and counted weeks, the actual fraction would probably run somewhere between 1/2 and 1/3. Our semester is about a week longer now than last time I taught the class, too, so I'll have to re-work a little bit.

    Still, I try to get them translating as quickly as possible, since I think working with the language in its actual contexts is the most efficient (albeit painful) way to learn.

  4. So if we are a TROY student and take the class live and in person would we still have to pay the $500bucks? I was planning to take it in the fall anyway but you'll get to see my smiling face in person not via camera. Aren't you thrilled :)