“If you’ve gotten busy and not been able to keep up with the course, this is a perfect time to reconnect,” lecturer Matt McGarrity wrote last week in his post to students taking his online class on public speaking.
Why, yes — how did you know?
Even before I headed out of town last week, I was running about a week behind on the free online class taught by McGarrity, of the University of Washington. I thought I could catch up, but while on vacation in New York, I lost WiFi access and fell further behind.
Only about 10 percent of participants complete MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, like this one. But McGarrity has done something smart here. He explains in his message: “I tried to record each video as both part of a larger curriculum and as a stand-alone unit. I hope you are using the class as a resource, mixing and matching the video lessons as you see fit.”
With that in mind, I decided to jettison the 15 lectures in week six (for now, anyway), meet the deadline for submitting an informative speech on YouTube (which I did, with about an hour to spare before the submission deadline), and start trying to catch up with weeks seven and eight, which are about preparing persuasive speeches.
I also had a moment to go back and look at how my peers in the class graded me on my impromptu speech. Peer reviews form the basis of the class grade: I used YouTube to upload a recorded speech, and three classmates reviewed my speech and gave me a grade. I did the same for three other people (not the same people), and I also completed a self-evaluation.
My peers were very kind; they gave me better grades than I gave myself. But they also seized on the same weaknesses I had observed in my self-evaluation — I needed to use better gestures, and the second point of my speech overlapped a little too closely with my first point.
One of my peers wrote his response to my speech entirely in Spanish, which was unexpected. I know enough French to be able to get the gist of written Spanish, but it was helpful to copy and paste his comments into Google Translate for a better translation.
I take it as a good sign that we all agreed on the weaknesses in my speech. Before I took this class, I’m not sure I would have zeroed in on gestures or noted the overlap between points of a speech. We’re learning something here.