Why this particular text? In some academic areas the instructor has a plethora of texts to select from; in folklore there are few comprehensive texts available, and a quick search would reveal that the Brunvand text is used in the majority of American folklore courses. Further, having looked over all alternate texts, I believe it is the best text available--it is clearly organized, contains excellent bibliographic resource information, and is quite comprehensive. Still, it is a college textbook and subsequently requires a certain level of commitment and attention from the reader.While I find the text rich and entertaining, some beginning folklore students might find it dry and overwhelming. If you have trouble with the text, try skimming the chapter first (simply look for the main topic areas and see how they relate to each other). When reading the chapter for retention, attempt to separate what is important to remember from what is only offered as example. Try to achieve a general understanding of the "big picture," and don't get lost in the minutiae. As a general guideline, don't try to read any textbook in bed! Lastly, those of you who do enjoy the text and wish to read more by Jan Harold Brunvand, there is much to pick from. If interested in urban legends, pick up his Encylopedia of Urban Legends, Too Good To Be True, or The Vanishing Hitchhiker. For other areas of folklore, try his Readings in American Folklore or the American Folklore: An Encyclopedia (he edited this "must have" reference work).
How does the folklore class on the Internet compare with the folklore class taught in the traditional way? I personally enjoy the direct interaction with students that a traditional course offers, but I also recognize the need for another type of course--a class that appeals to people who, for whatever reason, can't attend a regularly scheduled class. I have attempted to keep the same academic rigor and cover the same information in both courses. I do realize, however, that a class on the Internet requires more effort from both the student and instructor. Students should expect to spend at about 9 hours a week on the course assignments. Many distance education courses, including Internet courses, have a dismal student success rate. I am well aware of common reasons for student failure, and I have attempted to remove or lesson most of them. For example, you will be given clear guidelines for all assignments, graded work will be returned quickly, and I will be available via e-mail on a regular basis to answer any questions you might have. In spite of my effort, the success of the class will depend on the level of commitment the students bring to the folklore discussion board and the class as a whole. Any student wishing to succeed must be willing to work on their own, seek help when needed, complete assignments on time, and participate in creating a "classroom" on the net.
How will my collection sheets be graded? They will be graded according to the criteria mentioned in the syllabus/first day handout and student example area. The student example received a high score, so do take the time to look it over. I will evaluate your work as soon as possible, and you will be have access to the scores via the online gradebook link.
How will my "homefun" sheets be graded? The grade for the homefun sheets will depend on the following: Did you answer each question? Is the answer clear and complete? If you can’t answer the question, did you indicate why you can’t answer it? For example, if the homefun sheet asks you to locate a ghost story, and you cannot do so after making a reasonable attempt (checking Brunvand, the Internet, and a few friends) I will be sympathetic. If you don’t understand a particular question, check the Brunvand text first. Next, post a question to the "Student Lounge" forum area or the Chat area. If your answer is not quick in coming, or you need a faster response, post your question in the "Questions" forum or e-mail me. You will be have access to the scores via the online gradebook link.
How do I fill out and return a homefun sheet? The following method should work for most people. After locating the particular homefun sheet in your Internet browser, save the sheet to your hard drive by clicking on the "file" option and selecting "save as…" Save the document as a text file in a directory you will be able to locate later. You might even consider creating a directory called "folklore" to keep all your work in. Anyway, after saving the document as a text file, you will be able to retrieve it in any word processor. Exit your Internet browser and open the text file in your word processor of choice. After answering all the questions, doing a spell check, and checking the sheet over (can be done over a period of days), copy the information to the word processor clipboard (this usually requires you to highlight the text and select the "copy" option under the "Edit" menu. Next, go to the "Tasks, Tests and Surveys" area and submit the work under the correct assignment option.
Why do we need to post a copy of the collection sheets and creative work to the Discussion and Private Messages area? While I believe the collection sheet process is generally most rewarding to the collector, I also believe that students benefit from sharing their work with other students. Also, posting a copy of your collection sheets and creative work to the discussion board will allow you to attach graphics or sounds, show your work to your peers, learn from the work of other students, and give and receive comments.
Will there be any quizzes or tests? Although the majority of your points will come from your written work, there will be weekly quizzes, a quiz over the first 8 weeks, and a quiz over the entire semester. There is also a final exam. The quizzes will be true/false or multiple choice and be mainly from the weekly reading assignments (a few questions will come from the links on the weekly pages). Quizzes should be quite easy after you have done the reading and visited the links. The final exam will be a "take home" essay final, and you will have ample time to complete it. The exam will be structured to measure the breadth and depth of your folklore knowledge. It should be relatively easy for those who have kept up with their reading, homefun sheets, and visited the linked Internet sites.
Do I have to do all the homefun sheets? Although filling out all the weekly homefun sheets will help you understand folklore better, as well as prepare you for the final exam, you are only required to submit for a grade the homefun sheet on Proverbs and either the homefun on Fairy Tales or Humor..
Can I do any
extra credit work? While there is no Extra Credit in the
usual sense, students can do the Communty Service Learning Project to
repleace a low score/no score on either one of the Homefun or
Collection sheets (only one Community Service Learning Project per
semester is allowed).
Why do we have to turn in assignments by specific deadlines? Why not just have everything due by the last day? Having taught for a number of years, I am aware that while some freedom is conducive to creativity and the fostering of responsibility, I also know that it is too easy for many students to put assignments off until it is too late—a major reason why distance education has such a high failure rate. I have attempted to walk a middle road. Assignment due dates will be spaced throughout the semester so that even students with hectic schedules should, through use of some time management, have little problem in completing assignments when due. Specific assignment due dates will be listed on the weekly schedule, and all major assignment dates are listed on the Syllabus as well. Writing these important dates on a study calendar during the first week of class should help you manage time and avoid any surprises.
There are lots of links to other sites; am I expected to study all the material on each linked site? No, but I do expect you to at least briefly visit each linked site on the weekly schedule pages, explore the sites that spark your interest, and attempt to discover why I linked each specific site. For example, the link to the "Ebonics debate" in week 2 is not there to convince you to adopt a particular position, though the author certainly expresses one. I have linked to this interesting essay because it shows how complex and emotive our attitudes can be when discussing dialect--one small part of folklore research. As you read the article you will also have to begin a critical thinking process as you develop your own definitions of dialect and language. Perhaps most importantly, what makes the Internet so worthwhile as a method of instruction is that it offers the capability of nonlinear instruction. If you visit a site on Cinderella, you might well discover other links which might catch your attention, i.e., a link that discusses the Cinderella theme in King Lear, or a link that offers an article on the feminist anti-Cinderella theme in the latest movie. Please explore the links as much as you can, bookmark and share with others (via the discussion board) any links you find really worthy, and consider taking brief notes as you travel on the Internet. Also, expect to encounter "technical roadblocks" as you explore the course site and its hundreds of links that connect to hundreds more. For example, if you are using a very slow phone modem and connecting at 28k, you might well feel the FolkStream and YouTube videos are impossible to watch on your computer, and even my weekly assignment audio lecture might take a bit long to download. If so, look for a solution you can live with. While the depth of your folklore exploration will depend on what captures your attention, I do believe the more you explore, the more you will benefit. So, if the roadblock to more exploration is a old computer or slow connection, you might consider a visit to one of the COS computer labs once a week, dropping by a friend's house and using their broadband connection now and then, or visiting a local library or town community center that also allows for free access to fast connection speeds.
Why did you link to sites and information I find offensive? If I were to remove from discussion every aspect of folklore that someone finds offensive we would have almost nothing to explore. Over the past 20 years or so, I have had one student or another complain about most every major category of folklore study--fairy tales, jokes, mythology, legends.... My response over the years, and it remains the same today, is that this is a college level course and my instructional role does not include protecting your feelings. As it clearly states on the first-day handout/course syllabus: "If you are unable to handle such material, you should seriously consider taking a different course." On the positive side, I believe that students willing to explore all aspects of folklore with an open mind have the potential to gain significant insight into the important role folklore plays in the human drama.