Pre-unit -- Preparation for Class

Grief in a Family Context--HPER F460/F560

Welcome to our "cyberclassroom." For some of you, this will be your first experience with a course that is totally on the web. This class environment allows us to take advantage of opportunities not ordinarily available to us. We will meet and get to know people who would otherwise remain unknown to us and in ways that would not otherwise be available to us; there is the resulting possibility that this will serve to expand the ideas brought to class. This format also has some fairly serious drawbacks. As a class, we will not have any face-to-face meetings during the semester and may not know if we encounter each other, serendipitously, as we go through our daily life. Unless another form of communication is specifically sought out, all interaction will take place via e-mail and on the course conference site. Both of these formats are without visual cues for determine the subtle message behind the word message and may result in confusion about the "real" messages.

Ideally, the medium we use to communicate in this class will become "invisible." By that, I mean we would focus on course content rather than being concerned about how the mechanics work. This pre-unit is intended to make the transition into an internet class a bit easier. It contains some basic information about the course environment and three small assignments designed to let you test the necessary components of the system.

Getting Started

Taking a course online has some similarities to a traditional classroom course. It also has certain things that make it unique. We will not get together in face-to-face interactions and, thus, will all be responsible for meeting course obligations outside the typical course structure of weekly meetings running at a set time. If you were taking this course in the more typical fashion, you would be expected to attend class sessions totaling three hours each week while you also spend anywhere from six to nine hours working on the course outside of class time.

Here, Web documents, a conferencing website called Oncourse and the use of e-mail are stand-ins for the classroom. Each week, we will address a new topic, along with assignments that are unique to each topic. On the Web pages, I will bring up issues and questions to be discussed on Oncourse. You should expect to spend anywhere from nine to 15 hours per week on the readings, what I have written on the Web pages, as well as interacting with each other on Oncourse. You should expect that this course will take more time than a traditional class. In addition, you need to be present, in every sense of the word, when you are participating. You might be able to nod off in a corporeal classroom, but in an internet classroom, you must be an active participant. Otherwise, we don't know you're there.

This pre-unit acts as a substitute for some of the preliminaries in the traditional classroom. You and your classmates will be sharing information about yourselves. It will help me, as instructor, learn a bit about you, the students in my class. Students will learn something about each other and will also test out all of the necessary computer resources. I also have included links to information on basic "netiquette," or internet classroom etiquette and some basic information on the use of internet.

One last point I would like to make here is that, as course developer and instructor, I have an ongoing goal of this class to help students feel connected with each other. Throughout the semester, I encourage all of you to suggest ways to help all of us to maintain that sense of connection.

First Things First: "Netiquette"

Although we all have an idea of appropriate behavior in the classroom, the Internet has unique characteristics that complicate communication. In addition, this class has a requirement that often is not mandatory in traditional classes--everyone must participate, every week, in the discussion of every topic. The asynchronous (i.e., time-lagged) communication that you will engage in on the discussion list will allow you some time to think about and organize your thoughts about the topic under discussion. Unfortunately, we carry our own "baggage" from previous relationships as well as our communication limitations with us into any class. Without visual cues, it is possible to misinterpret each other. With these thoughts in mind, remember:

* What you say makes an impression on others and helps to organize their thinking about you in the future.
* The topics of this class family and grief, carry a great deal of emotional power. This can make for an explosive situation. Be mindful of this as you post messages.
* The Internet may be seen as a virtual reality. The people in this class are real and have lives independent of the class. Remember to respect their privacy and their reality.
* If you disagree with another student, be sure that you argue your points, but do not attack that student's personality or other personal characteristics. I'll intervene if this happens.
* Avoid sarcasm or irony. They are both easily misinterpreted.
* The absence of visual cues can inhibit some students and can lead to misunderstanding. You may want to include information about your emotions to clarify your position. This can be done by describing your feelings (e.g., [grin], [grr!], [maudlin sentimentality]).
* When you respond to another class member's posting, be sure to include at least some information from that posting so that it makes sense to all of us as we read it.

Using the Internet

We will use a variety of Internet resources in this class: "lecture" material, which also includes questions and suggestions for interaction in the class; the class conference site (Oncourse), on which class discussion will take place; e-mails distributed to class members; and more casual, out-of-class electronic discussion, which may come in a variety of forms (e.g., between two or more students, between individual or groups of students and the course professor, between individual or groups of students and the course guests).

To access Oncourse, if you are not a current student at IU, you will need either to be assigned a "guest" account at IU or your IU Network I.D. All students enrolled in courses at Indiana University-Bloomington receive an IUB computer account; your account name also is your Network I.D. Current IUB students' accounts may or may not already be Network accounts. If you are uncertain, contact the University Informational Technology Services (UITS) Help Desk at, or 812-855-6789. If you do not yet have a Network account, one is assigned to you when you register for a class and information about the account will be sent to you. You should consider using one, if only to take advantage of the electronic resources at IU that are restricted to IU affiliated individuals. In any case, if you are an "off campus" student (i.e., one who is not or has not recently been regularly enrolled at IU), you will need to go to to set up guest account for you to use on Oncourse. Please contact me as you go through this process, is it can be confusing.

Visit the UITS Knowledge Base for futher information on the use of the Internet at IU. The KB is a searchable data base, addressing users' questions about the Internet, in general, and the IU system, in particular.

Activities to be Completed

There are few activities that you'll need to complete to get ready for the class. In the first, you will send a private message to me, answering a series of questions about yourself. You will also learn about and visit Oncourse and try out a variety of the functions.

Read the information on course requirements

In order to be sure you know what the requirements of the course are, go to and decide what grade you are aiming for.

Send private e-mail

It is a fairly safe assumption that you already know how to use this function, since you all have communicated with me via e-mail in order to take this course. This activity, consisting of your sending me an e-mail message, should be simple.

Access Oncourse

All focused discussion, and much of the casual discussion in the course will take place on Oncourse. Oncourse will allow us to interact as a class in large group discussion. We will post responses to questions, carry on several threads of discussion, and interact in a more formal way, all on a convenient, web-based location. We may also have optional real-time chat sessions (the reason they are optional is students' personal schedules may conflict with the time we must arrange the chat sessions). We will, however, archive any chat sessions with class guests. A major benefit of Oncourse is that the bulk of our conversations will take place there, which means everything will be archived for later review.

In addition to class discussion, we have the blog space, where you can post your thoughts and have discussions that are unrelated to class discussion. You might also want to post information about books you've read, conferences you've heard about, or anything else you feel class members would benefit from.

Post Your Introduction

Your first big task will be to access Oncourse and post an introduction. If you have any problems with the system, please let Dr. Gilbert know. Go to the sitemap page ( and click on the "Connect to Class" link. This takes you to the Oncourse access page, which I recommend you bookmark. Click on the Login link (it is in the upper right hand corner of the screen) and, on the next page, enter your IU Network ID and passphrase and click on the login button.

The next page that comes up will be your Oncourse page. In the list of pages at the top, you should have a link to the combined section for Grief in a Family Context, which is FA07 BL HPER F460 C8508 this term. Click on this link to this class. This brings up the main page for the course. Click on the Forums link, which brings up a series of discussion forums. You will note that there is one for the preunit and one each will be added throughout the semester for each unit.

Under the Preunit forum so you can post your introduction.

You will see a "Reply to Topic" button displayed--click on this. A reply box will come up. Enter your response and then click on Add Reply. This registers your response and displays a page with your reply displayed. Once you're done, if anyone else has already posted an introduction, please do read and respond to them. Also, it helps other students to have a notion of what you look like, so, if you have a digital photo, please post it as an attachment

Here's what you need to post: 

In summary, you will:

Getting Help When You Need it

Remember Murphy's Law, "what can go wrong will go wrong." If you are having problems with the technology in this class, do not assume it is because of something you are doing. Contact someone and start problem solving immediately. Let us know that you are having problems. There are ways of getting all of the students who enroll in this class to successful completion, even with a total breakdown of computer systems. With that in mind, we have several back-ups in place. If you need to shift to this format in the course, let us know immediately.

Link to Course Main Page.
Link to Sitemap

Page created: 1/96. Last updated: 8/23/08.
Copyright 1996-2008, Kathleen R. Gilbert, Ph.D.

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