End of Semester

Chris Lott has a post seeking to end the end-of-semester community destruction:

Top-down LMS like Blackboard are exactly the wrong answer because the social tools (I’m being generous with the plural here) are pathetic, locked down, and not created to go beyond the instance of a single semester or course.

One of the nice things about the New Media Research Lab at the University of Washington is that we managed to build a fairly strong community of undergraduate and graduate researchers, outside of the curriculum. While I like the ability to do something new every semester, and I still wish we were on quarters so that I would get that opportunity more often, it seems like such a waste to dissolve the community at the end of each course.

Another thing that they did at UW (and not here) was Freshmen Interest Groups, a set of freshmen who took the same sections of the same courses for the first year, as well as some seminars outside of the regular curriculum. This took at least some of the sting out of being at a huge university.

One of the most difficult parts of teaching a course that has hundreds of students in it is not in conveying material (I am one of those strange people who actually enjoys lecturing — at least when it is a good lecture), but in fostering communities among the students. I think the best solution for this is to refuse to teach any courses with more than 25 students (ha!), but barring that, I think some social uses of computing, if well integrated into the social processes, could really help.

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One Comment

  1. Posted 3/29/2005 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    One problem that we’ve been dealing with here at SIMS is that every instructor has their own preference for course management, etc. tools (blog, wiki, whatever). And the TAs for these classes are rarely able to ever maintain the sites past the end of the semester…

    So, while I understand that having an end-of-semester lock down is a waste and akin to cutting the head off of any community we’ve created over the semester, there are a host of practical issues… like who is going to patch some of the more sophisticated tools, how do we disable comments and some types of interactions and still keep the content archived?

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