Peer review in courses

MIT’s open courseware is a godsend, if only as a bold statement about attitude toward education. So, I was perusing the course matierials they have posted, and looked over Judith Donath’s very interesting looking course, Designing Sociable Media. And I notice a very small error.

Donath has her students reading the excellent “Dynamics of Mass Interaction,” my favorite paper from CSCW ’98 in Seattle. Unfortunately, she has misidentified it as “Dynamics of Mass Communication,” both in the syllabus on OpenCourseWare and in another version of the syllabus online.

This is a meaningless error. Anyone interested in the article will likely click on the link and immediately know the real title (and why it is titled this). It is so small an error, indeed, that I have no motivation to email Prof. Donath and waste her time by letting her know about the error. But I sure wish I could edit the page on which it appears.

This leads to two thought-tracks. First, OpenCourseWare is a great first step, but we need to extend peer review to our teaching. I do not mean in a restrictive way — I think we should have the ability to teach whatever we want to teach — but it would be nice to have the option of having other scholars check our work for accuracy and impact. I have a feeling CommonText may be an interesting move in that direction.

Second, we need to wikify our webs. I would not be comfortable with having people be able to change my blog entries willy-nilly, but I would certainly be appreciative if they could apply their editorial eye to it at some level. I am thinking of editorial changes that the author can choose to ignore or reject. Of course, you can do this in comments, but “you forgot an apostrophe” is a horrid comment to make, and hinders conversation. Simply changing the text, and allowing the author to see the change and use or ignore it, seems like an interesting way of developing more common texts, at least within limited areas.

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One Comment

  1. Posted 10/1/2003 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I wikifiy all my classroom materials, where possible. And often direct a student, in class, to make changes on the page. The key is that you balance willy-nilliness with responsibility. If people you identify on some whitelist, or with accounts, can make changes unilaterally, great. All other changes would have to be vetted by you on a pass/deny level. That would work well.

    Oh, I MUST stop making comments on blogs before I finish reading them.

    I’m working on a project that should be completely wikified… the accept/reject element will be an option for sure.

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