We took some chances with the way we set up The Internet Course. The skeletal syllabus in particular was a big risk. It meant that the whole course hinged upon the students putting the effort into finding, analyzing, synthesizing and sharing good material. We assigned some additional material to complement that, but overall the class built a solid reading list. That part of the course worked out well
I was hoping to use the Cmap Tools as the thread to stitch all the readings and discussions together, and that was only partly successful. It worked pretty well on an individual basis, as everyone mapped their selected readings, but the collaborative part seemed to be a problem. But the Google Docs that the panels put together made an effective substitute in tying together the readings on the weekly topics. That part of the course worked out after we made some adaptations.
Half of the course time was given to weekly panel discussions, led by groups of students. This might have seemed risky, but after our experience in the True Crime course, we were confident that this would work out. As I envisioned it originally, we would have been part of the panels, bearing some of the load and taking some of the pressure off of the class. But that ended up being unnecessary – the panel discussions have been generally amazing, with great participation from the rest of the class. So that part of the course succeeded beyond expectations.
I’m not big on tests, but Jim’s idea to have the students create the midterm was brilliant. It made perfect sense too, since we had put the students in the driver’s seat for everything else. By having the students make up the questions, and by making the test open web, it turned it from “just a test” into a real learning experience. I have to give the class a lot of credit on this part – they could have made it easy on themselves, but instead created a really challenging assessment.
Now we’re entering the home stretch. Students will be presenting on their group research projects, one group per class period, for the remaining weeks. They’re also building projects, which will be due by the end of the semester. Based on what we’ve seen so far, I know they will be awesome.
We took some big chances, but I think we (as in the whole class, not just the instructors) have gotten a big payoff. I’ve always thought my job as a teacher should be less instruction and more facilitation – creating an environment for learning and helping students along, with the ultimate goal being that they’re better able to do it on their own by the end. And by experimenting, I get a little bit better at it along the way.