Why Re-Think the CMS-Based Assignment?

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Since I have been at W&M, we have gone from the relative freedom of the Web left over from the 1990s to the more managed reality of the content management system. Content management systems (CMSs), like WordPress, provide easy ways to build websites and have your students present their work on the Web, but the CMS does have its drawbacks. In order for it to allow for the easy creation of polished-looking sites and let your students focus on writing, the CMS makes many of the other decisions about the website for them. Thinking through what a CMS-based student project often accomplishes may help you better refine your web-based student projects.

The Origins and Drawbacks of CMS-Based Student Projects

Nothing says 1990s Internet like Netscape!

As an undergrad at W&M in 2002, I completed my first website for an assignment in an American Studies class. Ten years later, the Web has changed, but I am not so sure if I can say the same for many classroom Web projects. Publishing content on the Web is far easier today than it used to be, thanks to a category of Web applications called Content Management Systems (CMS). A CMS allows people to publish content to the Web without much technical skill. This is great because it allows class projects to focus more on writing and Web publishing. However, I wonder if we have lost something in Web projects as CMSs like WordPress have become more prevalent. I think it is time to reevaluate what a semester-long Web project should look like.

Mendeley for Classroom Collaboration

Here is what it looks like when you create a group with Mendeley.

This semester I’ve been working on a technology project with Dr. Pam Eddy, Associate Professor of Higher Education. She decided to use Mendeley, a reference management application, to allow students in her graduate-level Educational Policy class to interact with the assigned readings collaboratively while gaining experience with a useful online research tool. The social dimensionof Mendeley allows users to create interest groups where members may exchange documents, usually in PDF format, and highlight or annotate with comments. The beauty of the application is that it operates with both a desktop version and online repository, so that group members can keep the documents they are discussing on their own computers, but sync with the online version to update annotations.

Confessions of a Classroom Flipper

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I never thought I’d see the day when I had to confess to becoming a classroom flipper. After generations of teaching courses that focus almost entirely on interaction among the students, I’m now trying to learn how to create screencasts of my “lectures” so that students can “cover the material” before they come to the class session. The course I’ll be teaching this spring is an undergraduate course in the Mason School of Business on “using computers to make business decisions.” I taught the class last spring as an experiment, and if there ever was a course that begged to be put online, this is the one.

Developing Alternative Research Assignments with Students and Faculty

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The educational blogosphere has definitely been abuzz about e-learning in the last year. One part of the conversation has turned to leveraging technology to develop alternatives to the term paper. Assigning different kinds of writing assignments can hold students to the rigorous research standards of traditional long papers while also helping students gain skills in different writing and presentation styles as well as bringing new kinds of technology-based blended learning to the classroom. In this post, Arts Librarian Kathleen DeLaurenti shares some of her experiences helping to develop alternative assignments.

E-Learning According to Time Magazine

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I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of the “issues” coverage offered in Time’s recent cover article on online education, especially given its attention-seeking headline “College is Dead. Long Live College!” I really didn’t expect it to have as much information as it did that would be of real interest to educators and .edu geeks in general. However the author, Amanda Ripley, took the time to enroll in a few MOOC-style classes, and some of the things that struck her are the same ones I’ve been thinking about when it comes to producing e-learning. In this post, read about a few highlights that struck me as particularly pertinent.

What We Can Learn from Bryn Mawr’s Online Learning Experiment

The Online Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon is a project for creating and using online learning modules as part of college courses.

On the “worth watching” list of experiments in online learning is a project at Bryn Mawr, a small liberal arts college that values personal interaction with students. Although using online learning at a college like Bryn Mawr sounds a little counter-intuitive, faculty involved in the project hope to “reinforce their hands-on teaching model rather than to subvert it” by using online course modules. How does this kind of model work, and what can we learn from this online learning experiment?

Tales from the Creative Destruction Front

An image of the Teachers Pay Teachers website where teachers sell their lesson plans to other K-12 educators.

Pablo speculates on the cycle of creation, transformation, and destruction that the Internet brings.

Learning in the E(ye) of the Beholder

Although all teaching uses technology of some kind (like the abacus), that's not what we mean when we talk about e-learning.

Mentioning e-learning to people is likewise liable to elicit a lot of different ideas. Mention “e-learning at William & Mary” and that situation weights an already fuzzy topic with all the stakes of another: an older and more storied one, a proud and precious one, laced with tradition and values. The two might seem juxtaposed, the one impersonal as a glowing screen observed by a lone student, the other more like the warm glow of the Yule Log on the faces of a host of students. How can these things ever go together? In this post, John addresses this question.

Three Reasons MOOCs Should Include Digital Humanities Projects

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Of all the things Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) have to offer, their potential to spread digital humanities work beyond a single campus, library, or museum is possibly the most exciting to Evan. In this post, Evan considers three reasons why incorporating digital humanities projects into a MOOC would be an excellent idea.