Monday, September 17, 2007

The Course Web Site as Crystal�Ball -

The Course Web Site as Crystal�Ball - "The Course Web Site as Crystal Ball Course-management systems can put a lot of data at a professor’s fingertips: With just a few keystrokes, it’s possible to see which students are logging on often, and which ones seem to be giving the course Web site nary a thought. That information can be useful. According to several professors, it can predict whether students will stick with a course or drop out early. “If you could get an early warning that a student is at risk,” writes Michael Feldstein at e-Literate, “you can intervene and hopefully help that student get through a rough spot.” But just because the information is useful doesn’t mean it should be used with abandon, he argues. Students, after all, may not have any idea that their professors are taking digital attendance. Do professors have an obligation to ask permission before they monitor log-in data? And once professors start gathering that information, Mr. Feldstein asks, are they obligated to reach out to any student who seems to be staying away from a course Web site? —Brock Read"

This seems perfectly logical. Our university has recently switched from Blackboard to Angel and for students it seems to be pretty smooth. My main challenge is to remember to set up a separate dropbox for students to submit each assignment given that our version of BB had a common dropbox for the course. But that is a relatively minor thing that I will soon get the hang of doing properly.

I was surprised that students had little trouble handling the transition - it shows we're making progress on their understanding how important it is for them to learn and utilize new technologies.

In my graduate seminar, they were supposed to pick their project topics and submit their annotated bibliographies today. Of course, some were still not worried about picking topics until Friday. What they didn't take away from our in-person two-hour meeting on the first night of class (our graduate seminars only meet occasionally) was that they had to pick something for which they could find appropriate primary sources. We're looking at the Cold War in its broadest context which means doing some popular culture or how it affected a local Kansas community in some way. It wasn't intended to mean, as some students seemed to think, doing a topic from the Russian viewpoint given that they can't travel to Russia to access the sources they need to do graduate level research. Not to mention that I doubt any of them reads Russian . . . . But I left it up to them so that they didn't feel too "cornered" - that's part of their graduate education being more reliant on student initiative than instructor-driven.

Monday is here again and I'll finish getting ready to teach the teaching methods course for undergraduates later today. The level of commitment has sunk in and a few student drops have thinned the ranks for the long haul.

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