I evaluate not the final result, but the effort spent. I believe this is more motivating to all students, and I have noticed that this is a no worse differentiator between good and bad students than traditional results-oriented evaluation.
Cheating is a deadly sin
Students who are caught cheating do not finish the course, and are asked to leave it.
Although this is not required by the Faculty (and no other lecturer does it), on every lecture, I give students attendance lists to sign in. In the end, students' presence rate is taken into consideration when determining the final mark.
Read at home, come to class to discuss
This model is still very unknown and unutilized in Bulgaria. I try to introduce novel models of teaching, although I generally meet a lot of opposition, students hardly get used to the requirement to do the reading by themselves, in advance. But there are always at least 10% of the students who enthusiastically adopt this new model, and take care to read the materials in advance. The lecture course on "Wikipedia and Wiki Technologies" offers a wide range of topics for discussions and debates:
- Is Wikipedia an ultimate source of knowledge, or just a reference?
- What is the healthy way to use Wikipedia?
- Is it good or bad that anyone can edit Wikipedia?
- What are the pros and cons of free software / open source?
Some of these topics can be discussed without preliminary reading, however some topics simply require it for a useful discussion to take place.
Examination and evaluation
Examination is done in the form of a public defense of the portfolios, or the individual or teamwork assigned for doing during the term. Public defense is 5-10 minutes, in front of the whole class. Every other student is allowed to ask questions too. Every effort spent on the course, both online and offline, both in class and at home, is counted. Students know from the very first lecture that it is highly evaluated if they :
- Have read the resources given for reading in advance,
- Have actively participated in class discussions,
- Have done (most of) the assignments (creation and upload of freely licensed media content is very important),
- Have done the assignments in a timely manner,
- Have shared their knowledge/expertise and helped other students do their assignments,
Questionnaire in the beginning and feedback in the end
Students are asked to fill in an anonymous questionnaire in the beginning and provide a feedback in the end of the course. The questionnaire is anonymous, because some of the questions are slightly more sensitive, like "What is your original motivation to enroll the course?". Students often are embarrassed to admit that they believe that they can get an "easy" mark, and giving them the option to not reveal their personality allows them to be more open and frank about this.
Also, after the end of the examination and evaluation, I ask students to fill in a feedback form or provide a feedback in their own words. I ask them about anything that according to them needs to be changed (added, removed) in the curriculum, or improved in the way of teaching. Very few people generally leave such feedback comments, and those who do are usually the most involved students with the highest marks.
Secure the WP community's support to the newbies
Before every term I leave a message on the Village Pump, letting the community know that there will be ~30 newbies who will come to edit Wikipedia during the course. Their Wikipedian accounts are listed on a coordination page in the "Wikipedia" namespace, so it is easy for the community to check. I make sure that I recruit at least 1-2 other "wiki mentors" to help, and maintain the level of civility and tolerance to the students.
Take-away lessons served with fun
One of the things I most hardly try to teach my students is critical thinking. Not only when it comes to Wikipedia as a source of information, but the Internet in general.
Students, feel warned
On the first lecture, I disseminated the "Short Survival Manual" - a one-page brochure for the students to know in advance what I require from them along the course. The brochure is written in a very immediate tone, with sense of humour, yet strict. :-)
- English translation (PDF, 65 Kb)
- Video: How to Make a Quick and Easy 8 Page Mini-Book From One Piece of Paper
On the first lecture, before we have started talking Wikipedia, I asked students to create a mind-map of Wikipedia, as they imagine it, In general, students had no preliminary idea what mind-mapping was, so they were really free to improvise. I summarized all their mind-maps during the break, and even though the individual students did not do anything quite impressive, the cumulative results of all their mind-maps was astonishingly good and complete. Thus, the students saw in practice what it means to collaborate on Wikipedia.
Students walk in teachers' shoes
Several topics were assigned to students to prepare for several weeks and present them to their peers, playing the role of the teacher, me. I fully supported them by providing learning materials, ideas of what to include in their lecture, and how to structure it. Topics given were relatively simple and not-demanding (like, "Explain the six Creative Commons licenses", or "Explain categorization in Wikipedia") , but they created a feeling of stronger appreciation of both the teaching process and the particular subject of study.
Ice creams are ice breakers
When students started with their first contributions to Wikipedia, I greeted them with a picture of some dessert on their talk pages. In this way, I wanted to especially show my appreciation for their first steps in Wikipedia, while giving them certain advices and critical remarks in order to improve their performance. Each student was welcomed with a different dessert – an ice cream, a piece of cake or fruit pie – and it was exciting to see their reactions next time when we meet at class.
Students who wanted to improve their marks could opt for writing an essay.
- What is your motivation to enroll the elective course on “Wikipedia and Wiki Technologies”? What is, in your opinion, the motivation of most Wikipedia editors to contribute to the Free Encyclopedia?
- Would you enroll the elective course on “Wikipedia and Wiki Technologies” if you knew that it wouldn’t win you any credits or mark? Why?
- According to you, what has been the impact of Wikipedia on the global ecosystem of the Internet, media and users in the last 10 years?
- How reliable, in your opinion, is the information in Wikipedia? What factors make Wikipedia more or less reliable?
- Is it an advantage or a disadvantage the fact that everybody may edit Wikipedia? Describe the consequences of this possibility.
- In your opinion, why some schools and universities have banned the use of Wikipedia? And why others encourage that use?
- In your opinion, what materials for lectures and exercises shall be covered in a lecture course dedicated to Wikipedia and wiki technology? How do you imagine the examination in the end?
- How would you describe Wikipedia as a technological, media and social phenomenon? How may Wikipedia influence real life?
- In your opinion, which are the major disadvantages and problems of Wikipedia?
- In your opinion, what are the advantages of the free software and open source software? Do you use such software, purposefully at your own choice?
Puzzles with inspirational quotes
On sheets of paper inspirational quotes are printed (in different designs, colours, backgrounds, fonts) , and the sheets are cut in the form of 4-piece puzzle. Pieces from all sheets are shuffled together, and students are asked to take one, and then find who are the rest three piece holders that match his/her piece. The purpose of the game is to make them interact and get acquainted with each other, since students from 3 different years and 4 different majors come to my elective course and they usually do not know each other in advance.
The inspirational quotes I have used so far are:
- Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow. (Linus’s Law)
- -- Eric Raymond
- If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples,
- then you and I will still each have one apple.
- But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas,
- then each of us will have two ideas.
- -- George Bernard Shaw
- If I have seen further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.
- -- Isaac Newton
- The best way to predict the future is to create it.
- -- Peter Drucker
- Our business in this world is not to succeed, but to continue to fail, in good spirits.
- -- Robert Louis Stevenson
- There is no delight in owing anything unshared.
- -- Seneca
The template used for cutting the four puzzle pieces is given below.
The Herd vs. the Lone Wolves
The idea for this experiment was taken from UCLA Professor Peter Nonacs from his article "Cheating to Learn: How a UCLA professor gamed a game theory midterm"
For the test on "Free Licenses and Copyrights" students were given the option to take the test individually (the Lone Wolves) or in groups (the Herd). They were given certain tips of what the examination will contain and were left for 1 week to prepare in the manner they have chosen - in team or alone. The Herds were under the restriction that all people in a team must give identical answers with the rest people in the team - and either make it together, or fail it together - the answers had to be given after consensus has been reached within the Herd. The final results from the exam showed that Herds performed better than the Lone Wolves, and the wisdom of crowd was experimentally proven.
Pay or be paid?
This experiment was inspired by Chris Anderson's book "The Free".
Students were unknowingly separated in two groups. Unawareness of this division is important , I was helped by the fact that the seats are separated by a wide aisle and people to the left couldn’t see that people to the right were answering to the opposite question. The two questions were:
- If you are to pay 10 dollars to hear a 2-hour lecture on (say) "Tips and tricks of digital photography", would you accept to pay for it? What price would you set by yourself for such a lecture?
- If you are to be paid 10 dollars to hear a 2-hour lecture on (say) "Tips and tricks of digital photography", would you accept it? What price would you set by yourself for such a lecture?
It was interesting to compare the results of both groups, in the light of what people tend to value more - time, attention, money, knowledge.
Students make a personal portfolio with anything they have done through the term: what they read, learnt, written, edited, discussed, produced as freely licensed multimedia, etc. The portfolio can be either a Wikipedia [sub]page, offline or online presentation, and even on paper, as long as students put effort to do it.
Ideas for the future
- Wiki bingo
- Students taking notes in Etherpad during lectures