Courses We Wish We'd Taken
With support from the Teaching+Technology Initiative (TTI), five faculty Fellows are at work on the four projects described below. Each aims to create approaches and structures that will deepen student engagement in learning, fostering mastery of content. Later this spring these Fellows will present their works-in-progress at open forums. The topics and disciplines include:
Collaborative Project Development (Engineering)
Comprehensive Testing and Assessment (Mathematics)
Writing in a Second Language (French)
Understanding Scansion in Poetry (English)
Benton H. Calhoun, Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering
The goal of this project, Software Infrastructure for Collaborative Educational Projects, is to enable the collaborative development of projects in an academic setting. It will develop a software-based framework for documenting and managing collaborative projects. The major innovation behind the software infrastructure is to tightly couple a wiki with a revision-controlled repository. The wiki provides a forum for project participants and users to document the project and to update information about the project. The repository will preserve the different versions of the project files and manage those files as they are revised by multiple users. Putting the two together allows documentation to tie directly to the relevant versions of the project in the repository so that the information from the repository and descriptions of the information from the wiki are jointly available and easily changed.
Coupling these two types of software results in an infrastructure that will promote the communal aspect of education and that will engage students with good engineering design practices. In this project, we will initially deploy the software for use with engineering design projects in the classroom. Students will use the proposed tools to execute large-scale projects that interact with concurrent or previously offered courses, thereby emulating real-world collaborative efforts.
Christian Gromoll and Mike Hill, Department of Mathematics
This pilot program, Self-scheduled, Improvable Computer Exams for the Mathematical Sciences, in MATH 132 (Calculus II) will evaluate a new method for assessing students in mathematical sciences courses. The method employs recent versions of web-based software designed to deliver and grade ﬂexible, randomized mathematical assignments. Although this family of software packages was originally developed for delivering online homework and quizzes only, the latest generations are sufficiently feature-rich and stable to be deployed for exams as well. We will use it to design a comprehensive assessment approach, incorporating homework, quizzes and exams, and including provisions for the proctoring of exams and the use of partial credit in computerized exams.
Self-scheduled, improvable exams will solve a number of pedagogical problems associated with traditional assessment methods: They can adapt to a wide variety of learning styles; they eliminate excuses and discourage giving up; they eliminate anxiety associated with high-stakes tests; they give maximum ﬂexibility to students; they encourage students to revisit their work and learn from their mistakes; and they solve the problem of limited resources for grading. Most importantly, self-scheduled, improvable exams integrate assessment with education. Rather than interfering with students’ learning experience, these new assessment tools will become a core learning experience for the course.
Alison Levine, Department of French
This project will revitalize French 331, our first serious writing course and a gateway to the French major. Writing in a foreign language can be a delightful opportunity to explore modes of expression that are not available to the writer in his or her native language. It can provide an opening towards a kind of freedom, buoyancy, and experimental spirit. It is this spirit I would like our students to take with them into the major and beyond. For A Vos Plumes!, I will take advantage of available technologies to cultivate this attitude, on the part of the students and the instructors. For the students, I will develop an online class environment that will encourage them to explore their own imagination and poetic expression through creative writing assignments that push the limits of what writing is. For the instructors, my goal is to bring a collegial and collaborative energy to the different sections of the course, by creating resources that all can use while preserving the individual creativity of each instructor.
I plan to develop tools for facilitating student writing in innovative online formats (such as social networking in French, self-created online video content in French, blogs, and podcast creation), grammar aids that will replace traditional grammar practice, and a collaborative resource site for instructors. In the long term, the site will become a comprehensive writing center that will serve all of our upper-level courses and that will make the UVA French Writing Center the reference site that French professors everywhere can use in their own teaching.
Herbert Tucker, Department of English
Designed to supplement instruction in ENLT 201, BOLSTER (Benevolent On-Line Scansion Tutorial, an Electronic Resource) will provide an interactive, multimedia digital space in which literature students at their own pace gain competence in scanning traditionally metered poetry, through practice in, and instant feedback on, poems of various kinds and levels of technical challenge, presented in visually and audially enhanced texts and accompanied by consultable explanatory sidebars.