CORE 101 Open Pedagogy Project
Current Student-Designed, Renewable Websites
Non-STEM majors as content creators.
What inspired this project?
I have always included opportunities in my general education science courses for students to engage with science as it intersects with society. Previously, it would take the form of a paper investigating some health claim or a group project presenting a science topic my students found interesting, like animal testing or "how much sleep does a college student need?" The group project especially led to engaging conversations with my students, as I would have them create posters and we could have conversations about their topics, rather than the very one-sided slideshow presentations typical of group projects. I always enjoyed the last days of class with my students because I could really see their engagement with the course material in these projects.
What I didn't like about these projects was walking out of the classroom and seeing the large pile of beautifully designed posters simply thrown away. The course was done, their work was done, I had taken a picture, so there was simply no reason that they needed to keep the posters - all I could think about was all the work they had put into them being lost and discarded. I didn't, however, have an idea of how to prevent that from happening though, aside from not assigning posters anymore.
That was, until I saw a talk by Rajiv Jhangiani, Special Advisor to the Provost on Open Education at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Dr. Jhangiani was invited to Roger Williams University to speak to the current and past Open Educational Resources (OER) Fellows. I had applied to be an RWU OER Fellow for the upcoming term, with the intent to utilize the OER resources I already employed in the classroom better than I was at the time. However, during his talk, I was inspired by his examples of students creating OER content, especially examples of OER-enabled pedagogy where students served as content creators, even writing textbooks as a class. The wheels started spinning.
What if non-science students wrote content for other non-science students? What could that look like?
And so this project was born.
Fall 2017: Funded by RWU OER Fellowship. Piloted project using Google sites, but students still were able to choose any science topic that interested them. Using Google sites proved to be user-friendly and students had very few difficulties getting their written content up in a visual medium. Websites cannot be published because I failed to obtain permission from all students and students utilized copyright protected images (there was no education on copyright built into this section of the course).
Fall 2018: Funded by RWU OER Fellowship. Required students to choose broad topics covered in the course that they were interested in (using a Google forms poll). Students grouped by topic interest were then asked to narrow down their broad topic to one aspect of the topic to focus on, for example, the climate change group narrowed down to sea level rise and its impacts. Students prepared a traditional research paper on the topic, and then converted the paper into websites using Google sites. During this term, we provided education on issues of copyright and creative commons licensing.
Spring 2019: Students were again surveyed for their interest in various science topics - 4 groups opted for topics for which websites already existed (Space Exploration, Climate Change, Evolution, and DNA). A fifth group opted to create a new website from scratch on Energy Sources. Course curriculum was heavily modified this semester to make the project worth 60% of the grade - with lots of scaffolding pieces and in-class group work. I removed exams from the course, which was a bit scary at first. This ended up working beautifully, because we could dedicate large amounts of class time to the project. A lot of the feedback that I got was that the project itself was fun and meaningful to the students, but the execution was in need of some modification - quick tutorials on how to use Google Sites, changing the schedule around to allow for more time at the end editing websites, etc. I also "fell into" ungrading, and spent a lot more time giving feedback and a lot less time calculating grades. Next time around, I plan on building this into the course in a much more meaningful way.
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