This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 edition of TRU’s Bridges Magazine.
By Larkin Schmiedl
Imagine you just distilled a semester’s worth of research, thought and insight into a great term paper. You hand it in, your professor reads it, and you celebrate that ‘A’ you worked so hard for. Then what? Most likely, that paper goes in the recycle bin, or perhaps the digital abyss of your backup drive, never to be read again.
Brian Lamb asks, “Do we really want students to just have only one or two people reading that work?” As Director of Innovation at TRU’s Centre for Teaching and Learning, he supports faculty to create course projects that put student work online, outside the boundaries of web-based learning management systems like Blackboard or Moodle, accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Lamb sees an opportunity for students to engage with the world, and to have their writing and research live on as a public resource.
“There’s something to be said for higher education engaging in the world,” he says, “being out on the open web, putting out ideas, fostering knowledge and promoting inquiry.”
TRU Law faculty member Margaret Hall’s Legal Perspectives course is one example. Using TRU’s Kumu Wiki, her students work online in groupto analyze a legal case from the perspective of each of the legal philosophies she covers in the course. Working on a wiki—a collaborative, easily edited and structured website—means all students can view one another’s work as well as the contributions of past students.
“At the end you have this public resource of interesting legal thinking that is readily accessible,” says Lamb. “We have an opportunity to create a more informative, richer, more scholarly web.”
Another benefit of embracing the web in education is cultivating practical skills students can take with them after graduation. In Dr. Ken Simpson’s Literature of Utopia course, students were assigned a project to create online representations of their utopias, from fictional newspapers to videos.
“They created fantastic websites, and also made really impressive videos,” says Lamb, who provided Simpson with the technological support to make the multimedia assignment possible. “Besides the fact that the students were really engaged and satisfied and proud of what they did… these students, if they go out and apply for a job, they’re going to be able to say look at this website I built, I can do this.”
Lamb encourages educators to embrace the possibilities. “If this thing called the Internet is a profound change in how we receive and consume and collaborate and communicate with one another, I think we have an obligation to try to understand it and take it on.”
Literature of Utopia student site