Blogging Homework

   What all might change if college students had to turn in their assignments on a blog, visible to anyone? I'm the instructor for an online class at the University of Miami School of Architecture this summer. You can't turn in a physical paper, since none of us are in a physical classroom together. I guess I could have the students email their assignments to me, but that could become a file-handling nightmare. I needed something simpler and cleaner.

   And then it occurred to me... why not start a Posterous group, with each student as a contributor? Each time a student turned in an assignment, they would simply email it to our site on posterous.com instead of emailing it to me. What could be simpler? It would be very easy to track the assignments, and they would automatically be arranged chronologically by student. It would also be immediately clear whether work had been turned in on time... just look at the time of the post.

   But then I started realizing other implications. For starters, the blog would be public, so anyone could read the students' work. Normally, if you're posting something for the world to see rather than just something for one other person (the instructor) you tend to take a bit more care with what you write. Might that actually improve the students' work? And it definitely promises to be a more transparent way to teach.

   As for comments, I'm going to leave them on. Matter of fact, I'm planning to make all of my comments to the students on the actual blog post, visible by all as well. The only thing that won't be visible is the grade, which will be just between me and the student. And the fact that others outside the class can comment is intriguing... not sure how that will work out yet, but there's only one way to find out.

   Finally, once a class is over, it's almost impossible to reassemble the work that was done. I've taught a springtime design studio with Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk several years since moving to Miami, and there has repeatedly been a lot of thought-provoking work... but because I didn't write it down, I can't recall most of it now. This method would leave a permanent record of the work of the class, visible long after the students have moved on.

   Surely someone, somewhere else, is trying something similar. But I haven't heard about it. If you have, please post the details in a comment here, as I'd love to know how it's worked out wherever it has been tried.



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