Improving Technical Topics At Wikiversity

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Type classification: this is an essay resource.

Pilot Team[edit | edit source]

Please sign up if you are interested in helping with a pilot topic/course!

  • Content Expert: Daviddoria 14:10, 14 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Software Architect/Web Programmer:
  • Education Expert:
  • Graphic Artist:
  • Narrator: IanKeyworth
  • Human Factors Expert:

Once a team is assembled, I'd like to host a brainstorming session!

What is the project about?[edit | edit source]

Technical topics such as mathematics, science, and engineering are currently taught at universities by experts in these disciplines. Lectures are designed by one person. Text books are written by only one or two authors and minimal additional help by an editor. There have been many recent attempts to incorporate "technology" into the classroom by using "learning management systems." These systems provide a reasonable infrastructure for an online course, but are not used to actually teach material. Another recent attempt to modernize education is posting videos of lectures online and making them available to enrolled students, and in some cases, even the general public. While posting video lectures online is better than not, they are still capturing only one person's effort, and that person is likely only trained in the field they are teaching. "Why is this a bad thing?" you may ask. The instructors job has two parts 1) to know the subject well enough to teach it and 2) to know how to teach it! Typically only part 1 is ensured by a university. Our vision of the "correct" way to teach a subject requires a very multidisciplinary team.

Skilled Members of a Hyper-Multidisciplinary Team[edit | edit source]

  • Content Expert - This is currently the lecturer. These people are highly trained in the technical material being taught. In almost all learning situations, this is the one and only person on the team! (The technical material on Wikiversity is already excellent!)
  • Software Architect/Web Programmer - This person is responsible for ensuring that the system is modular and reusable. This person is an expert in modern web technologies such as Web2.0. It is his job to make the system easy to use, bug free, modular, and easily expandable. He will work closely with Graphic Artist and Human Factors Expert. (this is already accomplished by Wikiversity!)
  • Education Expert - This person is trained in the art of education. They bring to the table an understanding of various learning styles and teaching methodologies.
  • Graphic Artist - This person is responsible for working with the Web Programmer and Human Factors Expert to make things "look good."
  • Narrator - Rather than an impromptu speech that goes along with lecture content, in our system the content expert will work with the narrator to develop a script to go along with modules. The narrator is responsible for recording these scripts in an engaging tone - a "voice actor" if you will!
  • Human Factors Expert - This person works with the Education Expert to ensure that the system is designed in a fashion that makes efficient use of screen space, human visual and audio capabilities, and knowledge of how people "like" to do things.

Work together, do it once, do it right![edit | edit source]

(this is already accomplished by wikiversity!) There should be no reason for every Calculus instructor across the world to develop his own teaching materials. We need to work together to collaboratively create the "world's best" instructional materials for all of the core mathematics, science, and engineering topics. These materials haven't changed for hundreds of years, and show no signs of changing in the near future. Currently almost every instructor who teachers one of these basic classes works alone and starts from the scratch, possibly following one of way too many text books available on the subject. Our goal is to reshape this model to where thousands of instructors world wide will have a massive foundation to start with and can focus on sharing their experience with their students rather than simply sharing facts that are available "anytime and anywhere" in this now very digital and connected age.

Why are we building it?[edit | edit source]

Years of studying, teaching, and working have led us to see the importance of teaching mathematics, science, and engineering concepts concisely, accurately, and in such a way that modern students will receive the greatest benefit. Recent studies in education have led to the concept of the "Lecture paradigm inversion" and the "separation of training from education."

I have recently come across a very interesting example of how our society has an amazing amount of resources (financial and expertise) but is expending significant effort in all the wrong places. In the recent blockbuster film Avatar, there was a budget of $500,000,000 and over 1,000 technical experts staffed. After the initial hype, the long term contribution to society is essentially non-existent. On the other hand, a typical text book is the result of the work of 2-5 people and an extremely small budget. The text book, however, has an extreme impact on society, as it is used as part of the training of the engineers who will design for our society for the next half-century!

Another issue is the separation of “training” from “education.” We will define "training" as the mechanics of problem solving, learning terminology, etc, while “education” is the transfer of experience and insight from the instructor to the students. We are striving to create a system to “outsource the training to screens.” That is, the students should be responsible for learning the mechanics and the “dry” parts of course topics on their own. They can then spend the valuable in-class time in thoughtful discussion with the course professor. This outsourcing, of course, would need to be to more than simply a text book or it would never work. Enter this new, multi-disciplinary system of teaching.

Information Centralization[edit | edit source]

There is a finite (and actually quite small) set of concepts that are taught in the first year or two of a typical engineering curriculum. There is currently no central hub at which to find all of the information presented in a uniform fashion. Currently, the quality of instruction of a topic wildly varies by institute. And not necessarily in the "the more you pay, the better you get" sense that people typically imagine. It is basically luck of the draw. You could go to a prestigious ivy league school and easily have an instructor who is too busy to care about teaching Freshmen Calculus 1. You could just as easily go to a state school or community college and have an instructor who is passionate about education and provide the best instruction that a student could ask for. We are trying to smooth this wild variation and provide an instructional tool which can break down institute, and financial borders. In fact, there is no reason for a person to be involved with an institute at all to learn these concepts.

Assessment[edit | edit source]

It would be nice to incorporate some self-assessment into wikiversity. It needs to be machine-grade-able. Multiple choice seems reasonable. The questions should be well thought out and really test a concept, not just a mechanical process.

Existing Examples[edit | edit source]

These contain very good content:

They are much too "dry" though. We need to take content like this and transform it with the psychologist/human factors/graphics people. These pages are clearly written only by math people. It is 10 pages of text and equations with not a single image. I claim that if we add some color, an image/animation for every topic, some interaction, some little self-assessment quizes, etc (+ more suggestions from this hyper-multi-disciplinary team), it would be 1000x easier to actually learn something.

Call for Action[edit | edit source]

What this boils down to is getting non-math/engineering people to visit, analyze, and improve the "education" factors in the math/engineering pages! I am open for suggestions on how to get this to happen, as well as comments/suggestions about the ideas presented here. --Daviddoria 12:18, 11 June 2010 (UTC)

For discussion, see the discussion page.

IPDE Method of Instruction[edit | edit source]

Here is some more food for though as we work on these things: (Taken from my never launched website :)

It has been my experience that in many technical courses, instructors tend to get "buried in the details". It is my philosophy that topics must be motivated with a "what's the point" attitude. This allows students to immediately see the reason that the subject at hand is of interest, which keeps them motivated. It should also help them to see links between topics in the course and to other courses they are taking, have taken, or will take in the future. This is critical for a graduate student, as, by definition, he needs to combine the ideas that he has learned to solve a previously unsolved problem. I propose a simple four step procedure of instruction which, if implemented properly, will help achieve the aformentioned goals. I have used this method in the Primers on this website, and I recommend that lectures,lecture notes, and even text books follow this procedure as well.

Idea[edit | edit source]

Present answers to the following questions: When we are done studying this topic, what is it that we are able to do that we could not do before? In laymans terms, "What is this?"

Procedure[edit | edit source]

Clearly, even with this "what's the point" attitude in mind, the step by step process of how to perform the task at hand is still required. A (appoximately) one sentence explanation of each step should be given, such that it would be appropriate to title the procedure "4 Easy Steps To XYZ".

Details[edit | edit source]

In some cases, there is a particularly troublesome point in the procedure or a "magic" number that appears in an equation. These "helpful hints" or in-depth explanations should be presented.

Example[edit | edit source]

To tie the three previous sections together, it is extremely helpful to work though a typical example problem. The problem that is chosen should be one which clearly represents the most typical usage of idea that is being taught. It is VERY important that the example NOT contain overly complicated mathematics which simply serve as a distraction from the point.