Teachers in all disciplines are working through how best to incorporate presentation software and internet tools into the classroom experience. Some are working with course blogs as well. I’ve started to collect interesting examples from law schools: Lydia Loren at Lewis & Clark; Larry Solum at San Diego (before he moved to Illinois); and this spring, Ed Lee at Ohio State each has asked students to participate in course blogs. At Harvard, Jonathan Zittrain and Charlie Nesson have a cyberlaw course wiki up and running.
For the teachers, it’s fun to watch the experimenting, and for students who are enthusiastic about the subject matter and comfortable with the technology, it’s a lot of fun. I think that we can expect to see more of this sort of thing, and more variety, both in law schools and in other disciplines. For all I know, of course, once again law is behind the educational curve. Are course blogs common outside of law schools?
More generally: Where is this taking us? How do these tools intersect with other teaching technologies (email, chat, presentation software, podcasts)? Do they signal (again) the gradual erosion of face-to-face teaching? How narrowly or broadly should they be used? Should they be mandatory or optional for students in a given course? Do they belong in the first year (or introductory courses) as well as in the upper level?
A benefit (or cost, depending whom you ask) of publicly-available class blogs is participation by additional faculty members (and students). Although my participation was very limited, I followed Lydia’s students’ blog throughout the semester through an RSS feed and even commented on it once in a while. As these things become more common in law schools, I think more outside participation will occur, perhaps enriching debates among students (or, in my case I’m sure, impoverishing them).
By the way — I opined on the trend of asynchronous university education here: http://busmovie.typepad.com/ideoblog/2005/11/meet_the_new_un.html.
Our constitutional law professor had some discussion forums setup, not really a blog, but he was attempting to generate more discussion, and while a few participated, most did not. Even those that participated, the number of posts “faded” as the semester wore on. There is definitely an “information overload” factor that needs to be considered in all of this.
We at UM have been blogging for class for quite a while. But many of the blogs have been password protected from public view, because students express concerns about having their comments/questions read by outsiders … including potential employers.
Any school willing to sell its soul will find Westlaw or Lexis happy to host password-protected pre-fab class Web forums. I suspect this is what quite a few schools are doing.
Sorry: Doesn’t rise to soul-selling. Its a school selling just its body (e.g. the student body).