Making learning materials available to students

At tomorrow’s METAL workshop there will be a panel discussion at the end. I do not yet know which sort of questions will be asked, but here are a few that I have thought of for myself. In these questions I am typically thinking of my own use of videos (screencasts) of lectures along with the PDF files I produced during classes by annotating my PDF slides. However the same questions apply to some extent to almost any materials we make available (but possibly with different answers!).

For several of these questions I am aware of pros and cons for each possible answer.

  • Do the “right” students benefit from the materials we make available? Is it the case that the more materials we make available, the better the best students do, while other students may even do worse?
  • Should materials be made available immediately after classes, or is slow/delayed release better?
  • What do we care about most: good student evaluations, good exam results, or an improvement in the level of understanding some or most of our students attain? How closely linked are these things?
  • Are standard lectures necessary or desirable when a complete set of video lectures and notes for the module is already available? Or is it more efficient/effective to incorporate existing materials into some alternative teaching style/methodology?
  • What are the best uses, if any, for last year’s materials?

Any comments?

Joel

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2 responses to “Making learning materials available to students

  1. They are some good questions. Can I take this one for the moment?

    “What do we care about most: good student evaluations, good exam results, or an improvement in the level of understanding some or most of our students attain? How closely linked are these things?”

    I hope understanding and exams are closely related. If they’re not, then I’d like to think we would modify our exams so that they do measure understanding.

    The question of student surveys is an interesting one and impinges on an idea I’ve had for a while. At present, we seem to give surveys to students when they’re students, but not thereafter. Graduates’ impressions of their courses are surely of interest (say) a year or two after they have completed their courses just as much as when they’re in the middle of them. What may strike you as pointless when you’re doing it may make a lot more sense when you have a job where it plays an important role.

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    • There is a correlation between understanding and exam results. However, students may seek the most efficient method of attaining their desired degree class. Gaining a thorough understanding of the material sometimes appears to be assigned lower priority than working through past exam papers and various forms of memorization.
      Currently there is a significant amount of bookwork material in my exams. Any sudden change here would likely have a serious effect on exam results. However it may be possible to move slowly towards less bookwork if this is clearly signalled.
      How easy this is will vary from subject to subject and module to module.
      Joel

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