As part of our HEA Centre for Bioscience departmental project, we are introducing a web 2.0 theme to the first year IT and numeracy skills module. I fully subscribe to the aims of this project : that we should be providing a first class experience of education and that does not include teaching them how to use Microsoft word but should include information handling skills, like using RSS.
So, after complaining that email was too easy, and bibliographic databases were too hard, we embarked today on RSS. Alan Cann bravely wrote some online notes, and today the students started signing up for Google reader. It was clear from the start that there were some problems:
- Asking them to sign up to peer reviewed journal feeds: students were unaware of what a peer reviewed journal was and it is fairly early in their career to be considering this. Finding reliable sources of feeds for journals is a nightmare – why can’t publishers get their act together?! Zetoc at least has some Table of Content feeds. Thank goodness for the british library
- Assessing this exercise: unless anyone as any bright ideas (and please please day you have) giving weekly feedback on this is not easy (for 200 students). The options we have are commenting in the blackboard gradebook (not simple) or emailing individual students.
- Integration with our other courses: I think we need a concerted effort to encourage other convenors to encourage the use of web 2 technologies by bringing tagging and RSS into other modules, or by adding relevant RSS feeds to their own Blackboard sites. We will probably need to work on this over the next academic year during the process of introducing staff to RSS themselves…
A steep learning curve for this year, but I still think it is worth the effort!