Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An insight into the student mind?

BS1010 Over the past couple of weeks here in Leicester (The University of the Year, 2008 - OK, I'll stop now ;-) the students on our PLE module have been busily subscribing to RSS feeds and sharing items on Google Reader with explanatory notes describing how the items they have chosen to share are useful for the biological sciences modules which make up the rest of their course.

I like this approach to constructing the PLEs, because the technology looks like biology, and that makes it much more palatable. And we are developing interesting new methods of collaborative marking and moderation using Google Documents - more on that later I suspect, when Stuart's written the manuscript! ;-) There's quite a frisson in watching your colleagues minds working as they deliberate whether a particular item is a Douglas or a Desmond, and the Google spreadsheet updates in real time in front of you as they waver.

At the same time, the students are doing an overlapping assessment by bookmarking items on delicious, and in this case, using our first year module codes to specify which parts of the degree course the items are relevant to. This is building up a repository of information for the entire cohort (and staff, if they care to use it):
In marking all this shared information on a weekly basis, it's starting to become clear that some topics are over-represented in the items shared and bookmarked. In particular, material relevant to our supplementary chemistry module comes up a lot. It's no surprise that many students who have chosen to study for degrees in biological sciences feel uncertain about chemistry, but the live data stream from these two assessments seems to be revealing underlying anxieties about their modules and abilities.

The question is, what are we going to do with all this data?