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Friday, January 23, 2009

A BeyondGoogle Day

BeyondGoogle Yesterday I had a BeyondGoogle day. I didn't really plan it, it just happened.

When the email handshake exercise we ran at the start of our PLE module last term was slated by the students, we decided to replace it with a subject-related online quiz as an introduction to scientific literacy and copyright issues. And of course it fell to me to write it. After thinking about it for a month or so, I hadn't really made any progress, but when I saw Study and Communication Skills for the Biosciences earlier this week, I thought I might be able to use that as a basis to write some MCQs/EMSQs. I started off quite well, but it didn't take long to get bogged down in the ambiguities of information literacy, which is not a good place to be when you're trying to write MCQs. The idea had been to push the information literacy envelope without alienating too many of my immediate colleagues, which is a bit like juggling with eels.

Fortunately, at that point I was distracted by David Rothman's commentary on a recent article about the accuracy of drug information in Wikipedia, but then Jo reminded me how much I had retreated from my stance of a few years ago when I used to assess final year students contributions to Wikipedia.

By early afternoon I'd all but abandoned the MCQ approach and was back to kicking around ideas in which the students actually write something, then we tell them whether they're literate or not (which is precisely what we decided not to do during the module review, but only because of the difficulties of finding a practical method of assessment). So, here is your first homework assignment for the BeyondGoogle project:

First year students arrive at university identifying themselves by the academic discipline they have signed up for (Biochemistry, Genetics, etc). Design an assessment for a cohort of 200 students which allows them to reflect on their level of information literacy in a subject-specific context, which provides immediate summative and formative feedback, and which does not impose an unreasonable workload on hard-pressed academic staff.

Please submit your answers here before the next lecture. All submissions will be checked for plagiarism and marks will be returned somewhat randomly.