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I’m Not Crazy About eCollege Either: So Now What?

In “ReWork,” Fried and Hansson (2010) advocate an active approach to shaping your work environment, suggesting you “scratch your own itch” My “itch” was that I felt eCollege was missing a few things:

  1. It desperately needs a searchable and better organized interface for the “Google Generation.”
  2. It desperately needs better course design tools that are not constantly interrupted by course creation tools… and some templating so you don’t have to create every clicking bit of text…
  3. It could be improved with an easy way to provide for students a framework to introduce all course materials.

I have spent six semesters attempting to “scratch” this itch by refining a Tiddlywiki, a single-file wiki, developed by Jeremy Ruston and others, which is accessible in most any web-browser for Windows, Apple, Linux, iPad, Droid… systems. I am now hoping to share and encourage further development of the result.

  • It -automatically- includes pages for each class session, with places for an orientation to the goals and activities for that session; the readings, handouts, and resources to review for that session; and the assignments due that as well as the following session.
  • It allows for offline work, so you can create a site first and later upload it all at once to eCollege.
  • It can (in Firefox) accept dragging-and-dropping of files off-line to create links to readings. Handouts can be linked this way. Alternately, a basic Word-like editor can be used create new handouts, or accept cut-and-pasted text from Word, and incorporate them into the Tiddlywiki.
  • I can add instructor comments to frame course materials, for example, prompting students with important concepts to remember as they review a course reading, and points to consider to prepare for class discussion.
  • Through tagging, course materials are -automatically- organized by class session as handouts, resources, both optional and required readings, and assignments. As a result, I do not have to create links on the class session page, or delete and recreate links if I move some course material from one session to another. I simply click to set or change the tag, and the Tiddlywiki does the rest -automatically-.
  • It includes a Google-like-search that allows for searches for simple terms, “this but not that,” and specific phrases. All handouts incorporated in the Tiddlywiki, as well as all instructor comments, become searchable.
  • When readings are added with APA citations and assignments with point values, it can display a proper list of all readings and assignments, as well as class activities, suitable for cutting-and-pasting into the course syllabus.

The result is completely portable course website I can create off-line, run locally if eCollege or internet access is down, and save for future use.

Blank Course Wiki from my presentation — right-click to save a copy for yourself

Update: TiddlySaver.jar file needed if you are going to edit the TiddlyWiki in Safari or Opera (see TiddlySaver for more explanation).

I’m Not Crazy About eCollege Either: So Now What?

Updated August 24th, 2011: I’ve made a few bug fixes and one addition.

  • fixed a blank line sometimes being added to a tiddler after editing is done
  • fixed a bug where Resources show up on the MainMenu page
  • fixed a bug where multi-week readings and assignments sometimes do not appear on multiple weeks
  • fixed a bug where copying-and-pasting text sometimes breaks the formatting and display of readings
  • improved readability of the AllClasses page by reducing spacing between items
  • added dates of classes to the MainMenu page