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:
- It desperately needs a searchable and better organized interface for the “Google Generation.”
- 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…
- 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
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