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Davide P. Cervone - New macros for discussion-based problems

Davide P. Cervone - New macros for discussion-based problems

by Arnold Pizer -
Number of replies: 0
inactiveTopicNew macros for discussion-based problems topic started 9/2/2006; 7:44:26 PM
last post 9/2/2006; 7:44:26 PM
userDavide P. Cervone - New macros for discussion-based problems  blueArrow
9/2/2006; 7:44:26 PM (reads: 175, responses: 0)
Some of the examples I've developed recently (a single problem that lets students practice from a list of problems, a multi-part problem where the parts are displayed sequentially, and essay-based problems that are graded after the fact by the professors) have gotten me thinking about some of the possibilities of what a WW problem could be.

When I made the essay-problem macros, the professor could assign a grade, but it seemed that the professor might want to comment on the solution as well, so I added the ability for the professor to leave a comment. This is useful, but the conversation pretty much ends there, as there is no way for the student to respond, and only one place for comments from the professor. So I got to thinking about having a continuing discussion, and how that might work.

What I ended up with is a sort of a blog where the student can make entries (as many as desired) and the professor can read them and comment on them. The discussion between the student and professor is private, but the professor has the ability to post messages that are available to all the students. The idea behind this is that the professor could assign a discussion question for the class that way, and then each student would comment on it, and the professor could respond to those ideas, and so on. The instructor can get a list of which students have new messages posted, so it is easy to keep up with the active conversations.

Another possibility would be to open a set at the beginning of the term that is not due until the end, and let the student use the discussion as a "math journal". The instructor could make comments along the way, if needed, but would not initiate the discussion with a particular question.

There is a little bit of setup needed for this (though no changes to WW), so I have created a sample course on our site that you can use to try it out, both as a student and professor:
There are login instructions on that page, and descriptions and helpful hints in the other info panels as well. Give it a try and see what you think.

There are certainly a lot of features that it could have that it doesn't. For example, the discussion is "flat" rather than threaded (so there is no indication that something is a reply to a specific message); there is no way to include graphics; the implementation is not as efficient as it could be (there is no caching of data, so there is lots of IO for every page to look up what has been read, etc.); it is only designed to handle a small number of entries (the entries panel is not paged, so it will just grow longer as more entries are made); the "help" link doesn't attach to anything yet, and so on.

But I still think it gives the sense of what can be done, and suggests some possibilities for the future. For those who want to try it themselves, the code is available at
See the comments in the files, particularly, for details. You will need to opbtain the and macros from the Union college macros directory as well.


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