Because I need a place to save this listing:
A question from The Chronicle:
Yes and no.
I do not believe that closed book exams are necessary for most courses. For most people, it is a far more important skill to know where to find the information they need to answer their question and to have the skills to evaluate the information.
At the same time, I teach a 5/5 load with six different preps in rotation. To devise a course that does not rely on closed book exams at all seems overwhelming at the moment.
I have different rules depending on the course. In an online course, the exams are timed and multiple choice, yet students can use their books and notes (just not each other). In upper-level face-to-face courses, I prefer giving students essay questions ahead of time and then randomly selecting from those questions, the questions they get on exam day. I really like this exam method. This strategy combines open book with closed book. Students have all the informationt they need to prepare, yet, have to rely on memory at the time of the exam. These are essay exams, however, and I have to account for grading time. My final exams are typically scheduled over the same last two days of exam week without a full 24 hours for me to get final grades submitted for the last scheduled exam. Due to the time crunch, I opted for multiple choice, closed book exams again this semester.
Honestly, exams in most sociology courses make very little sense. I would much rather students spend time writing well-developed research papers that draw on the material we cover in class. Perhaps phasing out exams should be part of my five-year teaching plan?
The problem with OER…
And students who don’t tell you a link doesn’t work…
One of the examples I use in Intro to Soc when we talk about gender is the John/Joan case. I had a lovely reading linked from the Canadian Broadcast Corporation. I asked my class to tell me about hte John/Joan case. Crickets. I remind them that it was one of the readings. A couple of minutes later a student tells me that the link is broken to that article.
This tells me a couple of things:
- Most students are doing any of the reading and never encountered the broken link.
- Those students who did encounter the broken link chose not to report it to me.
- OER that relies on linking to websites is risky. I’m not going to go back and assign a new reading at this point to account for that particular broken link. The reading will be missed. I’ll have to reevaluate what reading should be used in its place.
Supplementing an OER textbook with articles linked from the web is necessary to maintain coverage, but the risk of broken links has to be taken into account.
Over the summer, I read somewhere that Arial font is the ideal font for online media for readability and accessibility issues. I have since opted to use Arial for everything. My preferred font to this point was Times New Roman. Times New Roman just looks so grown-up! I typically only used Arial when I was an undergraduate and needed one more paragraph to make my page length requirement.
Of course, I can’t find the original article that prompted my switch to Arial, but I wanted to read a bit more on the topic. In typical fashion, now I’m more confused and second-guessing my use of Arial based on articles such as this one.
I came across a post expressing hatred towards Verdana, but the author’s main point is that Verdana takes up more space in print, therefore uses more paper (like my Arial font strategy I used as an undergraduate).
I’m not sure how scientific this study is (I did no digging to find out), but I like the post because it lays out examples of different fonts side-by-side, so that you can see what the difference looks like.
Finally, I found a document about accessibility for both online and print documents that is useful.
Beyond readability issues, I had no idea that some fonts simply are not viewable on both Macs and Windows computers. While most of my students are using Windows, some are using Macs.
Why does this even matter? I’m thinking about my students. My students who have documented disabilites, but also those who don’t. Some students have undocumented disabilities. Some refuse any accomodations, while others simply do not know what accomodations are available to them. Moreover, I want to make sure my classes (both online and in-person) are accessible to all students. It is much easier to be proactive and make them accessible from the start rather than to revise in rush because of one student with a documented disability.
I’m still torn with which font works best for which setting. I’m sticking with Arial for now, but plan to do a bit more research on the topic. Before I do that, I need to figure out how to change the font on this website…
As I was finalizing my presentation on getting started with open education resources for tomorrow’s ICCFA conference, it dawned on me that under my list of potential resources a teacher could use, I include government sources (yes, I realize this is not strict OER). Uh oh! I am using government sources this semester. I reviewed my syllabus for the rest of the semester and found six readings that are linked to government sites. Fortuntately, only two are at shutdown links and I have printed copies of the readings. So this morning, I had them scanned so I can add them as .pdf files to Canvas.
Each time I assign a research paper, I require that topics be submitted for my approval early in the semester. Most students submit a topic, but they are often very broad and poorly developed (i.e., I have an idea, but I have no idea what my research question might be). I read about in-class topic brainstorming at The Society Pages over the summer and decided to try it out this fall. I think it worked well. The topics students turned in were much more developed. Students also benefited in that I walked around the room and sat down with some of the groups to help them brainstorm, which they did not get from me under my previous method (i.e., turn it in and I’ll approve it or not). I had a better idea of what kind of topics students were interested in before I sat down to review their topics and could help guide them at an earlier stage. In-class topic brainstorming is definitely staying in rotation as a regular feature of any course with a research paper.
Reading about Starbucks’ plan to now offer braille gift cards year round, reminded me of universal design. I clicked around on the links to the Starbucks’ story and came across a checklist for web accessability. While the checklist is useful for a site such as this, I thought it is probably more pressing to make sure my online courses meet the guidelines. As usual, course revisions are a work in progress, but I plan to slowly work my way through the document.