Professors in several departments at BU (including Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, and Mechanical Engineering) often use the free social discussion tool Piazza in their courses. Piazza is free, and allows threaded discussions to happen in a user-friendly way. Students in these courses are encouraged to post their course-related questions on Piazza, significantly reducing emails that are directed to the course staff. Questions posted on Piazza are then answered by the course staff, or, in many cases, by other students. Questions posed in these courses have ranged from logistical issues (“Which lab are we doing this week?”) to conceptual issues from students grappling with the material (“I tried solving problem 3 this way, but it didn’t work – can someone point me in the right direction?”) The latter are particularly good at drawing multiple students into the discussion.
Piazza can help you keep on top of what’s going on in your course, while at the same time reducing the amount of time you spend responding to students over email. Piazza posts can be read on the web site, whose features make it easy to see which posts need an instructor’s attention. They can also be viewed and responded to through the Piazza app on your favorite mobile device. You can also choose to get updates from Piazza via email. BU IS&T does not offer support for Piazza, but it is an interesting option for professors who feel comfortable exploring free online teaching tools.
At the top of the e-Portfolios page in Digication, you’ll find a row of boxes labelled “Featured e-Portfolios”. These are portfolios we have selected as strong and effective examples of what ePortfolios can do. As well as the portfolio about portfolios, they have so far included a professional portfolio from a Sargent College student, an interdisciplinary portfolio from a CGS student, and portfolios for teaching purposes from SED’s Colby Young and the School of Public Health’s James Wolff.
Today, we’re adding a newly featured portfolio from Winnie Hsieh, created for a CAS Writing Program course. Many courses in the Writing Program use ePortfolios to allow students to view their writing over the course of the semester and reflect on it. Hsieh’s course section involved writing three papers and scaffolding the working process of writing each paper. In her illustrated portfolio you can find her reflecting on the process of becoming a successful writer.
In the 2012-13 academic year, BU has joined an exciting partnership with Boston College to pilot MediaKron, a new tool for maps and timelines. BC has been using MediaKron in its own courses for a few years, but this year it has chosen a few select institutions to pilot MediaKron for wider adoption, and BU is among them. BU faculty already using MediaKron in the fall pilot include International Relations professor Andrew Bacevich, in his Honors College course “War for the Greater Middle East,” and School of Theology professor Christopher Evans, who is using it now for a graduate course on American church history and will be using it in the spring for an undergraduate survey course on American religious history. In the spring they will be newly joined by Writing Program instructor Gwen Kordonowy, who will use it to map out student-created content for her writing course “Literature and Art of the Depression Era.”