Problem set solution problems (and solutions)

Several months ago a helpful colleague contacted me about phonology problem set solution files that I had stupidly left on a public course website for all of Google-land to see. I immediately removed the files, and now I just hope that copies of them are not lurking about the interwebs. I didn’t really appreciate the depth of my stupidity until a few students recently had the gall to write to me (and in one case to my Department’s webmaster) to ask where all the solutions had gone! Anyway, I hereby apologize profusely to everyone for any bad consequences (past or future, known or unknown) that my stupid mistake may have had.

But to try to make some lemonade from these lemons: this experience has had me thinking about ways in which we phonology instructors might take advantage of the interwebs in order to share problem sets and their solutions amongst ourselves. Any ideas out there for how best to implement something like that? Obviously, it would have to be secure and there would need to be a gatekeeping process for access, but ideally it won’t just involve everyone sending email to each other. A private wiki or blog? An open-source course management system? Something else? Comments are open.

4 thoughts on “Problem set solution problems (and solutions)

  1. matt

    I think this is a great idea. I think this could also be incorporated into the pedagogical component of NSF grants–as a way to distribute, freely, resources developed with grant funding.

    Given the annoyances of course management software I think a wiki would be good.

  2. Eric Bakovic Post author

    I tend to agree with Matt about the relative merit of a wiki, but the wikis I’ve used are not terribly luddite-friendly so I worry that it’ll unintentionally and unfortunately scare more than a few people off. Not my top concern, but given that it should be “open”, it’s a concern.

    The course management system I linked to is actually not anything like the ones we’re all probably more familiar with (WebCT, Blackboard, etc.). Its features are pretty bare-bones and so it’s much more user- (and luddite-) friendly, but naturally I would still like something a bit more tailored to the specific needs of this community.

    So perhaps we should be talking more specifically: what features should this file-sharing system ideally have, beyond privacy?

  3. matt

    Good point, Eric. Private and user-friendly are clearly top features. Some other ideas:

    – Open commenting on assignments (e.g., to allow discussion of background knowledge required for assignment)

    – Open versioning (so users could upload new and perhaps improved versions of the assignment)

    I’m not sure if the second feature is something that the course management system you linked to would support.

  4. Eric Bakovic Post author

    thisCourse (the course management system I linked to) does have commenting/discussion specifically linked to files. It’s not perfect as-is, but it’s workable. It doesn’t have open versioning, though, and I agree that this would be ideal.

    The programmer who (co-)developed thisCourse is a cogsci grad student here at UCSD. Once we firm up on some of these ideas, I can ask him how feasible it might be (and how much it might cost) to tailor thisCourse to these specific purposes.

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