We have to deal with up to 750 students in courses on a regular basis.With the "slidecasting 2.0" project, we developed an innovative approach to involve students and the notebooks they inevitably bring to class while maintaining the traditional lecture format necessary with such large numbers. Building on the success of this approach, are now experimenting with the deconstruction of the traditional exercise patterns by introducing the "radical portfolio".
We believe that the traditional exercise format, where a clearly stated instruction is given together with a deadline by which the result has to be turned in, is an invitation to "play school" in thesense of Robert L. Fried's "The Game of School". Thus, we are abandoning the exercise in favour of "activities". Activites are more or less loosely defined possibilities for students to show us what they have learned. During the semester, students choose activities from a comprehensive catalogue, and document the results of their work in a continually updated portfolio. Each piece of work in the portfolio is accompanied by a short "making of" type of paperwork, and a sentence of reflection, tying it back into the content of the lecture. Portfolios are evaluated on an ongoing basis in order to give feedback as fast as possible.
Activities usually have a suggested number of points associated thatare valid for the final assessment. However, if a student feels that she has put disproportionate effort into a piece of work, she can suggest that this item should be assigned more points than ususal. The vast majority of all activities carry no deadline, so that results can be turned in at any time during the semester. We do however pose a limit of points-per-week that students can document, so that they can not push off their involvement until the end of the semester.
Before handing something in, students have the chance to offer it to other students for an internal review. In our experience, such internal reviews can not only greatly increase quality, they are also a source of informal learning among peer students.
We have used the "radical portfolio" approach by way of trial in two lectures in the recent summer semester. We had no chance to evaluate the experiments yet, but plan to do so in the near future, but the student feedback was almost unanimously positive. Most students enjoyed the freedom they had, describing it as a welcome change from the rest of their courses. Most importantly, many students talked about how much they thought this was an opportunity to link the information from the lecture with the rest of their professional and private life.
Peter Purgathofer is researcher and teacher at the Vienna University of Technology. He works mainly in the design of interactive systems, which include user interface design, interaction design, game design and service design. Due to the structure of the university, he has to teach classes with several hundreds of students.
Vienna University of Technology Informatics Faculty
Design and Assessment of Technology Institute