What is class-sourcing, and how does it apply to websites?
Class-sourcing, my adaptation of the term “crowdsourcing,” involves students building websites, wikis, blogs, videos, podcasts, online bibliographies, visual exhibits and other digital artifacts as part of their class activities. As an example, for class-sourced websites, students conduct all the research they would do for a traditional research paper. Then they analyze, organize and communicate this data in the form of a website instead of in a research paper.
Why are class-sourced websites an effective teaching tool?
Similar to writing a research paper, class-sourced websites strengthen student research, writing and critical thinking abilities, as well as their understanding of class content. Yet class-sourced websites provide additional benefits by helping teach a range of skills relevant to professional and civic life in the digital age. Students develop digital literacy by locating, organizing and communicating information in an online format; online technical abilities related to building the back end of a website, wiki or blog, and to making and editing videos, podcasts and visual images; and visual analysis skills through evaluating and integrating images and videos.
These assignments, furthermore, position students well for the job market, which values digital abilities highly. Since online digital artifacts have long-lasting lives far beyond the term of a class, students can also use these in their employment portfolios and grant and internship applications, as well as other professional and academic activities. The skills gained also apply well to civic life, having the potential to assist students in engaging in civic activism. Furthermore, through such projects we can advance student understanding of responsible and ethical digital citizenship.
In my experience, having students construct digital artifacts promotes student engagement due to the novel nature of this assignment and the deployment and development of digital skills. This contributes to a constructive classroom dynamic and enhances comprehension of course content. Additionally, student feedback illustrates that the public nature of the online projects resulted in improved dedication to and performance in this assignment.
How do you use class-sourced website assignments in the classroom?
I found it crucial to devise a thorough prompt with clear guidelines and a grading rubric, and found and organized tutorial materials for students to use in learning how to create websites and other digital artifacts. On their website’s home page, students were asked to create a 550-600 word analytical statement about their chosen topic. The several subordinate pages had to contain a bibliography of primary and secondary sources, links to relevant websites, and embedded images and videos.
The Ohio State copyright specialist determined that the “fair use” doctrine generally protects limited use of copyrighted videos and images for such pedagogical purposes. I also asked students to create a subpage with five assignments based on their website suitable for a high school senior class or a freshman-level college class, to help teachers of history to use the website as a teaching tool.
My experience has indicated that students are ready to tackle these innovative and unusual projects, and are enthusiastic over this assignment.