Exemplary uses of CourseWorks




Science Basic to the Practice of Medicine and Dentistry: INTC M5010
Marc Dickstein

Guest lecturers provide a lot of the in-class material in this intensive, year-long course. To evaluate each lecture's effectiveness, professor Dickstein needs a way to quickly and easily gather his students' impressions. His solution has been to use the Test & Quiz section of CourseWorks to prepare and disseminate weekly on-line lecture evaluations to his students.

Using the Test & Quiz feature in this way, professor Dickstein is now able to poll his students with multiple choice and short answer questions that assess the lectures’ relevance, the quality of the presentations, and how well the students understand the topics. Additionally, by asking his students to list the three main points of each lecture and make any additional comments, professor Dickstein is able to gather any additional feedback that his students wish to share.

When the students have completed the survey, CourseWorks automatically generates a series of graphs of the poll results. Through these visuals professor Dickstein can quickly determine the value of a given lecture based on his students’ feedback. The automation of this data collection and visualization frees professor Dickstein from the normally laborious task of administering, collecting, and tabulating student polls. Instead, he can focus on more meaningful tasks related to teaching his students.

English for International and Public Affairs: INAF U6950
Leila May-Landy

In this School for International and Public Affairs course, international graduate students focus on English language communication skills. Specifically, students focus on improving their speaking skills by delivering weekly in-class oral presentations.

As a means of extending her students’ ability to evaluate their own performances, Leila May-Landy uses the Discussion section of CourseWorks in conjunction with ThirdSpace (a discussion board-based tool that can excerpt segments of video and/or audio directly into postings) to create on-line "portfolios" in which she and her students can present and analyze samples of oral presentations. Using CourseWorks and ThirdSpace in this manner provides Leila May-Landy and her students with a flexible workspace in which to communicate and extend many of their other in-class activities. For students and teacher alike, some of the most notable benefits of this solution are:

  • The instructor can create and distribute feedback in both written and oral form so that students can not only read about their mistakes but also hear corrections.
  • Students have the ability to watch their own and their peers’ oral presentations as often as they like so they can discover speaking mistakes that they might otherwise miss.
  • ThirdSpace, unlike a traditional VCR setup, allows students, as well as Leila May-Landy to 'index' important sections of a video of an oral presentation so that the relevant sections can be easily accessed when the presentation is being analyzed or critiqued.

As a result, Leila May-Landy’s use of CourseWorks extends and enhances many common ESL instructional methods in ways that could not otherwise be accomplished in a traditional classroom-based learning environment. Course evaluations show that using CourseWorks in this manner contributes to students’ increased ability and confidence to speak English correctly.

Exploring the Poles: FYSB X1566.001
Stephanie Pfirman & Robin Bell

This course challenges non-science majors to learn the science skills necessary to undertake a polar expedition, to read and discuss the accounts of past polar explorers, and to produce personal journals based on their own simulated polar expedition. The main obstacles students face in completing these requirements are their lack of background knowledge and terminology for thinking, arguing, and writing meaningfully in a scientific context. Stephanie Pfirman and Robin Bell’s solution is to use the Discussion section to create space in which students write their personal journals and in which the instructors can provide quick, formative, and confidential feedback on each student’s weekly writings.

By providing feedback in this manner, Stephanie Pfirman and Robin Bell are better able to quickly catch and correct students’ mistakes relating to scientific writing with the goal of improving future journal entries. Additionally, by using CourseWorks, they construct a comprehensive learning environment where students can access the course's specially designed simulated polar expedition site, engage in on-line collaborative writing, view the course syllabus, access various class notes, and receive assignments. Pfirman and Bell have constructed an extension to their class that helps students to engage in aspects of scientific thinking, writing, and hypothesis formulation, which might otherwise be a difficult task in a classroom-only setting.

Molecular Biology of Disease: BIOL W4065.001
Robert Pollack

In this fast-changing field of study, one where new theories and information appear on a weekly basis, agile access to the most recent information is crucial. Since Professor Pollack wants his students to learn using the most up-to-date material possible, it is important to him to have an effective method for collecting and disseminating the latest materials to his students. Given that most of the materials that Professor Pollack uses in his class incorporate diagrams and illustrations that need to be represented clearly and accurately, he also needed a solution that enabled him to manage high-quality, color graphics. The use of the Files section of CourseWorks as of means of archiving and disseminating digital PDF (Adobe Portable Document Format) materials created from on-line journals was a simple solution to professor Pollack's challenge.

"Digital" PDF documents (e.g. PDF files created directly from the Web or a word processor using Adobe's Acrobat Distiller) offer several advantages over scanned PDF documents:

  • digital PDFs offer a much smaller file size so students can easily download them
  • digital PDF's images and text are presented crisply and in full-color, whereas scanned PDF documents often have fuzzy low-resolution text and graphics that print poorly.
  • digital PDF documents store textual information in a substrate so they can be easily searched and indexed.

After consulting with the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching & Learning (CCNMTL) and Columbia University Libraries, Professor Pollack has been able to quickly and easily create and distribute high-quality materials to his students through his CourseWorks site.

Introduction to Earth Sciences: EESC V1011.001
John Mutter

In this introductory Earth sciences course, Professor John Mutter and his co-teacher, Roger Anderson, want their students to learn not only facts about the Earth, but to explore our ability to predict its behavior as well.

This teaching method is something of a departure from the standard curriculum, so Professor Mutter created an online multimedia textbook several years ago, which has recently been updated and incorporated into CourseWorks.

In the syllabus section, the instructors present their alternating "textbook" chapters, which embed multimedia elements where they are most effective. Students have an opportunity to learn at their own pace and evaluate their understanding from time to time with mini-quizzes and other exercises that Professor Mutter embeds within the textbook.

This course is available to the public

Introduction to Dentistry: INTC D5001
John Zimmerman

In this class, which focuses on small group assignments, students conduct research on dental techniques in an effort to find authoritative sources, apply critical thinking, organize information, and work collaboratively to produce a comprehensive manual for use by the class. One of Professor Zimmerman’s goals is that each student truly participate in the group work. To facilitate this, he requires each student to independently research the case and submit his or her findings to the group's discussion section. These resources are used to compose a final lab manual section.

An advantage that this use of CourseWorks offers, is that professor Zimmerman can look at the students’ research and results throughout the process and provide feedback to the individuals and groups as they arrive at consensus.

Sometimes students neglect an important piece of research. Therefore, being able to follow the "paper trail" backwards, Professor Zimmerman can investigate students' rartionale for leaving out the information. This often lays bare critical thinking errors from which the entire class can learn.

This course is available to the public


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