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Updating Course Content

I have been reading and thinking about the problem of course information being out of date because instructors cannot redo all of their content every semester or even every year. One of the ideas I have thought of, but have not seen any articles or research about, is that of using student projects to update some of the content. In every course students are given essays to write or videos to produce or class presentations using PowerPoint or other tools and other types of assignments. Some of those assignments must be very well done. So why not use them in some way to add updated and/or new content to your course.

One example that I can think of would be to post a student essay from a previous semester or year on a current topic and ask for feedback on it in the week’s discussion postings. As an instructor you could ask for general feedback or ask specific questions that you would like the students to consider. An excellent presentation or video on a current topic could be used for the actual lesson on that topic. Work that is well presented this year could be included in next year’s course content.

I am not talking about instructors being lazy and filling up their courses with work done by students in past courses. However, I do feel that often students are doing some excellent work on assignments that are never looked at again, thereby being totally wasted sitting in a box or cupboard or even worse, discarded, when it could be used in a very worthwhile manner. Of course permission would have to be obtained from the student to use her work in this way but probably many students would feel flattered to be asked and readily grant the permission. I actually had this happen to me in a course. Since that instructor had been so helpful, and since I had enjoyed the course so much, and because I did take it as a compliment, I was happy to have her use the material in her course.

Obviously not all work, even if it is excellent, will be useful as course content. However, when you do come across something that will work well, why not give it a try? Sometimes you just have to look at those assignments from a different angle to see that you could make use of it in a positive way in your future courses. You would be giving credit to the student who did the work and that might be very motivating to some of the students in that class. They might then be inspired, realizing that not all the work that they put so much effort into is only useful for the grade they receive, but is actually something that may be beneficial to others.

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