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Alternative ways of sharing course materials and interacting with students

February 23, 2012

Our presenters discussed how they have used tools such as WebAssign, Facebook, and Google Sites as supplements or alternatives to Blackboard.

WebAssign is an online homework and grading system for students in the sciences and mathematics. Dana Sylvan described how students in her multi-section statistics course work through problems using the system. For each problem students have an opportunity to "ask the teacher" if they have questions.  Students can also opt to have the system demonstrate the solution to the problem.  Problems are linked to specific sections of the online textbook that address the associated concepts.  The class also makes active use of the discussion board within WebAssign.

Laura Baecher described how she uses Google Sites as an alternative to posting course materials in Blackboard.  Google Sites allows her to share these course materials outside of CUNY and to easily reuse the materials in subsequent semesters.  Using Google also provides a way for Laura and the students to maintain contact after the students graduate.  Students in Laura's class use Google Docs for class assignments and use Google Chat to communicate with one another.  Students also create their own professional web sites using Google Sites.
Laura's course web site

Kelle Cruz described how she uses a private Facebook group as the primary way of interacting with students in her large class.  Using Facebook allows students to interact with Kelle in a more casual way, changing the class dynamic.  Using the group for questions and discussion also allows her to answer common questions for the whole class, rather than repeating the answers in individual emails.  Students are notified in Facebook when there are new comments in the group, making it easy to get information to students who already use Facebook as part of their regular activities.