The Midterm will be Open Web

Image credit: Hybrid Pedagogy

Last week the students in The Internet Course  took their midterm. What was somewhat unique about this particular test was that the students designed it. The questiosn for the test were based on the four panels discussions they ran over the first half of the semester. These panels were student-led, driven by the research they did in the first couple of weeks on specific topics such as internet history, how it works, creation/consumption, and intellectual property.

Given the students have been framing the curriculum and discussions for the class thus far, it only made sense to have them create the midterm. The result was pretty remarkable. The test is impressive, and it reminded me a bit of what happened with assignments in ds106. What’s more, the feedback students gave Paul and I on the test was interesting–almost to a student they found it both difficult and useful in forcing them to re-enagage and clarify wha we dicussed during each of the panels.

Each panel member for each of the topics was tasked with creating one question for the midterm in adding it to a Google Doc with their panel’s notes. After that, we simply transferred the questions into a Google Form- and made it live–that’s it. Despite the fact they created the test, many of them said it took them anywhere from three to four hours to finish. That’s possible because the test, rather than being a punitive measure of what they do and don’t know, became the opportunity for a guided learning experience buttressed by the open web.

Oh yeah, did I mention the midterm was open web? They were free to use the web over the course of 72 hours to answer any of the questions—none of which were multiple choice by the way. The questiosn were rigorous, student-generated, and did an excellent job of taking stock of what was covered in the first half of the semester.

Now here’s the kicker, each of the students will be grading all the answers to their particular question (or questions given a few students were on more than one panel). The answers will be anonymous, and they have the right to provide partial credit for any of the answers. Seeing how they they grade each other anonymously will be an interesting case study in and of itself.

It will be interesting to see the results of the test at the end of this week, and I am really loving some of the more intense experimentation we are doing with this course. Dr. Garcia suggested this course has been a bt quiet when it comes to an open course, and I think she’s right. Paul and I are still working through this course, and we have to get to a point of relative comfort with a brand new course before we start inviting folks. That seems to be a useful distinction between open and invitational. All the courses I’ve done over the last eight years have been open and freely available for anyone who wants to see what’s happening or use anything there.  But having the open web particpate takes another layer of imagination, design, and, more than anything, labor. And it’s that last element you really gotta gear up for. Sometimes experimentation works best on a small scale and can grow according to your comfort level.

That said, the midterm was totally open adn I even invited people to take it from the open webn, three people took me up on it. They be getting their grade this Friday.  Hey, you can take it too, why not?

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6 Responses to The Midterm will be Open Web

  1. Lex says:

    I was so happy that this was open internet, there was one question thats was annoying me and though I didnt finish it, I was still relieved to know I had the internet theere when you need it

  2. Barbara says:


    I think it is great that you are asking your students to identify for themselves what they believe are the important learning points in the class so far, and to also ask them to participate in the assessment process too.

    What puzzles me though, as one of the creative spirits behind with ds106 the class and ds106 radio and just crazy-ass bava-dom in general, is why you settled on the idea of an exam as an assessment tool.

    Here is what I am thinking: if the answer fits in a text box, then the test is more than likely going to be a summative type of assessment and the students, as they grade, are going to be looking “right or wrong” vs what might happen in a formative assessment where students have to demonstrate their knowledge of the concepts by actually using the concepts as part of their exam. Not as easy to grade, for sure, but creativity and complexity of thought can be encouraged and rewarded that way.

    So, instead of talking about the pieces and parts of the internetz, I am wondering about whether there might be an assessment strategy you could also use so that your students can use those pieces as a way to demonstrate their competency (or competencies) in the subject?

    I struggled with the same things in my language class. Language, as you know, is all about learning discrete elements and then trying to pull them together into comprehensible structures that communicate meaning. Far too many assessment practices in language reinforce the discrete vs the creative and the complex. The idea behind each of these assignments was about them showing me if they could use the discrete elements of the language in context, and do so in a creative way so that they would have to push themselves (and each other) to dig deeper and express more complex ideas as they went along.  Some ideas I came up with are  here and here and here. In some cases I had them evaluate both themselves as well as each other using a simple rubric (that they also devised, and yes they were harder on themselves in terms of what constituted success than I would have been!) In all cases, I think, they surprised themselves with what they did know and what they could do.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading more about your class and the great things you are doing. But keep pushing the envelope, bava, and please don’t settle for the routine, the mundane, and the predictable.

    Beige is simply not in your color palette 🙂

    • Reverend says:

      That makes sense, but oddly enough I wasn’t thinking about it in terms of a test, although in the end, as you note, it is. I think, at least for me, having the students create the means for their assessment in terms of a test was grounding because so much of the class is driven outside of any pre-defined curricula. And I think this has a lot to do with the evolution of a class. ds106 stands now as some kind of high water mark, but my part in that early on was far from perfect the first two or three go arounds (and still is). I had ten pre-defined assignments and the transformation of that process was part of a communal approach. I find I need to wrap my head around a subject and class before I can start moving out. TIC104 will need a few more iterations—which I am committed to this Summer and Fall—so that I get more comfortable with the course itself.

      Strangely enough,and I guess this is my own bliners, I wasn’t thinking of it as beige as much as a place to give the students a sense of both how this stuff is architected and what it means to assess. A moment of meta within a familiar experience, if you will. That said, I often wonder if ds106 is a unique experience, and I have been moving away from it with other classes so that it doesn’t define my teaching, and I am able to experiment in different spaces. In some ways I have been consumed by The Internet Course with just doing reading, research, and blogging about the internet of yore. An experience I never really had with ds106, so I am wondering if each new course provides a new experience—and holding them all to the standard of ds106 might create a problem. As if ds106 is the right way to do it, which I have to resist. It’s one really compelling way, but it’s not all of who I am as a teacher. I found in TIC104 that I am really compelled by the research of the web, what it is and what it means for Domain of One’s Own. Rather than making GIFs, TIC104 makes me want to write a book. Something I never thought I would say 🙂

      It’s weird because I feel the tension you point out here acutely, and part of my balance as a teacher is finding a way to navigate what people expect and what I want to explore. I don’t want to be beholden to ds106, I want to be compelled by what interests me. Also, it demonstrates there is a lot of meh and failure between the successes 😉

      • Ryan says:

        I don’t think anybody is holding this course to the standard of ds106 — the point is that you have a track record of challenging your students to think more creatively about everything related to their course. It’s great that you engaged your students in creating the exam, but it’s still just an exam (that happens to sit on a website). To use an analogy, it doesn’t matter who painted the walls or picked out the furniture, a house is still fundamentally a house, regardless of what its address happens to be 🙂

        What if, the next time you teach this course, you challenged your students not to think about what questions they would ask on an exam, but to each come up with a creative way to demonstrate their understanding of the material thus far? Bonus points if they can come up with an way to use the unique properties of the internet as a medium.

        • Reverend says:

          Yeah, I think on a next run through that would make sense. For example, we have group presentations wherein we will be digging more deeply into a few specific technologies we discuss—for that assignment they have to present their work to the class, but then also present the work in some format (video, audio, visual, infographic, etc) to the entire class. I think the impulse is there to push beyond, and I’ve been experimenting with alternative means in True Crime as well, but I guess that’s why a return to the “conventional test” almost seemed radical for me. Kinda like my house metaphor, which no one liked either 🙂

  3. Pingback: On Open Learning Environments | Adventures in a Gifted Classroom

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