Several assignments are now in and graded, and we are over halfway through the semester, so it seems like a good time to review how the course is going so far. I’ll be teaching it again in the fall, and I have already identified some things that I’ll keep and some that will need to be tweaked.
The first major assignment was the software evaluation exercise. I knew there would be students who took it seriously and those who did the bare minimum. However, I neither expected those that did well to take their assignments as far as they did. For example, one student not only compared features but researched beyond platform capability to find that several of them had a history of breaches. Though the assignment did not ask them to review the software from a legal lens, that was for a later assignment, several discussed how their choice might differ if the decision was as an individual or part of a firm.
My goal was to get students to get their hands on the programs and be genuinely critical of them. Some students reflected that the program they had relied on for so long was not the best of those available and switched. One student commented that she enjoyed the assignment and was going to use one of the programs to collaborate with her study group next semester. They had all already signed up.
I am ecstatic. The assignment did mostly what I intended it to. However, there is room for improvement. I need to give more comprehensive instructions next time to ensure that I have enough room for variety in grading. For example, I asked them to review the features and look at strengths and weakness. This was ok, but it made it so that those at the top were very close to each other. Next time I might specify a few categories (price, audience, security) that they need to address so that I have a baseline set of points to look for.
Also, the chat option in the assignment was not on par with the others. Those submissions had the least amount of meat to them, and that was primarily due to the nature of the software. There was room to discuss beyond ‘they all do video chat,’ but not the breadth of Evernote or Basecamp. I have not yet decided whether to simply remove that option or replace it. I think the assignment has enough variety with the two, but maybe I’ll get some inspiration at AALL.