Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Forever Yours

1978: $19.95; Today: $180.00+

I entered the discipline of computer science in 1976. I was a sophomore in college and computer science looked like a better degree program for me in the long run than the one I was in at the time (mathematics). I remember giving great thought to which books I would sell back to the bookstore and which ones I would keep. There were some books that I knew I would be able to use in later courses and there were other books that I just thought I would enjoy having.

Today, we deliver many materials to our students in an electronic form. We often use a course management system as the primary delivery mechanism. Unfortunately, when a student finishes a course her access to the course materials via the course management system usually ends. Why is this?

I suspect one reason is that we have not given much thought to doing things differently. There may also have been technological reasons (e.g., limited or costly storage requirements or the overhead of maintaining multiple “old” versions of course materials) that also weighed against maintaining access to course materials forever. But are those issues still relevant today?

As we place more emphasis on our business students understanding the integrated nature of the business disciplines, it seems to me that we must move toward a system of maintaining student access to all prior course materials they have studied. We should encourage students to “go back” to those materials to refresh their knowledge on how the material fits in the current course work. We should also build into our courses content and exercises that require active integration of prior material. I think those objectives are easier to achieve when we know students have access to the material in courses they have already completed.

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