Previously, I required students to make regular contributions to an online discussion forum. Middlebury students being as they are, these discussions quickly took on a life of their own!
I was delighted to observe this passionate exchange of ideas, but I became concerned about two limitations imposed by the forum. First, the various discussions were often difficult to follow--both for me and for the students. Even after creating distinct threads to organize the posts by type, I still thought it was more difficult than it should have been to search through and benefits from the students’ contributions. Second, I became dismayed upon realizing that much of this of intellectual ferment would be inaccessible to those outside the course--both curious minds elsewhere and students enrolled in subsequent offerings of the course.
This term, I will require students to make similar contributions; but I will ask them to do so via the new IP Wiki. I hope this will solve both problems by making this content more accessible. The course wiki should help to consolidate and share information that students are already learning. I expect enrolled students will particularly appreciate the IP Wiki when they work to complete their exams; but this good content will also be available for subsequent students, for me, and for the public at large.
There are many possible types of entries for the IP Wiki. The most obvious entries are those for key terms and concepts. But students can also include summaries of our texts and key quotes from the readings.
Students can also add relevant bibliographies. For instance, which sources discuss the creation of the United Nations? This, for instance, might be added to the end of an entry on the UN. Or students might provide links to recent articles, books, &c., about the relevant topics.
Key events and biographies of major figures might also be helpful. Students might consult the IPE Wiki created this past fall for additional ideas.
Students should be careful, however, to avoid merely duplicating the information available on wikipedia.com or readily available elsewhere.
Accuracy and Citation
Mindful of the goal to create a repository of information suitable for serious inquiry, students are most strongly encouraged to hold themselves to the highest standards of academic rigor. Students should strive to ensure that the entries are as accurate and unbiased as possible. There is no room for conjecture or opinion--or wikiality!
All entries should be bolstered by citations to published sources. (Please do not merely cite the lectures or discussions.) All bibliographic data should be entered correctly and according to standard formats and styles.
Lastly, remember that this is a community effort. We will have to police ourselves. Please correct whatever errors you find. When accessing the information, be sure to double check the accuracy of whatever entries upon which you rely.
Students are required to make at least one extensive contribution to the IP wiki by 10:00 PM on Wednesday of each week (excluding the first week). An “extensive” contribution is roughly defined as 250 words of content. (Making charts, graphs, &c., can substitute for prose contributions.) Contributions can be made in a single entry or spread across a number of entries.
Students, of course, are encouraged to make as many contributions as they like above this minimum requirement. (“Well, like Brian, for example, has 37 pieces of flair.”) But making good contributions of the minimum number will be sufficient to earn good marks on the assignment. Students who do not make the minimum contributions or make poor quality contributions will receive low (or potentially failing) marks.
Students will need to create a free account with Wikispaces in order to create entries. Please choose a user ID that will allow me and others to decipher the authorship of your contributions. After you have created your account, you should submit your user ID to me via this online form.
The IP Wiki is available here.
The following tutorial videos are available to show students how to use the course wiki:
Adding an Entry: Video
Adding a Reference/Footnote: Video
Editing an Entry: Video