Can social systems do the same for classroom time that teaching machines never did?
Creating a Collaborative Syllabus Using Moodle A "collaborative syllabus" is one in which the students have the ability to help determine the specifics of a course. Those specifics can be any element that a professor is willing to be flexible with (such items as the objectives, grading, attendance policies, types of assignments, and so on). The logic behind this tool is that by actively participating in the creation of the syllabus, students are able to signal what they want to learn and how they want to learn it and then (potentially) set the standard by which they will be accountable.
This is yet another example of how the notions behind personalised learning can pop up in different places. But what is even more interesting and relevant is the rationale for using Moodle:
An instrument that has been successfully used before, the collaborative syllabus suffered in one crucial area: It required too much class time to create it. Being unfamiliar with the concept, students first had to have it explained to them in one class period. Following that, there would be several sessions where they would discuss their thoughts, vote on what to incorporate/exclude, and edit the existing document. Given the constraints of the typical 15-week semester, every session is dear, and it is difficult to lose one to such a process, let alone three or four.
This is exatly the same rationale B. F. Skinner gave for the spread of his teaching stating that they can take away the drudgery of tasks that are mechanical anyway and thus leave space for the 'art' of teaching. Hopefully, he says the teacher will be then able to "ask society to improve his economic condition". All this written in 1968. The sort of drudgery Skinner wanted to get rid of was on the side of cognition: rote learning, reading from textbooks, etc. in order to preserve human interaction.
Moodle, for this project, is expected to help with some of the collaborative work done in class. And there seems to have been some success:
The 20 minutes of class time proved much more bearable than several entire class sessions, and the experiment was deemed a success that will be repeated again in subsequent semesters.
But can this be something done on a large scale without dedicated and enthusiastic practitioners.