Welcome to Eben Moglen's Course Wiki

Virtual Instruction

Once classes do not meet in person, they are one form of virtual workgroup. One learning goal in these courses concerns using wikis and related web technology to build such workgroups, primarily for law practice.

But so long as classes meet in the traditional form, the technology remains in the background for most students most of the time. We use it to do familiar things in mostly familiar ways. The coronavirus epidemic, which requires classes to continue without meeting, increases the emphasis on the technology as an object of learning as well as a means. Using the technology to hold a class that does not meet can help to invent new ways of collaboration in law practice, which can be built out of the same moving parts.

Using Wikis for Collaboration

Wikis are web pages everyone in a community can edit. For virtual organizations, every topic created is part of the community's work at the moment. It begins with questions, efforts at answers, comments and discussions. Repeatedly the topic goes through "refactoring" over time, as Q&A and discussion formats reach consensus, or are summarized for the purpose of recording what has been said and helping take the conversation further. Topics generate new topics, and also compose, over the life of the project, the knowledge-base the shared activities generated.

In a law practice—mine for example—every client is represented by a main topic page, which contains the most important information about the client, enabling a lawyer to grasp at a glance who the relevant contacts are, what we have recently done or are working on, and what the future service plan contains. The rest of the page, and the pages it links to, contain the history of the work done for the client, the privileged work-product resulting, and references to all external documents.

In a class setting, the workflow of the topics is determined by the teacher and the students collectively, assigning material, recording questions, producing collective articles that write up what has been learned. Most of the time, students will be content to let the teacher lead, using the technology to respond, but not to initiate very much. That changes now.

Virtual Classes in the Age of Coronavirus

My experience in using this technology for virtual classes began not with an epidemic, but with a hurricane. Hurricane Sandy disrupted New York City in the fall of 2012, and trapped me and many other teachers elsewhere, with no way to return. I was in India when the hurricane hit New York, and during the week I spent trapped off-side I put together a plan and the necessary technology for "virtualizing" my courses in future. Now, in 2020, I can learn from you what will work best under current conditions and continue to adapt the tools and the method of using them.

Our course now moves into the wiki, and its associated tools, in the following patterns:

  • Course audio. I will distribute my basic teaching contribution as an audio recording, near day of class, through the wiki. You will find the current audio link on the front page, along with the link to past class recordings.
  • Your essays. We will continue to exchange drafts of your first and second essays in the class. This writing and revising is your most important work product, and remains the bulk of your grade. See again, please, the EvaluationPolicy.
  • Other wiki topics. These will be generated by you. They will point at reading you want to recommend, and will explore questions you pose. Without face to face meetings, these are helpful in seeing that everyone's interests are served, and that the course knowledge-base is accessible to everyone in the class. All your contributions to the course wiki become part of the basis for your evaluation.
  • Student journals. Each student will keep a journal, which is a private wiki topic accessible only to you and me. Each records your individual activity in the course, and is also a place where I can ask an individual question or make a private suggestion of material to read or consult. Keeping your journal, like showing up in a class that meets, is your responsibility: while I don't grade its content, your effort in maintaining it is part of the effort recognized in the course overall.
  • Online classroom and office hours. A shared web pad (known in the trade as an Etherpad) is a place for the real-time collaborative editing of documents, with a "chat" window that allows all of us to be engaged in dialogue while also creating notes of the conversation that can then find their way to the wiki. We can use this for focused real-time conversation in the classroom style, or for the more open-ended forms of chat that occur in office hours.

Using these five modalities—lecture audio, student essays, collective wiki pages, the student journal, and online classrooms and office hours—we have a rich variety of ways in which to keep ourselves productively engaged. Please experiment with the technology as we use it. It is all based on free software; nothing we do uses third-party data-mining services or leaks any information about your behavior to any third party. All this tech you or your law practice could run for yourself on small inexpensive computers, as I do for you here. In learning how to use this tech in ways you like, and which you find effective for your own learning, you are also discovering ways of working that will be valuable in practice.

See also the related topic WhyNotVideoConferencing.



Webs Webs

r3 - 14 Sep 2020 - 23:32:21 - EbenMoglen
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM