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Computer Supported Cooperative lecture notes

A student exercise (learning activity) by Stephen W. Draper. (This exercise is an "ATOM", one of a set of ATOMS created as part of the MANTCHI project.)

This is the home page for the exercise on shared lecture notes in Q&A format. The exercise is D1 on the HCI module of the MSc in Information Technology at the University of Glasgow.

Contents of / links to this set of documents

Computer supported cooperative lecture notes:
In a question and answer format

The basic idea

This exercise has these essential features:

The exercise: what is required of students

This describes one of the coursework assignments for the M.Sc. in IT HCI module. There will not be a paper handout for this, as it is a web exercise it seems sensible to put the specification on the web. It is worth 2% of the total marks, and will be referred to as exercise D1. The work will be done in teams of 4 or 3 students, and will normally be marked as satisfactory (2%) or not (0%). It is done to a deadline, which will be different for each team, as described below.

The task is to create a short summary of the lecture to which the team was assigned in a public document (a web page), that you feel would be useful as a revision note for all students. The format requested is to find the key question or questions which the lecture could be said to answer, plus a good answer to it. By the end of the course, the collection of documents should be a useful revision source for everyone in the form of a kind of reference manual: the questions you might ask (or be asked in an exam), and notes towards answering them. One team may be assigned to creating an overall index to the set of 20 pages (one per lecture in this module).

Every student will be part of one team, assigned mainly at random to each other and to a lecture. (There is no way to give everyone what they want; and anyway this is like most jobs: you have to work on what you are told to, with people you are told to work with, to a deadline that depends on the people who want to use what you produce.) Almost no excuses short of a coma lasting several weeks will be valid. If you miss the lecture, you need to discover and make notes on what went on even more and will have a usefully detached position as an editor. If you didn't understand the lecture, then you should still be able to generate questions, and hopefully get answers from others in the class. If you are a part time student, then your need to organise remote electronic collaboration is all the more real: arrange phone calls at agreed times, edit the web page from home, etc. The great thing about email discussion is that you do your bit at the time that suits you; the great thing about the web is that you create the document at your time, and others read it at their time. Finally, interesting reports on difficulties encountered will be given credit: this exercise is about CSCW (computer supported collaborative work) as well as about the actual revision material.

The team is responsible for producing the page, but should draw as much as possible on everyone in the class, so as to get the best content, and make it useful to as many people as possible. To do this, besides discussing within the team (face to face and by email), the team should conduct a discussion by email or other tool with the whole class. Although I may contribute, I will take at most a back seat in these discussions. Thus this exercise is in part a chance to experience CSCW and its advantages and difficulties. Each page should end with a comprehensive acknowledgement list of all who helped in any way.

Suggested timetable

A timetable for a team might be:
  1. Get the team into the lab together at the first chance after the lecture, and put together the first version: preferably within hours of the lecture. This is so it is fresh in your minds, along with what you were unclear about, and so you can start a discussion while it is fresh in others' minds.
  2. Send out an email to the whole class (it-hci@dcs) giving the URL of the draft page, and perhaps asking about the points you particularly want help with.
  3. The team thinks about it that night, and probably improves their draft the next day.
  4. Throughout that week, respond to any email discussion promptly, and incorporate good points into the web page. The more skillful you are at managing discussion -- getting it started, getting it to continue, getting it useful and to the point -- the easier it will be for you to create excellent pages.
  5. Seven days after the original lecture, I will examine the page and decide on whether it gets a pass mark.
  6. You may continue to get discussion and improve the page indefinitely: it is your part of a public service, and others will be composing other pages to help your learning.

The team creating the index has a slightly different job. The index should offer access both by which lecture (1 to 20), and by question (sort the list of questions extracted from all the pages; perhaps structure them by major topic). But the team should also look out for useful and important questions that do not seem to belong to any one lecture, and create their own page if necessary. Periodically they should discuss with others whether access is convenient through their index, and ask for suggestions for "missing questions" (and answers). Although the index should be immediately updated with each new draft page announced, this assignment is otherwise much less time critical; but the disadvantage is that it goes on all term.

Model format for a page

Some how-to instructions

[This section not written yet]
It should have some more instructions on basic actions: Email and web; take copies of source, edit, return URL of new draft.

Aims of the exercise

See Teachers' page about this ATOM.

Allocation of assignments

Ideally everyone would get to work with their favourite people, and pick the lecture they most wanted to work on. This is impossible because there would be clashes. But still more because organising it would take too much of my time. Allowing sign-ups on a first come first served basis is easy for me, but would do little to optimise everyone's preferences. This is all true of most such problems (e.g. projects). But it is more difficult here because of the need to start the system working at the first lecture, before any opportunity whatsoever for preferences to act.

My procedure will be:

  1. In lecture one, get everyone to sign on: that will give me a provisional list of names to work with.
  2. I will hand pick the first 2 teams (for week 1), perhaps after asking if there are any volunteers. [In fact I got volunteers, having said I would be picking victims if I didn't.]
  3. Ask everyone else to submit to me by email messages with their preferred teams, plus whether they are fairly certain they are going to take HCI; plus a preference if any for which lecture they prefer to take.
  4. Over the first weekend, I post a list of teams and lecture assignments.
  5. I will allow later changes only in the form of swaps pre-agreed by all 8 students (all of the two teams involved).

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