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F & F


Harvard Releases Courseware
posted by mpawlo on Tuesday March 25, @03:04PM
from the open-course dept.
Open Source Would you be interested in exploring software developed at Harvard Law School for two years with a 1 million USD investment? This is your shot. The Berkman Center for Internet and Society releases the H20 software. The software has been tested at the law school, but should be suitable for other disciplines than law.

Please find below professor Jonathan Zittrain's message to the Cyberprof list where he tells the story of the software and its development.

Subject: Teaching cyberlaw with cyberspace
From: Jonathan Zittrain
To: cyberprof_list

I'm a longtime listener, first time caller to Cyberprof. (Well, nearly first time. I think I posted a question about the DMCA three years ago.)

I write now to see if there's interest in an experiment I'm helping run that I hope could network ourselves and our students together in useful, non-annoying, non-hassleful ways. So long as the Internet remains open to E2E innovation, the idea is to build some tools in a "courseware" space that is so far disappointingly littered with instant messenger, threaded discussion lists, and static web pages.

Here's the idea in three stages:

Phase 1: Networking classes/groups around specific questions. (done and available)

We've built web-based software through which a prof can ask his or her students a question. They answer by a deadline, at which point each answer is routed randomly to another student for a reaction, with as many cranks of the wheel as desired. Students end up critiquing each other one-on-one, developing a portfolio of views around a subject, without the unevenness of participation (or overwhelming activity) of a more freeform message board. Other features include self-rating of posts in a given discussion round, allowing the more interesting answers to rise to the top in the resulting sets of answers. Students who answer "no" to a question before offering comment can be specifically paired against those who answered "yes."

Phase 1.5: Networking across classes and groups. (done and available)

Different groups/classes registered on the system can come together over a shared question -- so the students in a U.S. cyberlaw class can find their answers critiqued by an Australian class, and vice versa.

Phase 2: Open source syllabus development (in progress) The only people more willing than Stallmanesque coders to share their hard work are teachers who have put time into developing a course syllabus. The idea is to log our syllabi into the system in a way that lets us easily graze from one to the other, combining our own materials with drag and drop items from others' lists -- replete with links to the works where possible. Amazonesque ratings and collaborative filters can allow the daring to go beyond browsing and ask for "items like this one," or a list of teachers who "teach the sort of stuff I do."

Phase 3: Shifting the way law schools and schools generally learn, by changing how they learn using the Net.

Making a class that's not connected to other classes examining the same ideas/readings -- but from different angles -- seem a bit isolated and two-dimensional. (future refinement)

So, two years and approximately $1 million later, the software is now up and ready to use -- and I'd love to solicit as many people as want to try it. Of course, the more people who use it, the more opportunities there are to link classes together.

See http://h2o.law.harvard.edu for the actual system; http://h2oproject.law.harvard.edu/rotisserie.html for the open source code if you want to run it yourself (of course, you can also just register on our server); and http://h2oproject.law.harvard.edu for some of the philosophy.

So far as I can tell these sorts of tools are useful for pretty much any humanities/liberal arts undertaking, but the hope is that cyberprofs are particularly game to experiment with this stuff and provide critical mass. The project has been funded by and hosted at Harvard Law so far -- with some help from MIT -- but it's in no way proprietary. Help at all levels is eagerly sought, and, by way of bottom line -- please feel free to write to me off-list if you'd like to experiment with the system, set up a course shell for it, and contemplate using it for your next (or current) teaching undertaking.

Jon Zittrain

Lessig Live in Rio | ILAW 2003: Benkler, Lessig on Current Controversies  >


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Related Links
  • The Berkman Center
  • http://h2o.law.harvard.edu
  • http://h2oproject.law.harvard. edu/rotisserie.html
  • http://h2oproject.law.harvard. edu
  • Jon Zittrain
  • Berkman Center for Internet and Society
  • H20 software
  • More on Open Source
  • Also by mpawlo
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