General Engineering Introduction/ASEE Paper/Course Management Problem

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The Course Management Problem

Managing open ended projects in a community college is difficult. Residential engineering colleges with successful open ended freshman projects grow a culture were juniors and seniors mentor freshman and sophomores. Creating this culture at a community college in isolation from the world has been impossible. Volunteers at Wikibooks and Wikiversity, could change this.

Engineering Notebooks[edit]

Engineering notebooks have not moved into the electronic world, and may never. The inspiration gained from hand writing compliments that gained by white board writing and word processing.

In the Moment versus After the Fact[edit]

Students initially turn the engineering notebook into a torture device. They try to write perfect summaries or reports. This eliminates an inspiration gained by writing in the moment. The uncertainty fog, the minute detail, the tiny but significant decision rationalization disappears unless captured in the moment. A summary is a litany of lost opportunities and lost information. Writing in the moment creates more volume, better design, better problem solving, less play, .. better engineering. The reasons for writing in an engineering notebook have not changed. Writing in a notebook creates an extension of the brain.


A Learning Management System (LMS) is a useful tool. The problem is that all LMS information is controlled by the college. Colleges kick students out of the LMS for not paying their bills. Colleges delete old course information, making DIY university portfolios more difficult. Newer open source LMS systems (Canvas) do eliminate the college's storage volume and backup issues. But ultimately the student loses. Colleges will never give up their ownership, censorship, and reuse control of information.


Wikia space has changed the educational narrative. Content is polished through enthusiasm and loose consensus. Wikia space separates information from its organization. It depends heavily on search engines. Search engines require knowing what we don't know. To learn what we don't know, wiki organizes information using a category concept. This makes it possible to simultaneously document a variety of learning paths. The flatness of Wikipedia illustrates the focus on information. Wikibooks are merely extensions of the information with a lot of categorizing. The categorizational chaos of Wikimedia and Wikiversity is where the future of education can be seen.

Wikia Promotes Reuse[edit]

Most education is trapped in a disclosure, copyright, fair use, create your own work narrative that is increasingly divorced from the modern world. Somebody somewhere has already done it and it can usually be found before a sentence is finished. Finding and continuing that previous work emphasizes open ended projects, reuse and Respect.

Students need to work in a place where reuse is encouraged, where everything they create is put in the public domain. Some students want to improve the world, and yet don't want to worry about patents, copyrights, trademarks and fair use interpretations. Creativity doesn't require starting from scratch.

Creating Value in Public[edit]

Students will create electronic, documents from other's work and try to pass it off as their own because of LMS privacy. The minute students are asked to create something that can not be deleted, that will be around the rest of their lives, that will be searched by potential employers, that can change the world, that can establish respect, they start behaving professionally.

Badges of Respect[edit]

Web sites reward desired behavior with points and badges of respect. This is no different than the Boy Scouts, fraternal organizations or the military. The success of badges has been proven by the Gates Foundation and can be seen in its full implementation at the Kahn Academy. Wikia sites have similar rewards. The engineering profession needs to extend Wikia rewards. Engineering awards that end with FE, PE certification need to replace the increasingly awkward, random content test (despite how statistically significant it is).

Wikia Space Introduction[edit]

Wikimedia includes Wikipedia, Wikibooks, and Wikiversity. The interwiki_map lists a variety of wikias, both for-profit and non-profit. Within wikia's there are spaces. The most obvious is article space. Every registered user gets a user space. There is no privacy associated with any space. Anyone can edit pages in any space including help, category, and file space. Both the content and the file storage type must be public domain in order to be uploaded.