Lorena A. Barba group

Digital pedagogy in three parts

The digital pedagogy in this course stands on a tripod. One leg is class presentation, recording and online dissemination. The second leg is a course blog, with student assignments publicly available. The third leg is a program of distinguished speakers participating in the course via Skype.

Screencasting, course blog, remote guests — This course is one of a set of ten modules in the College of Engineering’s offerings under the Introduction to Engineering umbrella. All incoming freshmen have to choose two modules, according to their interests, with topics varying from mechanical design, photonics, biomedical engineering environments, among others. This module is aimed at motivating the subject of bio-inspired engineering through the study of the way animals move in the air by either falling, gliding, or flying.

Class presentations are based on electronic slides with ample embedded media, and the use of digital inking for on-screen annotations. This format for presentation is not only interactive and engaging, but also permits the use of very simple and inexpensive means of lecture capture and dissemination via screencasts.

The course makes use of BU’s page in the iTunes U service, and has been the Top Collection on BU’s space throughout the Fall 2011 semester. At the time of writing, the first 15 tracks on the Top Downloads list of BU’s iTunes U channel are Bio-Aerial Locomotion videos.

The course blog is co-authored by the instructor and students of this course. Students are required to post their writing assignments to the blog, which is open in the public internet. This has two effects: (1) the instructor is able to motivate them to learn about and avoid plagiarism by appealing to their sense of public persona, and (2) the students express themselves in a more casual, comfortable tone than if they were writing formal essays; they are also able to use media-rich formats.

The final ingredient, distance invited speakers, has been a great hit with the students. They are inspired by discussing the course topics with leading experts in a variety of fields in this inherently inter-disciplinary course.

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