Teaching and learning style
"Shut up and listen"
The students sit in rows facing the lecturer. The lecturer talks. The students listen. Wisdom pours forth from the lecturer, directly into the students' brains.
Learning by doing
People learn by doing. Traditional lectures give people a running start, but real learning happens when students apply ideas for themselves.
For a topic such as OO design, this is especially true. Did you master OO design in lectures, or was it by doing it? Who taught you most -- a lecturer, or your peers?
You learn how to design by:
- looking at other peoples designs.
- arguing the merits of designs.
- teaching others how to design.
- reading publications about design.
- listening to the lecturer.
In 427, everybody is a designer. Participation is intrinsic to the course. Lectures will morph into tutorials: everybody is expected to produce designs and to contribute to class discussions. The value you derive from the course will be directly influenced by your level of engagement.
The wiki as a communications medium
A wiki is a set of editable web pages. It is used as a communications medium for an on-line community. In fact, the first and most important wiki (see Wards wiki) was developed so that a bunch of OO gurus could collaborate -- as they invented the field of Design patterns. The same community went on to develop eXtreme Programming.
Our community is COSC427. Our wiki contains the lecture material, developed by the whole class. But much more than that, it is the shared repository of our knowledge about OO design. Everyone in the class edits our wiki. The lecturer's role is to be a guide, but the wiki is produced by the class. Students are expected to contribute and edit material on the wiki -- including lecture material -- to extend it, make it clearer, discuss it, and add examples.
This participatory approach means that lectures won't be mapped out precisely. We have a theme and several subtopics to be covered, but the direction and pace of lectures will be influenced by the class.
Lecture notes won't be printed & handed out in class because the wiki is too dynamic and heavily inter-linked; it is better on-line. If you want to make explanatory notes about lecture material, scribble them on paper in class, and later edit the wiki to add your explanations.
A broader community
University classes are typically closed groups, admitting only the enrolled students. The 427 wiki is open; "outsiders", including past students, are encouraged to participate. This enriches our community by increasing diversity, adding more experienced members, and providing our exposure to real design issues from outside the classroom.
Participation is critical to successful learning in this course. It will make it more enjoyable too. Half of students grade comes from wiki contributions. (See 427 assessment for details.)
A note on competition: 400-level courses can be unhealthily competitive. The assignment and exam will provide plenty of opportunity to compete, but the tone of the wiki and classes is one of collaboration, not competition. Students are encouraged to help each other learn. Remember, teaching is one of the best ways of learning.