Toolkit for Student Success

By Dr. Sarita Shukla | Assistant Teaching Professor in the School of Educational Studies | 2022-2023 Digital Scholarship Faculty Fellow

The Digital Scholarship Faculty Fellows (DSFF) award by the UW Bothell Library was one of the best things that happened for my students and my own learning in the 2022-2023 academic year.  This award helped me transform a course project vision into reality. My hope was to create a public-facing website with student-generated content evaluating local non-profit organizations. Student contribution to this site would not only promote learning for students within that course but also create a resource useful to professional audiences beyond the course. Thus, the publicly-accessible content on the website may contribute to K-12 teachers, college instructors and education professionals’ toolkit of available resources that serve students farthest from educational justice. 

While I envisioned this project and took several steps to attain it, the award served as a catalyst and offered resources and support that helped me move this vision into reality successfully. Denise Hattwig, Head of Digital Scholarship; Alyssa Berger, Education Librarian; Ashish Nagar, master’s student from the Computer Science and Software Engineering department and I worked together. 

In previous iterations of this work, lots of questions around public scholarship came up. Additionally, getting students onboarded with an easy-to-use interface was another challenge. Other questions including issues of plagiarism on the open web, citing work (including images), and the issue of copyright came up. For most students, completing coursework that would be available on the open web was an entirely new experience. The option to use pseudonyms and other ways to complete this work and submit it via the course learning management system were additional considerations. 

I reflected on past attempts, thought about challenges and opportunities with this past work, and then shared steps for the next iteration of this work. Conversations with Denise and Alyssa were phenomenal not only because we discussed this project but our conversations touched upon larger themes. Through this collaboration we came up with the following sequence of steps for the course project that included scaffolded activities throughout the quarter:

  1. Students participate in two Canvas activities and a class discussion to promote critical understanding of what it means to work in open online environments and develop evaluation skills when assessing education nonprofits. Denise created quizzes and activities for onboarding students with open projects. Alyssa visited the class and conducted activities that helped students  further deepen their thinking for critical evaluation of online materials.
  2. Students then create a publicly available blog post evaluating a local education nonprofit for a broad professional audience.
  3. Students engage with their peers and analyze peer blog posts for content. Finally, students reflect on their own evolving skill to critically evaluate online sources. 

Following these steps allowed for a better student experience with this course project. Doing this work provided students an opportunity to move from the role of an observer to that of a creator and critical consumer of content on the open web. The following student comment highlights this aspect: ‘The information shared throughout this course has helped me easily navigate a variety of websites and quickly locate and validate information. I have learned to not blindly trust websites, and to dive deeper into the ideas behind missions and their supporters to understand what an organization truly stands for.’

The DSFF award was also critical in getting help and support of the funded student. Ashish learned about the programming aspect of the SPLOTbox WordPress theme and was instrumental in editing the Share page to meet the project requirements. Through his exploration of the features of SPLOTbox, Ashish followed up on issues that came up with tailoring the blog site to meet the course needs. By the examples he gave and in our conversations Ashish expressed his enthusiasm for this interdisciplinary experience. Ashish found the work on this project illuminating given that the course project was grounded in education with a focus on equity and inclusion while his own background is in computer science. 

The DSFF award also provided a stipend for a K-12 teacher to review the course project blog site and provide feedback on the functionality and usefulness of the site. I am looking forward to applying this feedback to provide an even more seamless learning experience when students complete a revised version of this course project in the upcoming quarters.

I am incredibly proud of this work and got to share some nuggets of learning from this project with fellow faculty and staff when our proposal was accepted for the UW Center for Teaching and Learning (UW CTL) – Annual Teaching Learning Symposium 2023. The project titled ‘Critique and Care: Positioning an undergraduate open web project as a site for critical learning’ was showcased on the UW CTL site. Additionally, I was invited to participate on the 2023 Teaching & Learning Symposium Faculty Panel hosted by the UW CTL based on this work. 

In sum, the DSFF award provided a robust professional experience that included collaboration with librarian colleagues, support from a funded student, positive student experiences, helpful  critique of this completed project from a practicing teacher, and opportunities to share this work with colleagues beyond the UWB campus. All of this makes me feel excited and hopeful for the next iteration of this project. 

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