Sunday, February 20, 2011

Is there a study guide for the exam?

It is a week before the exam, and one of the most commonly asked questions is, "Is there a study guide for the exam?", or some variation of that. If the answer is yes, then chances are that you have spent good amount of time putting one together with the hope that it will not just get placed in a stack of papers.

In this post I will suggest a way to use the Oncourse Wiki for creating study guides and sharing the effort with the whole class. The right time to start preparing such a guide is during the weeks when the material for the upcoming exam is being discussed. The effort of creating a study guide can be delegated to the students. This way, they will not only have the necessary material to prepare for the exam, but having spent time compiling this resource are more likely to retain the information.

You can start a wiki with a few questions, and ask the students to add more questions as they read and research the material for the current topics. If the students don't know the answers right away, they can leave these answers blank. Since this is a collaborative effort, any student can add a question or a comment to the wiki, and any student can answer a question.

Wiki mark-up language may look confusing if you've never used it before, but it is very simple. It may help to start by looking through the knowledge base. I use a simple scheme of adding the "h1 " prefix to the heading, "h3 " prefix to all questions and "* " prefix to all answers. This uses a larger font size for the questions and a bullet/indentation for the answers, as shown in the sample on the right.

So, the wiki mark-up for this example is:

h1 Chapter 6 - The System Unit

h3 What three factors determine the power of a microcomputer?

* ?

h3 What is a binary system?

* A number system based on two digits 0 and 1 (off and on)

h3 Name three character coding schemes.

* ASCII, EBCDIC, Unicode

h3 Memory used beween a fast device and a slow device is called __________.

* Cache

By making the study guide a collaborative effort, you can turn the tables, and ask the students whether the study guide is ready. Of course, you should plan to check it frequently to find any misinformation, or to fill in any unanswered questions. The accuracy and quality of answers will also provide you with some assessment of the readiness of the class as a whole.

One of the other benefits you get from using Oncourse is that the content is backed up and archived. You can also get creative and add images and other components to the wiki, so I'm sure you will agree that the benefits far outweigh the effort.

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