Asked 30th Sep, 2015
  • Wessler Engineering

What experience have you had with student generated learning tools?

I'm interested in making more use of technology in education and one recent idea is to create an assignment requiring students to generate learning tools such as short instructional videos, explanations of problem solutions, analogies or metaphors for course topics. These would be assigned early in the course so students could think about options but would not be due until the end of the course as part of the course review. After vetting by the instructor(s), these learning tools would then be made available to the rest of the students in the course to use in their review for final exams. From an initial literature review, it is clear that this is not a new idea, so I'm interested in hearing more about your experiences with such a concept - the good, the bad, and the ugly!  Thanks!

Most recent answer

Jakob Bruhl
Wessler Engineering
Last week, we presented the findings from our first iteration of having students prepare review content in two courses. The feedback from those in attendance was helpful and we welcome any feedback / ideas from others. We'll be doing this again in the Fall semester with some changes based on what we learned from this first iteration. Here's a link to the paper.

All Answers (23)

Peter Samuels
Birmingham City University
Dear Jakob,
That's an interesting idea. I would certainly advocate seeing students as co-producers of knowledge but the problem with such a scheme is quality assurance. If some of the advice given is incorrect surely other students could complain if they were misled. Certainly using examples of student work for open creative briefs such as dissertations could work. I'm not sure how much further this idea could be taken.
2 Recommendations
Jakob Bruhl
Wessler Engineering
Peter, thanks for your reply. You mentioned my primary concern with the idea: quality assurance. It would certainly require some time by the instructors to thoroughly review each submission before it was made accessible to all the other students in the course. I could certainly see situations where the student-generated content was not made available to others because of errors within it.
Guenter Maresch
University of Salzburg
Dear Jakob, 
I think that it is very useful that students generate learning materialis with new technology of their own. Oe of the reasons is that they are then not only consumers of knowledge they - have to create/design/.. new materialis. There is a big difference. Not only consuming but creating materials of their own means that they need deeper knowledge of the content to focus the core of it and create a leanrig material then (video,..). Creating own materials means deeper learning. Another advantage is that students then learn how to use the tools for creating and designing leanring materials. This often needs much knowledge in a lot of different software products.
The disadvantages are:
- As mentioned before: the quality assurance.
- The copyright. I would not recommend to publish any students work without making sure that you really have all the compyrights to do that.
- My experience is that you can use the students material easily in an closed platform and a course but you nearly could not use it twice in another course.
So as always: There are advantages and disadvantages :-)  
1 Recommendation
Jakob Bruhl
Wessler Engineering
Thanks for the insights, Guenter. I hadn't yet thought about copyright concerns ... will definitely need to consider that in the development of any assignments and the decision to share student generated content with other students.
Your comment about the students learning how to use tools to create learning materials is actually a concern of mine, too. I don't want an assignment to require an excessive amount of time learning new tools and potentially distract from the true purpose of the assignment which is to get that "deeper knowledge" that you mention. Figuring out how to balance this is a challenge, I'm certain.
Eamon Costello
Dublin City University
Hi Jakob
Peerwise is a dedicated tool to allow students to create multiple choice questions and then have their fellow students answer and rate those questions. I have found it a very useful tool for allowing students to generate good learning tools (although they are of a very specific type) .
Hope this helps.
1 Recommendation
Jakob Bruhl
Wessler Engineering
Thanks for the suggestion about Peerwise, Eamon - I'll look into that.
Your example is very interesting, Stefan. So the students didn't create review material from the course they were in but instead created review material form previous knowledge to help them be more successful in their current course. I had focused my thinking so far on using only material from the course, but your example is very important and reinforces to the students the necessity of relying on previous knowledge for success learning new material. Thanks for sharing!
Milagros Guiza
Autonomous University of Baja California
Hello Jakob, thank you for The experience I have had with my students is similar to what you have mentioned.  As every teacher our aim is to have students acquire competences for their future professional life.  In doing so it is importan to schaffold their learning, going step by step in order for them to acquire knowledge and then be able to create something using technology.  This is not easy, we have to remember Bloom´s verb taxonomy so in order for students to create something they must have passed through  previous Bloom´s stages.  My personal experience has been very good, students have developed:  Podcasts, Digital Story telling and VLEs.  where they have learned first how to develop them and then about the theory they developed itabout, like Distributed Data Base. 
1 Recommendation
Jakob Bruhl
Wessler Engineering
Thank you Milagros and Stefan for the more specific examples. This is very helpful. Stefan, can you explain more about they types of review products your students created? You mentioned an educational software - were they creating "modules" for that software package? Do you have anything written about this experience that I could use to learn more about the details?
Milagros, great reference to Blooms taxonomy. That's exactly what we're trying to do with this assignment - get them to move higher on that taxonomy by creating some new tool. Do you have any publications on this topic that I could reference as we finalize our ideas?
Kimberly A. Lawless
Pennsylvania State University
This is a fascinating topic!  I would LOVE to have some pointers to research articles that you believe take a rigorous look at this approach - has it been tested empirically as a pedagogical approach?  Thanks!
Egils Ginters
Riga Technical University
Any system has the same or lower intelligence level as their designer. Also domain of the previous knowledge of the student must be respected. IT students would create something significant for other IT students, however to do the same for social students it is long time to understand that really we have not such breakdown: social sciences and engineering, no differences. There are only one border is: stupids and intelligent.
1 Recommendation
Stephen Hesketh
Keele University
I am a big fan of using technology in the classroom, and there are many great tools which students can use to create amazing content, but what to use? First you would need to know what the students know how to use and build on this, or you let them chose, some might like making a video or others an e-book or a Power Point or Google slides, but the most important aspect is what do they know how to use? Otherwise you will then need to teach this as well! You will also need to have some rubrics so the students know what is expected!   
1 Recommendation
Frank Heringer
Self Employed
Good Morning from Frankfurt/Germany.
We do have some experience with student generated learning tools. As you are asking for the whole of it, I must confess it is quite not possible to put it down in short.
But: Our students are very resourceful and modern thinking young people. They should be encouraged to participate in teaching. Of course they must know the limits and there must be some supervision.I dare say, "there must always be an old fox having an eye on the cubs."
You have to make sure they got it right. We are surprised sometimes. They find new solutions to old problems. I won't say that everything works, but it is worth a try at least in simulation.
Tanya Linden
University of Melbourne
there is some research on "student-generated content" which includes issues you are interested in. 
In one of my subjects students create interview transcripts with an imaginary client and videos representing bits of interviews. The best pieces I collect to reuse in other subject where similar case studies are applicable (e.g. project management and systems analysis and design). I showed my student how to use and But there are other video tools on the Internet that have intuitive interface.
2 Recommendations
Vevekanand Madho
City University of New York City - Lehman College
One of the ways to generate thinking and writing about a subject/or topic is to provide opportunities to write. First we have to create a situation where students feel they have something to write and then provide an opportunity to write. There is an interesting book "How Learning Works" which  elaborates strategies on how to develop writing skills. Behaviorists call it "behavior shaping"
1 Recommendation
Vibha Sharma
Mehr Chand Mahajan DAV College for Women Chandigarh
My experience with student - generated content has been very good. We had an inter-college debate on 'Make in India' organised by our departmental students club - COMPASS - Club of MCM Public Administration StudentS. We required fillers and introduction to the topic. the students shot videos wherein they interviewed general public, businessmen, youth about their understanding of the concept. After the debate these were screened and they were very well received. The entire work was executed by the  students very creatively  
Jakob Bruhl
Wessler Engineering
Thank you for the specific examples. The video ideas and the on-line and other software examples are helpful. I particularly like the point about the resourcefulness and creativity of our students - I do not want to unnecessarily bound them in this assignment because I'm certain they will come up with ideas that I wouldn't.
Your comment about the value of writing, Vevakandand, is another subject I'm working to integrate more effectively into our technical courses. I'll have to take a look at the book you mentioned, "How Learning Works." Thanks for the recommendation.
José Tarcísio Franco de Camargo
Centro Regional Universitário de Espírito Santo do Pinhal
Hi, Jakob.
I'm doing this with my students exactly as you mentioned. The construction of learning objects, by the own students, through the use of the new tech tools, such as web-based systems, seems to highly improve the learning potential of them, specially when regarding to themes that require some abstraction. Take a look at a simple example at our website (it's in portuguese, but I think you can easily translate it).
The learning object was splitted in three parts:
1. A basic explanation about the theme:
2. A simulation app:
2. A final test:
1 Recommendation
Jakob Bruhl
Wessler Engineering
Thanks for the specific example, Tarcisio (and thanks, Google translator for translating them to English). Do you have your students create learning objects similar to the example at the "simulation app" link? Do you have any indication about how much time they invest to prepare objects like that?
José Tarcísio Franco de Camargo
Centro Regional Universitário de Espírito Santo do Pinhal
Hi, again, Jakob.
I will try to build a better picture about this kind of work with my students.
I still don't have a closed format for the procedures that students will follow to build the learning objects. Indeed, I'm still "tuning" the process. But it all started in 2008, as a concluding task for the Computer Graphics discipline that I teach every year. See some animations that students generated here:
and here:
Further, students started building "useful objects" as their "term paper". See some examples (all written in Java):
- an assembly language simulator, that I use in the "Microprocessors & Microcontrollers" discipline:
- a software to be used by people that have their income based on collecting reciclable materials:
(this software resulted in a paper presented at IFIP Congress this year - availiable in my RG papers).
- a classification software, projected to be used by Biology students:
- a software planned to be used by economy students in stock market analysis:
Now we are using the potential offered by HTML5 / WebGL / JavaScript (through the library Three.js) to develop learning objects.
Answering your questions:
1. The example presented in the "app link" was started by an student but concluded by me (he had some difficulties with the mathematical part of the project). Take a look at my paper "Visualização de Funções Matemáticas em Tempo Real". It shows the student's work. Now other students are building learning objects as their "term paper" using HTML5 / WebGL and JavaScript.
2. How much time they need to build this "apps"? I don't have a precise answer... It depends on the complexity of the project and the programming skills of each students. But as an estimative I would say something around three to six months.
1 Recommendation
Jakob Bruhl
Wessler Engineering
Two other faculty members here and I have completed our first round of student generated content for two different engineering mechanics courses. In both courses, the assignment required them to create review material on a topic from the course. In one course, it was an assignment, in the other it was an opportunity to earn extra credit. 
The types of products were primarily slide shows or written review sheets that reviewed concepts and worked example problems. A few groups of students prepared videos that did the same thing. There were several very creative products produced - a couple that astounded us as faculty with the creativity and time commitment from our students.
We made these student generated review products available online for the rest of the students enrolled in the courses to use as they prepared for final exams.  We're still sorting through usage statistics and developing an understanding of possible correlation between learning style preferences and the type of content the student's generated.
Stay tuned ... we'll present complete findings at the 2016 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference and Exposition and a paper will be included in the conference proceedings.
Jakob Bruhl
Wessler Engineering
Last week, we presented the findings from our first iteration of having students prepare review content in two courses. The feedback from those in attendance was helpful and we welcome any feedback / ideas from others. We'll be doing this again in the Fall semester with some changes based on what we learned from this first iteration. Here's a link to the paper.

Similar questions and discussions

Are undergraduate engineering programs teaching systems thinking adequately?
1 reply
  • Rea LaviRea Lavi
My feeling/perception is that *most* (even the vast majority of) undergraduate engineering degree programs worldwide:
(a) Don't or barely include systems thinking in the learning objectives of their course syllabi.
(b) Are (still) heavily invested in passive instructional methods that tend not to foster students’ systems thinking. Meaning, lectures and recitations are the majority and the norm over active learning methods which involve application, collaboration, discussion, and reflection by students.
(c) Don’t provide instructors with the pedagogical training required to foster and assess students’ systems thinking.
(d) Don’t assess students’ systems thinking in any documented and consistent way. I’m not even getting into whether the assessment is valid, reliable, and cost-effective.
All the above are especially absent in the earlier years of the degree program.
Question 1: What are your thoughts about my perception of the landscape? Does it match what you know or feel?
Question 2: Is anyone aware of studies that survey systems thinking inclusion in undergraduate engineering curricula (worldwide, US, or in any other country)?
Looking forward to your comments, facts, and opinions on these questions or on anything else that comes to mind!

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