E-SPEAIT Course Guide

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Aims of the course

The course is an English-language twin to its Estonian counterpart that started in Wikiversity already in 2009 (and moved here in 2020). The goal is to provide participants with broad knowledge about connections between IT and the 'rest of the world' (topics run from ethics and laws to history, techno-culture, privacy and security). The ultimate aim is to make people think about the consequences of their activities and develop attitudes and thinking that may be beneficial in the later career.

The main learning outcomes for the e-course (note: the ones listed in the course programme are meant for the contact or face-to-face version of the course, thus they are somewhat different!) for a student areː

  • understands the topics of the course, is able to follow and discuss the topics as well as present them at the exam;
  • writes short analytical texts about course topics to a weblog, using relevant written sources.
  • discusses course-related topics in the course forum;
  • writes a group paper with 3-4 fellow students about a course-related topic;
  • writes a review on another group's paper and optionally on 1-2 course-related books;
  • is able to work in an open online environment and participate in discussions in a meaningful and civilized way.

The tools needed

  • a blog - an existing one can be used (in this case, a separate category or tag should be used, e.g. SPEAIT2021K) or a new one may be created. Attentionǃ The blog should support RSS for reading the posts (the two most common ones, https://www.wordpress.com and https://www.blogger.com, are fine).
  • an account at the course forum in Nabble.com.
  • e-mail - the basic rapid information interchange goes here - it is preferred over instant messaging due to being self-documenting (all the information will be stored automatically).

The names and blog addresses should be added to the Participants page. Alternatively, you can e-mail the address directly to the lecturer, but doing so would keep others from reading - and possibly contributing to - your blog.

How do we work?

Weekly texts

There is a reading text for each week of the course (see the main page). While reading it does not give points directly, it should hopefully provide some information and ideas.


Blogging

Each weekly text has a "Study & Write" section at the end, containing a blogging task. These tasks should be written about in one's blog (each task as a separate blog post, not all togetherǃ). The approximate volume would be around one typical text page (around 500 words; depending on the topic, can be a little less as well). Each weekly post gives up to 3 points, thus it is possible to receive up to 45 points.

Attentionː blogging should be done weekly, the deadlines are Wednesday noons (12ː00, the first one being February 3).

Forum discussions

Participants should create an account at the course forums and make weekly at least 2 posts there - both creating a new topic and contributing to existing ones count (so it pays to check first if something similar already exists - too many topics would lose focus). For each week, up to two posts (1 point each) will count for points - it is OK to post more, but the additional ones would be 'just for fun'. You can thus receive up to 30 points. While the general deadline is the same as with blogging, it is not that strict in the forums - responding to up to two weeks old topics is acceptable (but not waking up in the last week and starting to solo in really old topicsǃ).

Note: In addition to the Course Discussions, there is the Other Discussions sub-forum that can be used for any reasonable and civilized topic (e.g. asking about other courses or announcing a party). These posts, however, do not qualify for points. There is also the Housekeeping forum which is meant for course-related (in the organizational sense - these are not graded either) topics - most importantly, you will find the lecturer's weekly feedback there.

Attentionː Please use either a recognizable name (full name is not mandatory, as long as it can be identified - e.g. Mr Michael Monroe could be MikeM, as long as there is no Mike Manning also taking the course). If you really need to use something cryptic, let the lecturer know (via e-mail) that it is you.

The Wiki-based Groupwork

This is a possible alternative for sitting the course exam - both of these will give up to 30 points and, when combined with steady weekly contribution, can give a good final grade. The paper should be written by a team of 4 or 5 students (finding teammates is up you you!) into a wiki (can be this one here, but other possibilities exist). The possible positive effect (besides the knowledge acquired) includes the teamwork experience over e-channels (again, you are free to choose the exact way of cooperation). Again, the groupwork is not mandatory - but, when done in time, it can reduce your end-term workload quite a lot.

Important points:

  • The team rosters (member lists) and topics should be e-mailed to the lecturer within the first three weeks, or by the February 17 noon. As the work is completed, its link should be added to the course papers page.
  • The topic should be course-related, i.e. the choice is really wide. A rule of thumb: it should have something to do with a) IT, and b) people/society. In case the topic really does not fit (too large or too small, totally offtopic), the lecturer will inform you and let you pick another one.
  • The approximate volume is 2-3 pages of text (~1200 words) per team member, so a team of four could write a 8-10 page paper (pure content, not counting possible title pages or large illustrations). The length will not be measured exactly, but clearly shorter works will receive a penalty in points.
  • You can use the course papers page in this wiki, but using other wikis is also fine, as long as you inform the lecturer of its location.
  • The work should be completed by the second last Wednesday, or May 5 noon - during the final week, all the nasty(?) peers can then try to review it. Completing earlier is very welcome as it would reduce the lecturer's workload piling up.
  • The work should follow academic standards - in good English, sufficient sources and pointers to them (the referencing system can be chosen freely - e.g. Vancouver, MLA, APA, Harvard etc. - see also here). The title page is not needed, clear headings will do. Topical illustrations are welcome but not mandatory - and all material published should be legal.


Review

During the last week of the course, everyone should pick up a group paper from the course papers page and write a review in your blog (so both the papers and reviews will be publicǃ). The review gives up to 5 points and should be posted by Wednesday, May 12 noon. You could evaluate the paper's topic, viewing angle(s), thoroughness, sources/references, language/form etc.


Book review

You can pick a book relevant to the course and write a 0.5-1 page (300-500 words) review. You can either post it to your blog (preferred, as others can read it too) or send it to the lecturer in e-mail. The deadline is May 5 noon (the same as papers). The review will give up to 5 points.


Plenty of choice - and a word of warning

As there are several ways to collect points, different combos can work (blog-paper-exam; forums-reviews-exam etc; it is still possible to get even the max grade without exam). The main recommendation is to participate throughout the course to get the maximum knowledge effect from the course. We have enough people to benefit from the community effect, or learn from each other (as opposed to the typical Student Syndrome "I'll start studying three days before the exam - and three days after exam, I will remember nothing.") ː)

It is also appropriate to issue a warning - do not plagiarize. Even if you have all the Internet at your disposal. Firstly, this would be stealing from yourself: you will learn very little (perhaps to press Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V, but you probably knew even those earlier). Secondly, a proven case (any non-trivial amount of copy-paste presented as your own work) can drop you from the course (and in some cases, from the university).


Broadcasting the points

The feedback system consists of the weekly feedback in the forum (under Housekeeping) and a password-protected PDF table containing the current standing. Details are usually set in the kick-off meetings - in 2021, the location and password will be in the initial e-mail message (telling them to other participants is fine as long as outsiders are kept out).

The weekly feedback will appear in the forum either by every Thursday noon, or when possible, by late Wednesday night.


Exam and grading

The exam is typically done in contact form (face-to-face). If circumstances allow, the exam will take place as followsː

  • express version - by answering 10 randomly picked questions based on weekly texts. This is the fast way, but the results vary much more, so this is recommended if you a) know the material well, or b) need just a couple of points to reach the desired grade.
  • essay version - by writing a 2-page essay in about 1.5 hours, the topic can be chosen from 3 randomly picked topics. It somewhat simulates the situation of your boss dropping in and saying "We need an opinion piece on X in two hours, do it!" - the point is to promote quick thinking and analytical skills (rather than proper research of the homework papers). This kind of exam is a safer bet - it is difficult to flunk but also difficult to earn the max.

The exam will add up to 30 points to the final score.

NB! As the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic is hard to predict, the details about the exam will be announced later. If the contact exam is impossible, we will do the essay version only from the distance (in this case, details will be announced later as well).

The grading system is genericː

  • over 91 - 5
  • 81-90 - 4
  • 71-80 - 3
  • 61-70 - 2
  • 51-60 - 1
  • under 51 - 0


Course Calendar

  • January 27 - beginning of the e-course
  • February 3 - the first weekly deadline (Wednesday noon)
  • February 17 - the third weekly deadline; the deadline for group paper registration (for those who choose to write it)
  • May 5 - the penultimate (14th) weekly deadline; deadline for papers and book reviews
  • May 12 - the last (15th) weekly deadline; deadline for paper reviews and last week's blogs/forums; end of the e-course (exams will come later but are not mandatory if enough points have been collected).

Exam dates

The exam (regardless of conditions) will take place also on Wednesdays:

  • May 19
  • May 26
  • June 2

The settings will be determined in May.


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The content of this course is distributed under the Creative Commons Attibution-ShareAlike 3.0 Estonian license (English: CC Attribution-ShareAlike, or CC BY-SA) or any newer version of the license.