Monday, November 22, 2010

Seedling: Activity Sidebar

This is the first article in the Seedling series. Seedling articles offer a preview of new features that are in the works.

Today's Seedling is a new suite of features for students working on assignments: the Activity Sidebar. The Activity Sidebar will consist of a series of drawers, each containing helpful information for students working on that particular activity.

We currently have at least 6 drawers planned: Assignment Information, Scoring Information, Technical Support, Help Entering Your Answer, Help With This Topic, Subject Resources, and Web Help & Videos.

The Assignment Information drawer will contain important information about the assignment: the name of the assignment, when it's due, any description the instructor gives it, and the grading policies that will be used on the assignment. Except for the scoring policies, all of this information is already shown to students in the current assignment view, but it can be a little hard to find; we'll put the information front-and-center.

The Scoring Information drawer will give students information about where their score on the assignment is coming from. We'll show students their individual scores on each question, with an explanation of why they received that score.

The Technical Support drawer will give students quick links to support topics, as well as an easy place to email our support team with any questions they might have. We pride ourselves on quick support replies, so we want to make it easier for students to find us.

Help Entering Your Answer will offer information about the specific modules used in the question. For example, if the question involves molecule drawing, this drawer will have videos explaining how to use the molecule drawing module.

The Help With This Topic drawer will contain links to helpful reference materials, such as sections from ebooks or online video lectures. These resources are keyed to the specific topic of the question. You can see some examples of these resources in the Resources button currently available in organic chemistry courses.

For each subject (such as General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Introductory Chemistry, GOB, Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering: Mass & Energy Balances, or Physics), the Subject Resources drawer will have links to general references pertaining to those subjects. These aren't keyed to the topic of the particular question, but might be helpful if students aren't sure where to start.

Finally, the Web Help & Videos drawer will contain the results of a targeted web search for the topic of the question. The web is a rich source of helpful information, but here we help students sift through that information.

The Activity Sidebar is being designed to be extensible, so that we can add additional drawers as new types of resources become available. If you have any ideas for resources that students might find helpful, please let us know in the comments.

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