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M.S. Shaw (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), P.L. Gay (Harvard University Science Center), D.T. Meyer, J.D. Zamfirescu, J.E. Smith (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), MIT Educational Studies Program Team
The MIT Educational Studies Program (ESP) has spent the past year developing an online gateway for outreach programs. The website has a five-fold purpose: to introduce the organization to potential students, teachers, volunteers and collaborators; to allow teachers to create, design and interact with classes and to allow students to register for and dialogue with these classes; to provide an online forum for continuing dialogue; and to provide organizers a wiki for documenting program administration.
What makes our site unique is the free and flexible nature of our easily edited and expanded code. In its standard installation, teachers setup classes, and administrators can approve/edit classes and make classes visible in an online catalogues. Student registration is completely customizable - students can register for self-selected classes, or they can register for a program and later get placed into teacher-selected classes. Free wiki software allows users to interactively create and edit documentation and knowledgebases. This allows administrators to track online what has been done while at the same time creating instant documentation for future programs. The online forum is a place where students can go after our programs end to learn more, interact with their classmates, and continue dialogues started in our classrooms. We also use the forum to get feedback on past and future programs.
The ease with which the software handles program creation, registration, communications and more allows programs for roughly 3000 students per year to be handled by about 20 volunteering undergraduates. By combining all these elements - promotion, class creation, program registration, an organizational wiki, and student forums - we create a one-stop virtual entryway into face-to-face learning that allows students to continue their experience after they leave the classroom. The code for this site is available for free upon request to other organizations.
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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #4
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