Last week, I met with Chris Rogers, professor in the Tufts University Mechanical Engineering department and Co-Director of the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach. I came into the meeting wanting to know if, as a robotics educator and someone with years of experience creating online education resources, this is something he'd be interested in. Chris' initial reaction was that yes, an online resource such as this one would be great, especially since right now a lot of educators turn to google for online resources and there isn't really a consolidated source for material. However, Chris had several comments on our approach that we are taking into consideration as we continue to move forward with this. These are:
- Getting users (educators) to upload material to the site. It takes a lot of time and energy to upload educational material, more so when it needs to be formatted to mesh with the rest of the site. We need to think of incentives and motivation for users to collaborate on these courses. Possible solutions to this problem are introducing some form of game or competition, acknowledgement, publicity, funding, and getting people to vote for material they find useful/helpful. Any suggestions are welcome!
- Usability - educators are generally looking for something that is easy to incorporate in the classroom. Because of this, we might want to consider the "out of the box experience." In other words, will teachers go to the site and see a long and cryptic set of instructions? Or will they see something that is ready to use both for themselves and their students?
- Presentation - we want to think about how the material in the site will be used by students. Whether the audience is a group of graduate students or high school students, will this just be a bunch of tutorials that students can sit through? Or will the content on this site prompt classes to be more hands on, interactive, and creative?
As for the site, I am still uploading content and we are continuously checking for bugs and areas of improvement. Our next goal is to produce a polished prototype by by June 20 to send out to the robotics education community. This will involve uploading all the content from the TurtleBot online tutorials, making a course on "How to Make a Course," trying to find solutions to the issues brought up by Chris, and trying to make the site as bug-free and usable as possible.