Higher Education

on-campus reputation system

My cyberspace class has been discussing reputation systems, and we’ve been considering this idea. They are all familiar with ratemyprofessor of course, and though some say the site may not be fair or accurate, they tend to use it. The initial reaction to the idea of a public on-campus student reputation system made them quite nervous. That’s understandable, and I’m not suggesting we need one but rather just speculating on what one might be like and how it might function.

First of all, a reputation system (a la eBay or Slashdot or Amazon) is a seemingly necessary feature of a commons, particularly with group-forming networks. The college campus as it is now constituted is not really a commons. To the contrary it is a collection of privately-held intellectual properties. There are copyrighted textbooks, the professor’s teaching materials (privately owned), and the students’ individually authored assignments (also privately owned).

I’ve been going on now for some time about the value of public pedagogy and my own choice to make large segments of my courses public–not only teaching materials but the interactions within the course as it happens.

So I’m going to move past that here and imagine a campus where faculty and students do not hoard private knowledge in exchange for grades, but rather share that knowledge/media in an open network, perhaps something like the "Youniversity" Jenkins imagines as a combination of  MIT’s OpenCourseWare and YouTube.

OK, so nearly everything is available in a public space. What do I mean by that?

  • all non-copyrighted course readings
  • faculty teaching materials (lectures, screencasts, assignments, syllabi, etc.)
  • student products (discussion postings, essays, creative writing, podcasted presentations, multimedia projects. etc.)

Without trying to imagine the entire thing, the idea is that the contributions would be rated and that the contributor would accrue a rating this way. I think I’m attracted to something lke slashdot where (as I understand it) reviewers are alotted a certain number of points that they can apply to various posts. With this information, you could be alerted to the best posts and posts by the highest rated contributors. Such ratings might also provide an interesting perspective on how the student community values the material in a given course.

I must confess that the reptuation system is less interesting to me than the idea of the campus becoming a kind of intellectual commons where groups are allowed to form more organnically that they do within current curricular constraints. At some point we might begin to realize that the degree, the certificate, is not worth the rising cost and that instead what we really should value is the learning, learning that we could probably get much more cheaply if we got rid of the bureaucracy of credit, evaluation, accreditation, and so on.


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