My classes are almost completely paperless. The students receive the syllabus on the very first day of class. I wouldn't even really need to do that except there are some students who like to see and touch the syllabus. There are no other papers distributed or collected during the semester.
This has helped me in my role as a teacher. I am much better at keeping track of electronic documents than paper ones. Here are some of the ways:
- If all of the handouts are in my Blackboard class, I have no one asking me for a copy of the one they lost.
- If all of the assignments are electronic, I have no one asking when they are due or what is due.
- If assignments in Excel are turned in electronically, I can see all of the formulas and how the document was created.
- I can see the document properties and tell if two students have turned in the same file.
- All communication is handled through the CMS, everything is in one place.
- Many tools are available in Blackboard including wikis, discussion boards, white boards, etc.
As you can tell, I have used these methods since early 2000. It has changed the way I teach dramatically. Things are much more organized. Students have come to expect all of the materials for the class to be online.
I measure learning in my paperless class the same way as in a regular class. Everything is graded online and feedback is given for each assignment. Students seem to like that there is a digital record of everything they have turned in. I have no questions about lost assignments or when something was turned in!
I don’t think I have done a good job building a learning network in my online class. This class has shown me some great ways to do that with group projects although I think it is a lot of work for the instructor. I do have the students participate in a weekly roundtable discussion. This creates some networking in the class.