Use the website for teaching

This page:  | Website Features | Student Assignments | Graduate Student Learning


Interested in using this website to support a course you're teaching next semester? We're looking for a few intrepid instructors to pilot an experimental project with us in spring and fall of 2019. If you teach a small-enrollment course and are interested in collaborating with us, contact Kerry Magruder and Brent Purkaple using the Webmaster contact form so that we can discuss what might be possible. Read on for website features useful for instruction, sample student assignments, and some ideas on graduate student learning.


Website Features

Features to support using the website for course instruction will be implemented in 2019-2020.  Such use remains in beta, yet here are some brief tips for the spring 2019 semester:

  1. Website Resources. This website offers a tremendous amount of downloadable content you may wish to incorporate in course readings:
    • Start Here:  Many of the resources listed on this page can be read (or watched) here in full.
    • Participatio:  Every article from every issue of Participatio is available here.
    • Many other items can be accessed either at this site or online at other sites (Open Access).
    • All of these items are available to the public, and no registration by students is required.
  2. Student Provisional Membership. Your students may register as Student Members. Student members have access to all areas of the website, including profiles of members and mentors. This might be advantageous if you anticipate that they might (1) contribute improvements to Mentor Profiles or (2) benefit from reading course notes on your own Member Profile, or (3) benefit from reading members-only course notes you place for them on records in the bibliographies. For these three tasks, they must be logged-in. At the end of each semester, student members will be placed on inactive status, no longer able to log-in, unless they wish to become full members. 
  3. Syllabi. We will happily post the syllabus of any Torrance-related course taught by a Fellowship member; cf. the Syllabus page. In addition, we will add a link to your syllabus from your Member Profile.
  4. Member Profiles. Here's an example of a profile with a Course Instruction block to hold course information: KVM (remember to log-in first before clicking a profile link). See the instructions for creating a Course Instruction block as part of your member profile. The Course Instruction block on your profile is not meant to replace your course management system or primary class website, but to be used as an adjunct to help organize Torrance-related assignments. The Course Instruction block includes these fields:
    • Course Name
    • Syllabus link
    • Course Description
    • Course Notes to hold miscellaneous information for students.
    • Bibliography links (by McGrath #s). Link to the works from the bibliographies that your students will consult.
    • The "Notes" block in the right sidebar automatically includes links to Members-only Notes and Public Notes you create on bibliography records across the website. For this reason we can also create Profiles for student members, which they can edit and update, and which will provide direct links to all of the Notes they create across the site. The direct links to Notes from profiles may facilitate student discussion and instructor review.
  5. Bibliography recordsBibliography records contain several fields of special relevance for instructional activities. All fields are visible to the public unless noted otherwise.
    • Members-Only Notes. On the bibliography records you are using in your course, you can leave notes for students that are visible only to members. These notes will be visible to all members, including students in your class and students in other classes, just not to the public.  (Cf. "Create a Note" in the Help section.)
    • Public Notes. Content in this field is visible to the public. This content is subject to review and incorporation into the permanent bibliographic record (with attribution).
    • Tags. #1983-418b is an example of a record with tags, and here's the index of current tags.
    • Synopsis/Outline. See #1983-418b for an example of a record containing text in this field.
    • Quotation. See #1983-418b for an example of a record containing text in this field (limited in length by fair use).

You and your students may directly create and enter Members-only Notes. We are also implementing support for the direct creation and editing of additional fields (such as the Tags, Synopsis/Outline, and Quotation) by members and student members, so contact us if you want to use these features in the 2019 spring semester.


Student Assignments

The content of the bibliographies and Mentor Profiles is a collective effort of TFT Theological Fellowship members. For this reason, enhancing the content provides an opportunity for class assignments. In many universities, students improve articles in Wikipedia for a grade; similarly, you might invite students to enhance content on this website, with instructor review, and so to become co-producers of digital knowledge rather than merely consumers. Possible student assignments include:

  1. Assign student writing (e.g., research papers, blog posts, or reading journals) based upon the website resources listed above. The website resources are sanctioned by the Fellowship and in nearly all cases have passed through peer-review.
    • Encourage students to refer to publications by the McGrath# (McGrath# FAQ) given on this website, appended to a traditional citation format (suggested Footnote and Bibliography formats are included on bibliographic records). Example: "Thomas F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ: Evangelical Theology and Scientific Culture, 2d ed. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1992); #1992-542."
    • If student writing is placed online (e.g., in a course blog or in student blogs), encourage students to link back to records of materials here on the website.
  2. Ask each student to choose a figure from the Torrance tradition (who is not an active member), and create an enhanced Mentor Profile for that person using published and publicly-available information.
    • Follow the guidelines provided for the various profile fields as described in the Create Member Profile section of the Help pages.
    • Compare the All Souls index with the much smaller number of Mentor Profiles (remember to log-in before clicking a profile link). Eventually, Mentor Profiles may grow to represent the entire field of Trinitarian theologians and their interlocutors over the last several generations.
  3. Ask students to thoroughly complete the Submit Publication form to add a secondary work to the Studies bibliography (or bonus credit for a new publication by Thomas, James or David Torrance not yet included in the Sources bibliography). All relevant information must be included that is supported on bibliography records.
  4. As mentioned above, every bibliography record supports a Members-only Notes field to display annotations by members (or reviewed by members) that are visible to members only, not to the public.
    • Instructors may use this field to leave instructor notes for your students, e.g., to focus reflection on a given source.
    • Instructors may also use this field for student notes. Ask students to create annotations on any number of records, and then to discuss the annotations of other students in the course. Think of the Members-only Notes field as an exercise in communication that is relatively open to a sympathetic readership who may provide additional information, or, if requested, constructive feedback for your students' consideration.
    • See KVM for a sample member profile with a list of Notes in the right sidebar (remember to log-in before clicking a profile link).
  5. Every bibliography record supports any number of Public Notes to display annotations by members (or reviewed by members). These Notes are visible to the public. At any point during the semester, after an iterative process of student review and then Instructor review, Members-only Notes might be made public. That is, you as the instructor, after review, might submit content in the students' names as Public Notes during, or at the end of, the semester. Thus student content originally written for Members-only Notes might after several iterative revisions make its way into Public Notes, of enduring benefit to all. To convert a Members-only Note to a Public Note, change its type to "Public" and send us an email to let us know we should activate it.
  6. Ask students to create synopses or outlines of bibliographic items. Initially, these might be posted for discussion in Members-only Notes, which might later (after instructor review) be placed in the public "Synopsis/Outline" field. See #1983-418b for an example of a record containing text in this field. You could determine your own guidelines for how in-depth the synoptic outline should be. In general, it will go beyond the actual headings and subheadings printed in the work. (Printed headings are indicated in the Contents field instead of the Synopsis/Outline field.) You might either assign one title per student, or make it a group or class project devoted to outlining a single work that plays a central role in the course.
  7. Ask students to help with tagging sources. For example, you might ask students to select a meaningful tag, and then identify 25 currently-untagged Sources that would benefit from that particular tag.  #1983-418b is an example of a record with tags, and here's the index of current tags. Eventually, we hope to implement a more sophisticated clickable system for member-defined tags, but this basic field is implemented for spring 2019.
  8. Ask students to search the Internet for sites where publications are available online, if this is not already noted in the bibliography record. It would enhance the value of the bibliographies to add links to library repositories, open-access journals, and other online sources that provide open access for materials described here.
  9. Ask students to submit their favorite quotes from sources, which can be placed into the Quotations field, as in #1983-418b (limited in length by fair use).

As it may be desired, any of the above assignments might easily incorporate a process of peer-review by fellow students, followed by instructor review, and eventually being made available publicly. Assignments like these invite students to participate as co-producers of short-form knowledge, in a collaborative manner, that will be openly distributed, of widespread benefit, and sustained by the Fellowship website into the future.

Instructor-reviewed student contributions will be attributed to the student and instructor by name, in the spirit of this website's commitment to CC-by-nc-sa (see right sidebar) and to the Berlin Declaration on Open Access.  Example:  "This outline was created by [class name or student names] in [course name], taught by [instructor name] in [semester] ([syllabus link; assignment link])."

If you create assignments based on any of these ideas, please consider sharing the instructions. We will post sample assignments in a members-only forum for other members to use or adapt for their own courses.

Members-only Notes may be created and edited at present. For instructions, see "Create a Note" in the Help section. Direct editing by students and instructors for the other fields mentioned above (Tags, Synopsis/Outline, Quotation), and for Mentor Profiles, is now being implemented. We beg your patience in viewing this as a pilot program, experimental in nature, so please consult with us before designing your course to ensure that we are able to support it. We solicit your ideas. We hope to benefit from lessons learned through the activities of a few courses during 2019.


Conclusion: Online resources and Graduate Student Learning

To shape the world they live in, students must become digital scholars, but what does this mean? It is a commonplace to observe that the Internet has been a force for disintermediation, removing the gate-keepers and middle-managers of information. Never before have such high quality resources become available in so rich an abundance to so many people at so little cost. Yet at the same time, never before has it been more difficult to disentangle the quality resources from the sub-par resources that distract us with their ubiquity on our all-pervasive digital screens. If it is impossible to learn anything today apart from the influence of the Internet, how can one learn to use the Internet responsibly? Part of the answer surely lies with educators, and part with academic societies. We have an inescapable responsibility to engage Internet resources with our students in ways that exemplify and inculcate responsible digital learning. We must demonstrate for our students how to be discerning consumers of digital resources by seeking out credible resources warranted by persons with direct knowledge of the sources, and/or sanctioned by professional societies. Instructional use of this website and its resources are but one example. Moreover, a deeper dive into the resources offered here may lead to communications with other members, resulting in personal learning experiences.

But it is not enough for students simply to become discerning consumers of digital resources; they need to become co-producers of knowledge by contributing back to the wider public something of added meaning and sustainable value. Participatory learning is relational, personal, and creative, expressed in the co-creation of meaning. As our students co-create objects of meaning, they enter the realm of digital scholarship which, in contrast to the world of print publication, tends to be more participatory, collaborative, short-form, and openly distributed. These characteristics, not contrary to peer review, are evident in the sample student assignments suggested above. Only such a vision of students as co-producers of knowledge, contributing to the greater public good, constitutes an adequate understanding of digital scholarship for the world which our graduate students are shaping for the sake of their generation and the generations to follow.

Kerry Magruder and Brent Purkaple