Gathering relevant links for your course the easy way

Published on: Author: Mathieu Plourde

As instructors, we tend to take on the task of finding the right resources for our classes. We spend hours and hours searching and browsing for the right web pages, articles, and videos to help our students learn better.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you had an army of volunteers ready to do this search and collection for you? Free social bookmarking services and Sakai can help you achieve this with your own students.

Although many other options are out there, I’ll focus on Diigo and especially on its group feature. Once you’ve created your personal account, create a Diigo group for your class and ask your students to join. Every time any of them finds an article relevant to your class and tags it as a resource for your group, it will be added to a running list available to your whole class, a list from which you can draw fresh examples from during your face-to-face sessions or in online discussion forums. See this video for an example of using Diigo for Research groups, which is a similar process.

Some other features of Diigo groups:

  • Notifications when new items are added;
  • Possibility of adding external contributors;
  • Comments and discussion on links (this link is relevant because…);
  • Web highlighting allows students to draw attention to a section of an article for discussion;
  • Creation and potential enforcement of a group taxonomy for easy tagging and filtering of links (commonly used keywords to attach to the links);
  • Links remain available beyond the semester for all students and yourself.
To make Diigo most effective, we recommend that you install a browser add-on. See this video for more information on how to use the add-on to bookmark.

Adding the Diigo group links to Sakai

Each Diigo group generates a unique RSS feed, so it is pretty easy to use the News tool in Sakai to show the latest shared links directly in your course site.

Step 1. Locate the RSS feed on the Groups interface.

Step 2. Copy the URL of the RSS feed.

Step 3. In your Sakai course, go to Site Info > Edit Tools and select the News tool from the list. Click Continue.

Step 4. Paste the RSS feed URL in the appropriate field and provide a short significant name for it. Click Continue, then Finish.

Step 5. The group links will be embedded in your Sakai site.

3 Responses to Gathering relevant links for your course the easy way Comments (RSS) Comments (RSS)

  1. Been doing this for a couple of years using delicious. Did not do the RSS feed thing. Just put the link to the feed on the class home page.
    One caution about using 3rd party tools: Delicious changed radically mid-semester this fall. Yup, now. I’ve had to scramble and come up with different ways to work shared bookmarks into my course. So the caution is, be prepared for a 3rd party vendor to change things mid-stream!

  2. The two classes I teach, CISC355 (Computers, Ethics, & Society) and CISC356 (Intellectual Property in the Digital Age [listed as “Digital Intellectual Property” in the catalog]) both cover material that changes frequently–based on breaking news! So social bookmarking, when combined with other online assignments, encourages students to stay up to date with current events and to discuss breaking news with each other.

    In this semester’s 355 section, for example, each student is responsible for posting three news stories for his or her classmates to discuss online. Then each student is required to make six posts in our class Google Group in response to the news stories posted by their peers. Online discussion has been fantastic this year. The key is giving the students a rubric (and a grade!!) so they know what’s expected.

    After studying Diigo, Delicious, and a couple of other options, my TA and I decided that the Delicious interface was easier for students to navigate. And things were off to a great start–until Delicious made changes to the way posts are displayed, making it impossible for us to see who has posted what and hiding the posters’ comments. But we’ve adapted–and the process continues; in general, thumbs up to this as an assignment series in discussion-based classes.

    How do we make it work? It’s pretty simple. Come up with a tag, have your students all use that tag, and then link to the feed for that tag and your students can see what they all have posted. Sample Feed in Delicious for CISC355UD, warts and all. It used to be that a comment typed by the student and the student’s Delicious ID would be displayed. I’ll look again at Diigo and some other options for future semesters.

    Other uses for social bookmarking would include collaborative research, collecting links for debates, online scavenger hunts, various distance learning tasks–lots of options.

    How has it changed my class, you ask? Couple of ways. First, social bookmarking makes it easy for students to share links with the entire class–or a subset of their classmates. It encourages collaboration and encourages them to stay engaged with the class outside of class time. Second, the combination of social bookmarking AND required online discussion actually improves face-to-face interaction. I have content reasons I can call on people in class (based on their online discussion); but the big change I’ve noticed is that the online interaction with each other “breaks the ice” so that there’s more and better face-to-face discussion during a class meeting.

    Your mileage will vary. Assignment cycle won’t work in all class types….