Mediawiki + Students = TeX’d Lecture Notes


I’ve gone onandon about wikis in the past, and so I was very happy to see (via OpenWetWare) a very nice article in the May 08 issue of MAA Focus by Ethan Duckworth (see page 17). Dr. Duckworth describes how he set up a \LaTeX-enabled wiki for his abstract algebra course to have his students take turns to tex up lecture notes. Considering that turning ones lecture notes into books has become all the rage these days, I’m surprised that more aspiring lecturer-authors haven’t used their students to contribuet to the writing process.

In addition to providing an instant transcription of your lectures, students can use the wiki’s built-in discussion pages to offer opinions about sections that weren’t clear. Having the wiki open to the entire course also allows students to fill in gaps and correct mistakes. The process of creating a set of notes also forces the students to think about the subject in a pedagogically helpful way and is more exciting than traditional coursework. (Though it’s certainly not a replacement for problem sets.)

I should probably note that this is a system that lends itself more to the American-pedaogical style rather than the UK/European style since it relies on regular and collaborative coursework.


6 Responses to “Mediawiki + Students = TeX’d Lecture Notes”

  1. So he gets his students to write his lecture notes while maintaining that he is providing them an interactive pedagogical experience?

    The man is a genius…

  2. 2 Steffen

    What do you mean by “American-pedaogical style” as opposed to “UK/European style”? Is the latter really “Cambridge tripos style”, as I suspect?

  3. Hm, the latter certainly includes ‘Cambridge tripos” style as well as Durham style. I’m willing to extrapolate to the rest of the UK based on the culture of ‘high stakes exams.’ I went the extra distance to extrapolate to Europe (and perhaps Asia as well) since many of the international postgrads I’ve met in the US have the impression that American undergrads are coddled. Do students from parts of Europe, for example, regularly take part in group projects that determine the majority of one’s marks? Or have courses without examinations?

  4. 4 Steffen

    In maths/physics in Berlin there were no written exams at all until about 2000. Then there were new regulations, and written exams were introduced, but normally serving the purpose of ‘checking if everyone had done the problem sets themselves’. Grades in these exams were practically irrelevant, except maybe if you applied to Cambridge.
    But a) this is probably changing now (with the introduction of BSc/MSc degrees), and b) the only student in the audience geeky enough to be interested in TeXing anything was usually S.G.

  5. 5 Chris

    That’s a pretty cool idea; you should have mentioned that the wiki was actually able to produce proper LaTeX based pdfs though! Anyways, I’ve gone and installed the requisite MediaWiki extension on my college Mathsoc’s wiki (click name), which is a good example of this post’s title…

  1. 1 Remmrit Bookmarking

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