Web Science Curriculum workshop at WebSci’11

I kicked off my WebSci’11 experience by attending the Curriculum Workshop, where I was delighted by the range of instititions present: we had 37+ attendees representing 17 institutions. Of those institutions, 4 are currently running a Web Science program (masters or doctoral), 6 plan such a program, 4 are running a Web Science module as part of a program. (An excellent point raised on the day regarded terminology, so let me be clear: when I say ‘program’, I mean a degree course. By ‘module’, I refer to part of a degree course.)

So, how do you define the curriculum of a nascent discipline? It’s no small task, and White et al are doing some fine work in not only building and honing such a curriculum, but also in explaining that process. Their paper (Negotiating the Web Science Curriculum through Shared Educational Artefacts) was nominated for the best paper award, and can be found here.

While I’m talking about Southampton bods, I’d like to take a moment to link to EdShare, a system for sharing educational materials. It was mentioned as an example of a possible mechanism for sharing WebSci materials: for instance, it includes materials from Southampton’s Foundations of Web Science module.

Inevitably, we touched upon the issues of teaching an interdisciplinary subject. Wendy Hall remarked that the most important thing is getting to grips with multiple disciplines. For my part, I’m certain that one of the reasons the Southampton DTC students impressed me is that each one of them has two supervisors, and those two supervisors always hail from different disciplines: that approach really seems to be paying off.

I was also interested to hear discussions about the concept of ‘verifying’ curricula, or accrediting courses. We’ll have to see what happens there.

A few links:

  • Mark Bernstein shares his thoughts, particularly regarding multidiscipliniarity — to say the least, an important concept in this arena. Tell us more, Mark: how does ‘the old Liberal Arts degree’ work, and how does it fit here?
  • Su White’s notes on the day.
  • A survey to take if you’re running/building a WebSci course

In closing, there’s clearly a lot of work to be done in this area, but I was very encouraged to see how many places are running (or about to run) courses: Web Science is important, and it’s growing. Watch this space.

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