September 11, 2008, 08:30 AM ET
Professor Uses Web 'Widgets' to Share Course Content
Mark C. Marino, a lecturer in the writing program at the University of Southern California, has turned his Web page for a writing course he’s teaching into a series of modular “widgets” that others can easily drop into their own Web pages.
Mr. Marino says that using Web widgets for online course materials furthers the goals of open courseware, efforts by professors and colleges to give away their lecture notes and other teaching materials online.
His course teaches a Classical Greek method of constructing or testing an argument known as literary topoi. So one of the widgets, shown below, gives definitions of the five types of topoi and links to videos on how to apply them.
For many of the widgets, Mr. Marino used a Web service called Pageflakes, and to use some of the pieces on your own Web page, you need to sign up for the free service. For professors who want to make their own widgets, that and other free services are available, including Netvibes and Clearspring.
The main benefit of widgets over traditional Web pages is “portability,” Mr. Marino said in an interview. “We’re kind of saying ‘steal my content take any piece of this class easily and put it where you want it.’” Mr. Marino talks more about his experiment on the Writer Response Theory blog.