When access is too easy

I run a site where Edinburgh medical students can ask questions about dermatology anonymously, ¬†which I then answer. Other can see the questions and the answers, but nobody knows who asked a particular question. I run it because I like to think it might give me insights into what sort of topics cause problems for students. That it is anonymous, I hope, helps. It is behind a paywall in that only UoE students can use it. Overall it is used less than I had hoped for. Here is a story about an ed ‘startup’ Piazza. The telling quote which I picked up via Roger Schank @rogerschank is:

But he notes one drawback of Piazza that he is now wrestling with. The service is so easy for students to use that he worries people are using it as a crutch. “I got the feeling that students were asking the questions because that was easier than thinking,” Mr. Morrisett said. He is considering instituting a policy of intentionally leaving questions unanswered for the first 24 hours, to encourage students to work things out on their own.

I don’t think these criticisms apply to our own site but that may be because at present its use is fairly marginal. Difficulty is important.

Post by Jonathan Rees

Clinical academic and skin watcher at the University of Edinburgh

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