Educational Collaboration Space is a freely available web-based tool which aims to facilitate exchange of ideas among educators teaching similar classes, record accumulated wisdom, and archive classroom material. ECS is a specially built WordPress site, featuring a unique theme, a suite of carefully designed plugins, and detailed site help and installation instruction pages. The WordPress architecture makes it easy to customize its appearance and add functionalities.
Educators often work closely with students but in isolation from other educators. This culture of privacy can make it awkward at best to share experiences and lessons learned, and is one of the principle challenges of educational innovation.
Project Description and Evolution
This application derives from the earlier Mathematics Communication-Intensive Space, MCS. MCS was initially envisioned by two Mathematics Postdocs together with Susan Ruff of the Writing Across the Curriculum Office. Work on it was done initially by OEIT's Violeta Ivanova, and completed with the help of Mitcho Erlewine, an MIT graduate student in Linguistics under a stipend from OEIT. Under the leadership of Susan Ruff, in the past two year it has grown into an invaluable resource for Mathematics faculty teaching CI courses.
The resulting collection of "Teaching Tips" about mathematical communication will soon receive national exposure. With Professor Haynes Miller serving as Principal Investigator, this team won an NSF grant to partner with the Mathematical Association of America in building a Mathematical Communication component of the MAA's Mathematics Digital Library.
Under this NSF grant a working group was formed, including Ivanova (as director), Susan Ruff, and WordPress programmer Brett Mellor. Its first product is the Educational Collaboration Space. The release of ECS was covered in an MIT News Article and by the online journal Inside Higher Education. This application has been built to a very high standard, organized into plugins and widgets which have been contributed to the WordPress public domain. The excellence of the its Site Help pages reflect the communication-intensive origins of this project.
The ECS site contains two subpages:
(1) A demo site populated with ephemeral text, to suggest how an instance of ECS will look when it is in use. The only text intended for use in the demo site is the Site Help, which is excellent.
(2) A detailed set of installation instructions, complete with screenshots at crucial moments of the process. It seems fitting that this tool, designed to foster collaboration among educators, is the product of a collaboration of a diverse set of agencies at MIT and beyond!
OEIT can offer assistance to MIT entities wishing to deploy ECS. Please contact Peter Wilkins for further information.