Science and Science Fiction: Methods for Evaluating Interdisciplinary and Intermedia Assignments

Ashley Lear


Supplementing classroom instruction with online materials and learning activities is becoming less avant-garde and more of an expectation for faculty members in higher education. The use of Blackboard, WebCT, or proprietary software, like Georgia Institute of Technology’s Sakai installation (T-Square), has become a requirement, rather than an option. Citing both Project Tomorrow’s “Speak Up 2008” report and “Visions 2020.2,” a report based on a survey sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Department of Education, and NetDay, a nonprofit organization in California, the Chronicle of Higher Education concluded in their “The College of 2020: Students” report that the students of 2020 “are restless with the traditional forms of learning and eager to incorporate into their educations the electronic tools that have become omnipresent in their lives: their smartphones, laptop computers, iPods, and MP3 players (Van Der Werf and Sabatier 7). Faculty intent on reaching such students must devise nuanced methods of course delivery and revise course assignments to more comprehensively account for these shifting paradigms. As these alterations are made, faculty must also devise new systems of evaluating student work when it reaches beyond the discipline-specific learning outcomes to include technical writing and digital design components. In constructing an interdisciplinary course on the intersections between science and science fiction at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, one of my goals was to create assignments that challenged students’ technical prowess, as well as their skills with writing and critical analysis. Requiring students to learn or improve upon their HTML skills by developing webpages, rather than traditional essay assignments, allowed me to more easily convey the idea of technical languages as having their own rhetorical principles. The complexity of the projects required a staged evaluation process that ultimately challenged students to work far beyond the assignment “requirements,” as they began to truly explore the boundaries between different modes of discourse.


Digital Literacy; Media; HTML; Science Fiction

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