Commontext is a completely new concept: a publisher of freely shared classroom texts. Its goal is to allow unrestricted, free access to a vast collection of learning materials produced at the highest level of excellence, including academic peer review and fact checking, and professional editing and proofreading.
Read the FAQ, which states that “‘beta’ phase” materials were to be available in Fall 2003, with “[f]inal, professional-quality course materials” available in Fall 2004. On first blush, however, there doesn’t seem to be much content available. I also don’t find the site very intuitive to navigate. Put yourself in the shoes of a non-expert web user: how easy would it be to find the information you’re looking for?
It appears that the site runs on Drupal, “an open-source platform and content management system for building dynamic web sites.”
How is Commontext different from what I’m proposing? Well, I don’t really know, but I would return to these questions:
- What have you created that you’d like to share with others?
- What have you found on the web that has been most useful in your teaching?
- What have you not found that you wish were out there? What’s on your wish list?
The answers to these questions would be a good starting point for this project. A user-friendly website that would allow users to act in response to these questions easily is what I’m imagining.
A couple of distinctions might be helpful here. On the one hand, I’m imagining contributors might share things like handouts, assignments, exercises, and syllabi. Feedback and refinement would ideally make these materials better. But on the other hand, contributors could also collaborate on building web-based resources like the ones that were mentioned before (e.g. Guide to Grammar and Style, Glossary of Literary and Rhetorical Terms, Guide to Literary and Critical Theory). In addition, discussions of how to use these materials would be useful. A site that facilitates all of these things is what I’m thinking of.