Student-led Curriculum: Demanding, Digital, Compelling

By Liz Losh

At November’s University of California Institute for Research in the Arts conference, the emphasis was on college courses that couldn’t be planned out according to set syllabi and fixed course objectives, because students were expected to be co-creators of the classes in which they often found themselves enrolled. Whether capitalizing on emergent interactions with online or offline communities, such courses defy predictability, because the students on the class roster aren’t the only participants in a new generation of service learning courses that take advantage of social media technologies. For example, at the Otis College of Art and Design, a course like neighborgapbridge might begin with a shopping list on the first day of class, progress to a trip to the grocery store around the corner, and end with a cookout at the local park. Of course, the basic questions that neighborgapbridge explores are ones rarely posed in a traditional lecture hall: “Can artists + designers collaborate + assume the role of ethnographers to investigate their neighbors? Can they identify ‘gaps’ in communication and propose ‘bridges’ to connect them?” Half-way through the semester, professors allow for the big “student takeover” to take place, and then they sit back to observe what happens. The Student-Based Creative Exchange at UC Santa Barbara turns the curriculum entirely over to students, who might choose sewing, welding, and button making over conventional reading, writing, and research activities. One of the most enthusiastic proponents of this new form of anarchic digital-oriented project-based service learning is Mark Marino of the University of Southern California. Last year Marino’s students signed up for a summer semester of a required writing course but ended up creating SOS Classroom.

Students Show Concern for Education, Disadvantaged Youth

As Marino explains it, the project emerged out of a rapidly unfolding news event:

To read the entire blog post, click here.

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