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Computer Science Department

CESACT (Collaborative Environment for Student Annotation of Course Texts)

Paul Elliot

CESACT, or the Collaborative Environment for Student Annotation of Course Texts, is a next-generation academic resource that addresses two primary issues. The first is that reading-intensive college courses often involve a great deal of printed resources (course reserves, printed articles, and so on). This requirement taxes printing services and hinders "green" initiatives on campus. Second, college-level course texts are often cluttered with unexplained historical or literary references, and complex sentences that are frustrating both semantically (by meaning) and syntactically (by construction). To engage in such texts with the proper critical mind that most professors desire, students must actively look up these references and annotate the text. The end result is a tedious and frustrating three-step process (find unknown reference in the text, look up explanation in a web browser, write explanation in the text). Furthermore, this process remains largely an individual effort on the part of the student, and difficult to evaluate on the part of the course instructor. CESACT works to overcome these problems by allowing access to course texts and annotation tools online. Students will be able to critically read and analyze course texts without needlessly wasting paper, and will do so in a communal, conversational manner. Furthermore, course instructors will have a more productive way of evaluating proper completion of reading assignments (rather than reading quizzes, for example), and will be able to directly engage students outside of class. Through these measures, CESACT could enable better academic work and discussion both in and out of the classroom. In short, this project is an attempt to improve upon the standard methodology of reading-intensive courses using the resources we have available today.