I am a teacher in Computer Science at a relatively large university with about 2k students enrolled in our bachelor and master programme combined. This morning I sent an email to our programme management proposing we investigate the use of an enterprise version of Stack Overflow for our full bachelor and master programme combined (see below for extracts from this email).
My question to all of you is: do you have experience using an enterprise edition of SO in an educational setting beyond just one course? If so, would you recommend pursuing this idea?
Happy to hear your thoughts! (Apologies if this is not the right place to post this)
Excerpts from the email (background on why I think this would be a good idea):
I am currently reading "Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world" (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7821348-reality-is-broken), in which the author describes the huge success of initiatives like Wikipedia and gamified collaborative approaches like discovering how much money British MPs have declared vs how much they were actually entitled to.
This made me think: What is the incentive for a student to help out another student at the moment? More specifically, what is the incentive for say a first year master student to help out a first year bachelor student? For TAs there is an incentive: a salary, but for all the other hundreds of students there is no incentive at all. This is a huge amount of (wo)man power that we could utilise to improve the amount of resources available to all students. If all students were to contribute 5 minutes a week, that would be still be about 83 (wo)man hours of work (2 FTE!) available every week.
A second observation is that the current (digital) communication options for the purpose of Question and Answering are limited at best. Our educational platform's forums feature no search option, no incentive to answer questions of your peers, and perhaps most importantly no history over multiple years.
Fortunately computer scientists already use a platform that solves most of these issues: StackOverflow. It features one of the best searching functionalities I have ever seen on a website, has excellent opportunities to store history over multiple years, and (most importantly to the long-term success of such an undertaking) has an excellent system in place to provide incentives to not only post good questions, but also post good answers.
As a new user, all you can do is post and answer questions, but after getting some "reputation" for you answers and/or questions, you can start giving such "reputation" to others by upvoting their questions. Note also that downvoting can only be done by "even more recognised" users.
In addition to reputation, there are also a wide variety of badges that can be obtained. I would be interested in looking into awarding additional extra badges (on top of the existing suite of badges: https://stackoverflow.com/help/badges) for TA'ing courses. This would be a nice digital counter part to the physical badges we currently award (and of course a lot cheaper and more easily available).
I think we should think carefully about how this could be deployed if we want to pursue this. The main issue is going to be the "getting started" phase of course.
My brief outline for the proposal would be the following:
Advertise it to all computer science students in the faculty (both bachelor and master).
Start of all employees with 1000 reputation (allowing them the privilige of being an "established user").
All TAs start with 50 reputation (allowing them to post comments and upvote questions and posts, this way the reputation can start to flow).
We encourage TAs to answer questions on this site during "quiet" lab hours.
In short, I feel that we should leverage the fact that we have over 2000 students walking around that are all training to be experts in Computer Science. We should make sure there is a clear incentive for students to share their growing expertise with each other.
We have now been using SO for teams in our bachelor programme since September 1st 2020 and so far I'm very pleased with the results :D Feel free to reach out to me if you want to discuss about how we have been using it.