Mud cards

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What are they?

"Mud cards" are a simple tool for allowing students to get additional information on topics that they didn’t understand in the lecture. 3 × 5 cards are handed out at the beginning of each lecture and the students are instructed to write on the cards the “muddiest” part of the lecture. These cards are collected at the end of the class and the TAs sort them into categories and write up answers to the questions that arose. The answers are posted on the web the evening of the lecture, rapidly providing additional information for students who had questions.

The database used for storing mud card responses allows the questions and responses to be posted on the web page for each lecture, so that students could see what other questions had been asked for each lecture. In addition, the database allows responses to frequently asked questions on the homeworks, which could be posted on the web for students who were working on the homework sets.

How well do they work

Mud cards have turned out to be very heavily used by the students in CDS 101. In 2002, there were an average of 13 mud card responses for each Monday lecture, with a peak of 22 (these numbers are for both CDS 101 and 110 students). The questions ranged from clarification of details in the lecture to conceptual questions regarding the material to administrative questions/comments about the course.

Where did they come from?

I learned about mud cards from the CDIO program at MIT:

  • S. Hall, I. Waitz, D. Brodeur, D. Soderholm, and R. Nasr, “Adoption of active learning in a lecture-based engineering class,” in ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Boston, MA, 2002, pp. T2A–9–15, Available at