Digital Commons @ Colby publishes several notable undergraduate research projects which they’ve found significantly raise the bar for student work—some of which is so good that it is being used as a teaching aid in other classes. Phillip Nyhus, a professor of Environmental Studies whose class produces the Atlas of Maine, a series of maps developed by students in “Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing,” spoke to the quality shift when students know their work will be published:
“Digital Commons@Colby is a powerful motivator for student scholarship. Students work harder and take projects more seriously when they know the material will be viewed by others. They are also inspired by metrics identifying how many views past student projects have received.”
Another case in point is the success of the Journal of Environmental and Resource Economics at Colby, created by Professor Sahan Dissanayake in the Economics department for his senior undergraduate seminar. JEREC Editor-in-Chief Professor Dissanayake emphasizes that student publishing in the IR “provides extra motivation for excellence in the research process.” This student journal has sparked a remarkable result: near Master’s-level writing samples from his undergraduate students. In fact, they are so good that Professor Dissanayake is now using them as teaching aids in other classes. The focus on peer review in the class also provides valuable early experience with the scholarly publishing process where students work collaboratively and even file referee reports.
Marty Kelly, Assistant Director for Digital Collections, serves as facilitator and consultant for JEREC, run by Professor Dissanayake and his students. The journal has been an early success, producing professional quality writing, meeting teaching goals, and generating interest beyond Colby. In addition, Marty has fielded numerous inquiries from other faculty on campus interested in starting similar journals and is able to pass on the good news that he was able “to realize this project with the relative minimum of set-up and maintenance work.” View the DC community webinar “Best Practices for Undergraduate Research” for more ideas to spark excellence in undergraduate research!