Two new learning tech tools you can try for trolley problem week

There are two new learning tech tools in development right now, and in the testing phase. If you want (entirely optional!) you could try one or both during the trolley problem week (March 19-23).

New course website system

This course website right here is on the UBC Blogs system because I wanted it to be publicly available for other teachers and students of philosophy in case they might find any of what we’re doing useful. But this is really a system for blogs, and doesn’t have the same functionality as a full course website system might have.

UBC is developing such a system called Course Spaces, which also runs on WordPress like this course site right here, but it has more functionality. We have put next week’s material on a test site for it, which you can check out here: (log in with your CWL to access all the functions of this site)

The same material will still live on this site as it always has; it’s just that if you want to try it out on a new site to see what it looks like and what functionality it has, and have a chance to give feedback, you can do so.

Some useful functionality:

  • You can take notes on any course page; so, for example, if you wanted to take notes on the videos for the trolley problem you could do so right on the same page as the videos. You could then copy and paste them elsewhere if you want.
  • There are a few informal quiz questions after each video to see if you’ve gotten some of the basic ideas down correctly from the videos. These give you the answer right after you submit yours, and they are not marked.
  • You can bookmark particular pages, or check them off to say you’ve completed them, and then you can see your progress through the course or module that way.

You’ll need to log in with your CWL at the above link in order to access most of this functionality!

New video watching tool: ViDex

The trolley problem videos are available on this site, or the above site, or you can watch them through a new video tool called ViDex.

ViDex is an interactive video player that has been developed in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department, in collaboration with Microsoft, with the goal of making videos a more effective learning experience. It lets students create notes, bookmark, tag, and highlight inside the videos.

If you want to see a bit about ViDex, there are a few screenshots at the ViDex website. A demo will also be given in class on March 14.

To access the videos on ViDex, you need to have a Microsoft 365 account through UBC. If you haven’t create an account, please do so. It is free, and it gives you access to Microsoft Office as well; although it is not necessary to download Office in order to access ViDex.

To find instructions for setting up your account, please visit, and look at “Getting Started” on the top right of the page. After you set up your account, you should be able to access the course videos by clicking on the invitation link posted at the top of this message. If you have any problems setting up your account or accessing the videos, please email

Then, once you’ve set up your Microsoft 365 account, you’ll need to go to an invitation link that Christina will send via email (it shouldn’t be posted publicly (it’s only for students in this course) so I can’t put it here).



Updated info for BC Poverty Reduction Consultation

If you want to do Option C for the Philosophy in the World assignment (consultation on BC Poverty Reduction Strategy, by UBC students), the information on time, and the nature of the event, has been updated on the assignment page.

The event will take place Wednesday, March 7, 1-3:30pm. If you are in the discussion group that meets at 2 that day, but would like to attend this event, please talk to Christina.

Philosophy essay clinic

The Philosophy dept. at UBC has just announced that they have tutors available in an “essay clinic” (basically just times that tutors are available to talk with you about your essays…or else you can make separate appointments with one of them). And one of the tutors is a Teaching Assistant for our course, Phyllis Pearson!

Please see below for the information, which I just received over email:

Philosophy Essay Clinic

The Department of Philosophy is pleased to announce a new service for undergraduate students:  the Philosophy Essay Clinic.  The purpose of the Essay Clinic is to help undergraduate students with their philosophical writing.  The Essay Clinic is available to any student enrolled in a philosophy course at the University of British Columbia.

What services does the Essay Clinic provide?

Tutors in the Essay Clinic will provide:

  • general advice on structuring an argument; and
  • critical commentary on draft papers by student.

The tutors will NOT provide:

  • Text or specific ideas for student papers;
  • Tutorials or help with course content for individual philosophy courses;
  • More than occasional assistance with basic writing skills (please use the UBC Writing Centrefor this purpose).

Who works in the Essay Clinic, and where is it?

The Essay Clinic will be staffed by two tutors:  Dr. Tom Bittner and PhD student Phyllis Pearson. The Essay Clinic will generally be held in BUCHANAN E274.

When is it open?

The Philosophy Essay Clinic will be open for 8 weeks during peak writing months: Jan 29 to Mar 30

How do I use the Essay Clinic?

There are two options.

  • Drop-in clinic.No appointment is necessary. The two drop-in blocks are as follows.

DROP-IN BLOCK 1: Monday, 1:00 – 2:30 PM, BUCHANAN E274

DROP-IN BLOCK 2: Tuesday, 1:30 – 3:00 PM, BUCHANAN E274

  • Make an appointment.If you cannot make it to the drop-in clinic, please contact one of the tutors by email.  Each is available for 1.5 hours per week for appointments in addition to the drop-in clinic.
  • Appointments are a maximum of 20 minutes, unless there is extra time available for further discussion.

For an appointment: please contact Dr. Tom Bittner at or Phyllis Pearson at

Community projects during Reading Week

This class includes a component of community-engaged learning, in two of the options for the Philosophy in the World assignment where you can connect with people in the local community or discuss issues relating directly to the local community (the Philosopher’s Café option and the consultation on the BC Poverty Reduction Strategy). If you would like to do more activities in the community with other UBC students, the Centre for Community Engaged Learning has opportunities to do so during Reading Week. You can gain experience working with community groups and non-profits that might be helpful for you in the future, in addition to contributing to local projects!

Please see the Centre For Community Engaged Learning Reading Week program website for more information.

Deadline to apply is January 26, 2018.

Welcome to Philosophy 102!

This is the main website for this course, though at times you’ll find links to collaborative documents we may work on together in class. You can find the syllabus here, lecture notes, assignment instructions, and more–just go to the top menu.

For what, exactly, to read week to week (as well as optional resources you could take a look at), please see the “weekly schedule” in the top menu.



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