Planning a Teaching and Learning
Environment on the Web
Before creating the Internet presence, the following operational issues should be considered.
Creating Course Materials
There are many different approaches to developing online course materials - some requiring sophisticated technology skills, some requiring only moderate or minimal skills. It depends on the degree to which one wants to become involved in the technical details.
Create web pages with HTML
"Serve" the web pages on a web server
The instructor may need to work with his university's computing staff to move his web pages to the institution's web server. Or, in some cases, he may opt to run his own personal or departmental web server. If he wishes to restrict access to only students in his class, he will also need to work with his web server administrator to create logins and passwords for each student.
Many of these technical and logistic challenges has been solved recently by some new software products designed to make it easier for instructors to create, serve and administer online courses. One example is Web Course In A Box (WCB),which allows faculty to create and serve online course materials using fill-in forms and on-line templates and which also allows instructors to easily control access by assigning student logins and passwords. In addition, no knowledge of HTML is required, and WCB automatically puts the pages on the web server.
Pedagogical Issues - Breaking with Tradition
As long as pedagogy is concerned, take time to explore, exploit and experiment with integrating the unique features of the Web into the teaching environment. Think beyond traditional classroom paradigms as you begin creating your on-line course materials, and consider incorporating a few of the following Web-based learning paradigms.
Personalized learning environment
The Web lends itself to student-centered learning. The hypertextual organization allows materials at different levels of detail or difficulty to be made available to students without imposing a pre-determined path for them to follow. Students can create individually tailored paths to master the desired goals, moving at their own speed and retrieving additional information as needed. Tracing mechanisms can assist developers/teachers in learning what kinds of links students use most often.
The Web presents an especially good environment for asynchronous collaboration in which students work together but not necessarily at the same time.
Multimedia Presentation of Content
The Web is providing an increasingly rich variety of media through which to present learning materials, including exciting new options like streaming audio and video. Using a variety of media (text, graphics, audio, video) to present the material may accommodate individual learning styles, and provide approaches for both visual and auditory learners.
Up to date information
Web materials allow for easy updating. In many fields access to recent research over the Web is becoming more and more a reality, through discussion groups, electronic journals and on-line conference presentations. The Web is becoming indispensable in ensuring that the most recent disciplinary discussions are consulted.
One of the marvels of the Web has always been the ease and transparency with which local and global resources are combined. Instructors can put their own materials on line and link them to resources from throughout the world. From the student's perspective both are just a click away. This offers the possibility of students consulting disciplinary experts' on-line contributions as easily as they read the course syllabus.
New Assessment Models
How to properly evaluate students that we canít see, hear and interact with in person? For some this hurdle seems insurmountable; for others a challenge. But for each there are models to consider. At Virginia Commonwealth University's Execunet Program (a Masters Degree in Health Administration) students are on campus for limited periods of time for orientation and testing. In other programs a proctoring system is set up so that students can come to labs throughout the region to participate in the virtual classroom or to take an exam. And for some faculty, the interactive capabilities of the internet provide them with better assessment feedback than the traditional classroom.
Experience has helped us to better understand the features of a Web-based
course environment and the tools that can enhance teaching and learning.
And although the Web for teaching and learning remains in its infancy,
we do have an exciting and potentially revolutionary beginning.
Features of a Web-Based Learning Environment
Several online course components should be considered to support teaching pedagogy. The following features can be found in most good Web learning sites: