May/June 2001 issue of The Technology Source

May 7, 2001

In an interview with James Morrison, Carol Twigg describes her vision for integrating information technology into higher education. As executive director of the Center for Academic Transformation, Twigg oversees a course redesign project, sponsors symposia on learning and technology, and publishes a newsletter on the issues and challenges of using information technology to enhance teaching and learning. Twigg argues that we must break away from old paradigms of teaching and learning in order to realize the full potential of online education, which can increase quality while reducing costs.

In a fascinating commentary on the use of television and video in education, Dave Hendry suggests that the advent of the Internet means new life for instructional television (ITV). Teachers can now access vast online libraries of video clips for classroom use, and quickly search for and select topic-specific clips. After years of evolution, says Hendry, “instructional television is finally finding its niche.”

In this issue’s second commentary, Richard Hoffman outlines how computer technology has not only changed student life, but also brought about fundamental changes in the way college and university professors work. Hoffman argues that these changes are largely for the better, enabling better teaching, better research, and better professional-development information and services. Learning the new technologies takes time away from other activities, grants Hoffman, but it is well worth the cost–considering his warning that “Professors have to adopt new technologies if we are to connect with this technologically-savvy generation.”

Jonathan Gueverra has studied the Web sites of 40 universities and now reports on their varying online presence. Some universities provide only the simplest information on their sites; others let students check library holdings, register for classes, and order books online. Gueverra’s research-rich commentary provides an eye-opening look at possibilities for faculty, students, parents, donors, and community members. Beyond cataloguing existing options, Gueverra makes suggestions for further innovations.

William Klemm offers helpful–and potentially controversial–commentary on building online courses. In his how-to guide for those considering adding online content or creating an online course, Klemm outlines key organizational decisions to be made at the outset. Klemm devotes the bulk of this guide to an argument against course management systems and in favor of do-it-yourself methods, a position certain to generate discussion among TS readers.

Bob King and Tom Smith report on their effort to connect two similar courses at two dissimilar institutions in North Carolina, using online technology. Their case study of a shared course on the foundations of education reveals not only that online teaching and learning can overcome physical and logistical barriers to team teaching, but also that it can lead to more open and reflective student participation–in effect enabling a new pedagogy that is impossible in a traditional classroom setting.

In her case study of a Web-based group assignment in a sociology course, Carolyn Kapinus offers the following observation: projects that combine computer technology and student collaboration not only facilitate cooperative learning, but also help overcome any student weaknesses in computer skills. Kapinus regularly requires a project in which groups of students conduct research on the Web and publish their findings on the course Web site, increasing teamwork skills, improving the ability to evaluate Web resources, and addressing inequities in computer access and experience.

Henryk Marcinkiewicz offers suggestions for the successful development of a platform to integrate computer technology into the classroom. He writes that university centers for teaching and learning play a central role in helping faculty and institutions incorporate instructional technology. His is a concise reminder of some important notions that are sometimes ignored, re-emphasizing a common-sense view that is critical to the appropriate design of effective instruction.

In an interview with James Morrison, Robert W. Mendenhall gives TS readers an update on Western Governors University (WGU), a virtual university first featured in the September 1997 issue of The Technology Source. After a shaky start, WGU’s star is rising–enrollments are up, assets are increasing, and the university has achieved accreditation. Mendenhall, WGU’s president, touts the advantages of an online, competency-based

university: it not only offers an affordable and accessible education to an underserved population (adults with families and full-time jobs), it also provides an innovative alternative to traditional credit-based degrees.

Mary Harrsch comments on the enormous potential of handheld “pocket PCs” to be used in an innovative way-as tools to lighten students’ bookbags. Handheld devices, particularly those with Readerworks software, can easily hold small libraries of textbooks and other course materials, incorporating text and graphics in a smooth-reading display screen. Harrsch also gives tips for those considering e-book publication.

This month our spotlight shines on the Illinois Online Network, a site that provides a wealth of resources to teachers and online course developers. The site provides discussion on online course design, teaching, and course management tools, an e-mail newsletter, and entry into the series of courses entitled “Making the Virtual Classroom a Reality,” offered to Illinois instructors. Overall, notes Stephen Downes, the site is “the best resource teachers could want.”

May/June 2001 issue of The Technology Source