Robert S. McLean
Associate Professor, Computer Applications Curriculum Department
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
An OISE (University of Toronto) graduate course entitled "Internet Resources and Education," in its distance education version, has previously been conducted entirely by electronic mail. This presentation describes efforts in the summer session 1995 version to introduce Web browsing for course interaction.
In the course, about 30 students and the professor carry on a discussion of the current topics, much as might be done in a face to face seminar, but using E-mail and a list server. Students also have projects to complete, either individually or in groups. In this course, the projects include building Web pages of educationally useful Internet resourses, so there is a natural connection to Web browsing.
The course is evolving to be Web based. The transition is incremental, and must accommodate a context where students have various types of access and computer equipment available to them. We cannot yet assume that all students have a graphic Web browser with full Internet connectivity. Therefore, E-mail still forms the basis for interaction. The E-mail interactions are archived on a Web site and form an alternate basis for course browsing by students and professor. Several enhancements are being considered to facilitate threading, organization, and searching of the archived discussions. The intent is to provide the best features of computer conferencing systems, using the generality of the World Wide Web. These additional features will be incorporated into the fall term offering of the course.
A course homepage provides over-all organization, with links to the course outline, course resources, the email discussions, student project creations, and feedback from the professor. Evaluation in this course is organized around the metaphor of a "frequent flyer" rewards program; a set of specific activities each earn "points" which cumulate towards a grade for the course. Web tools support this cumulation based on the instructor's evaluative comments and assessment. A student can at any time get an up-to-date statement of their accumulated points, simply by using their Web browser. The course transcript and individual records are password protected.