Course Web site enhances classroom

Course Web site enhances classroom

Zirkle, Chris

Electronic Classroom

Looking for a way to integrate technology into the traditional classroom? Interested in putting a class online, but don’t want to leap fully into cyberspace without some practice? Consider using a course Web site as an accessory to in-class instruction. This “Web-enhanced” approach can have tremendous advantages for both teachers and students at all grade levels, and is an excellent way to incorporate the Internet into the learning process.

Terminology

While Web-based courses are offered entirely on the Internet, Web-enhanced courses provide Web-based information or testing as a supplement to learning activities in the classroom. Students attend their traditional classrooms and log on to the Internet outside of regular class times. Also described as “hybrid” classes (Ko and Rossen 2001), this approach combines online and face-to-face activities in varying degrees, dependent on teacher preference and expertise.

Using a Web-Enhanced Course: Advantages for Teachers

Standards for teachers, such as those posited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), detail the need for appropriate use of technology in the instructional process. However, a lack of time for learning techniques and strategies related to the use of technology is a common concern for teachers (Norton, McRobbie, and Cooper 2000; Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek 2000; Smerdon, Cronen, Lanahan, Anderson, Iannotti, and Angles 2000). Utilizing a Web-enhanced course can help teachers ease into the technology, developing expertise and technical skills at their own pace. The types of skills learned-such as simple file uploading, creating a LISTSERVE, and developing online tests-can be a function of the teacher’s own goals and objectives for the course and can also be an appropriate professional development activity.

Course software templates, such as Blackboard (http:// blackboard.com) or WebCT (http.// Webct.com) can help teachers with organization. These tools provide areas for course documents, assignments, and other information that can be readily categorized. The creation of a “virtual notebook” can make locating documents easier for both teacher and student, and can provide a quick method for updating and revising content. The course Web site also is handy for alternative lessons, which might be used perhaps when teachers are absent. In addition, assignments and lecture notes can be posted in advance, and students can have continual access to them.

Using a Web-Enhanced Course: Advantages for Students

A Web-enhanced course also provides benefits for students. By using the course site, students commit to learning how the course delivery tools work and taking more responsibility for their own learning (Simonson, et al. 2000).

Completing a Web-enhanced course can serve to develop a student’s technical skills, such as those described by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). By interacting with a course site, students can develop many different skills, from simple keyboarding to research skills. Activities that require software and hardware utilization, and the integration of technology into the learning process will help make students technologically competent.

Aside from skill development, a Web-enhanced course that requires students to access the course site provides a way for them to stay “connected” to the course, even when absent from class. In addition, depending on what is placed on a site, the course might allow students to work at their own pace.

What to Place on a Site

With a Web-enhanced course, the teacher has latitude with respect to the types of documents and information placed on the site. Course documents, such as a class syllabus, are certainly appropriate. Contact information for the teacher is also helpful, including e-mail and Web-page addresses. Many course software templates have sections for “external resources,” which can include URLs for other Web sites relative to the class, or links to research tools, such as local libraries or online encyclopedias. Assignment descriptions and scoring rubrics are other documents that are ideal for placement, giving students access to that information at all times. Having an online grade book as part of a Web-enhanced course is a welcome addition, allowing students (and possibly parents) to obtain a current progress report.

Issues for Teachers Using Web Enhancements

With any course that has a Web-based component, certain issues of importance to teachers arise. The time constraint associated with migrating portions of a course to the Internet can be significant, because teachers are essentially preparing for two delivery contexts (Dabbagh 2002).

Technical expertise is directly related to the issue of time. Many teachers may lack basic computer skills (Galusha 1998; Ndahi 1999), and, along with requirements for teaching and other professional responsibilities, finding time for faculty professional development can be difficult. Funding for these opportunities may also be scarce.

Security is another concern with placing course material on the Internet. Issues of copyright and intellectual property pervade all aspects of distance education (Green 1998). In addition, placing student grades and allowing the capability of testing on a course site raise privacy concerns. The use of a secure password (commonly available on software such as WebCT and BlackBoard) can allay some of these issues, but ultimately teachers must make their own determination of what material to make available on the Internet.

Finally, teachers at all levels should not become enamored with technology to the detriment of instructional quality. As the name suggests, Web enhancement offers a way for teachers to improve upon, or add to, what is already taking place in the traditional classroom.

Issues for Students Using Web Enhancements

While many younger students have grown up with the technology explosion of the last two decades, when utilizing a Web– enhanced course, students should not be required to develop a sophisticated set of computer skills; the combination of course responsibilities and learning to use technology may overwhelm them (Zirkle 2000). Interaction with a Web-enhanced course site should supplement instruction, and not be a “make or break” requirement that determines whether a student passes or fails.

Student availability of appropriate hardware and software (computer, modem, software, Internet service provider, and the like) may also be an issue. Kleiner and Farris (2002) found that, while the Internet may be universally accessible, those public schools with higher poverty concentrations may have trouble obtaining equipment and training for equitable access. Faced with this difficulty, teachers should take these constraints into consideration when determining what type of material, information, and activities to place on a Web-enhanced site. Typically, text-based documents, such as course syllabi and notes, can be downloaded fairly easily, if they are placed on a course site in pdf (portable document format) or rtf (rich text format), both of which can be opened with free “readers.” Features such as online chat and video-streamed lectures require more sophisticated equipment. The quality of the material received on the student’s end is greatly determined by individual skills and equipment. The level of enhancement, therefore, should be carefully considered, again in keeping with the teacher’s original goals and objectives for the Web-enhanced course.

Getting Started

Teachers can find a variety of ways to implement course Web sites. In addition to vendors such as BlackBoard and WebCT, numerous other sites can host course material, most at little or no cost. The following Web sites offer options to K-12 and postsecondary teachers for placing course material online:

* TeacherWeb

http://TeacherWeb.com/ intro.htm

* eCollege

http://www.ecollege.com

* Jones Knowledge, Inc.

http://www.jonesknowledge.com/ k12/index.php

Demonstration modules and tutorials are available to help guide teachers through the process of creating their own course Web sites.

Web-enhanced courses can be effective for infusing technology into the curriculum. Enhancing classroom studies with Website material can be accomplished with little or no additional cost, and at a pace that can be mutually determined by the teacher and the students. Adding this dimension to classes provides an excellent means of introducing students to the Internet as a learning tool, and allows teachers to model the effective use of technology in their classrooms.

References

Dabbagh, N. 2002. Using a Web-based course management tool to support face-to-face instruction. The Technology Source. Available at: http://ts.mivu.org/ default.asp?show=article&id=938.

Galusha, J. 1998. Barriers to learning in distance education. Hattiesburg: The University of Southern Mississippi. ERIC ED 416 377.

Kleiner, A., and E. Farris. 2002. Internet access in U.S. public schools and classrooms: 1994– 2001. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Educational Statistics.

Green, K. 1998. The 1998 national survey of information technology in higher education: Colleges struggle with IT planning. Encino, Calif.: Campus Computing. Available at: http:// www.campuscomputing.net.

Norton, S., C. McRobbie, and T. Cooper. 2000. Exploring secondary mathematics teachers’ reasons for not using computers in their teaching: Five case studies. Journal ofResearch on Computing in Education. Available at: http:/ /www.iste.org/jrte/33/1/abstracts/norton.html.

Ko, S., and S. Rossen. 2001. Teaching online: A practical guide. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Ndahi, H. 1999. Utilization of distance learning technology among industrial and technical teacher education faculty. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education 36(4): 21-37.

Simonson, M., S. Smaldino, M. Albright, and S. Zvacek, 2000. Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Merrill.

Smerdon, B., S. Cronen, L. Lanahan, J. Anderson, N. lannotti, and J. Angles. 2000. Teachers’ tools for the 21 st century: A report on teachers’ use of technology. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Educational Statistics.

Zirkle, C. 2000. Conducting a university human resource development degree program through multiple technology delivery modes: A case study. In E-learning: Expanding the training classroom through technology, ed. L. Mealy and B. Loller, 149-55. Austin, Tex.: International Association for Human Resource Information Management.

Chris Zirkle is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, where he teaches courses in career and technical education and teacher education. His research interests include distance education, teacher education and career and technical education.

Copyright Kappa Delta Pi Winter 2003

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