USING A WEB SITE TO FACILITATE THE LEARNING PROCESS: A COLLEGE PROFESSOR'S EXPERIENCE
Quality Dynamics Inc.(QDI) (2), a major American marketing firm, reported in November 1996 an increased number of businesses turning to technology to deliver training and education. In fact, by the turn of the century, QDI predicts half of all corporate training will be delivered via this technology. In a separate study by the Gartner Group (3), technology-based training will rise 10 percent a year for the next two years, to 12 billion US dollars. (4)
In light of increased activity in on-line education delivery, educators must explore how this technology can be adopted in the Community College classroom setting. Various models of instruction and training have been described elsewhere (5). The approach described by Bernard Gifford,(Professor, Division Of Education In Mathematics, Science And Technology, University Of California At Berkeley) in his paper entitled "MEDIATED LEARNING: A NEW MODEL OF NETWORKED INSTRUCTION AND LEARNING" (6) lends itself very well to on-line instruction. Key components of Mediated Learning, as described by Gifford, allow: a) students to exercise more effective and efficient control of their own learning; b) students to receive performance feedback and extra assistance when needed; c) students to be able to receive individual achievement and progress reports thereby regulating their own learning progress.
In the Mediated Learning model, responsibilities of the professor, the student, and the course materials (textbook, handouts, case studies, assignments) were shifted from a lecture-presentation environment (also described as chalk and talk) to a more interactive, and consequently more individualized one for the student.
"Following two years of full-scale implementation on a variety of college campuses, Mediated Learning is yielding useful information on student learning which is now being analyzed. Among the most encouraging results demonstrated by Mediated Learning are: 1) its ability to enhance student learning, as measured by increased passing rates and improved academic achievement; 2) its ability to capitalize on strengths of previous incarnations of computer-assisted instruction while also making more effective use of new instructional technologies; 3) its alignment with post-behaviorist theories of cognition and learning, including social cognitive theory, especially as it pertains to the relationship between student self-efficacy and student achievement; and 4) its enduring impact on student achievement, as reflected in the improved performance of students from Mediated Learning courses compared to their peers from other mathematics backgrounds in subsequent, traditionally-taught courses" (7).
At Fanshawe College, the Internet was the enabling technology in the mediated learning environment. A web site was created to deliver education material to a select group of students enrolled in this southwestern Ontario Community College. Five distinct groups of students were involved in the mediated learning/web site concept described in this paper. The results of this experience are the focus of this presentation.
A Mediated Learning approach combined with an interactive web site was employed with five distinct groups of students;
GROUP (ABBREVIATION) ENROLLMENT COURSE DESCRIPTION Travel & Tourism (T&T) 56 Internet Concepts Corporate Communication (COR) 34 Internet Research and Web Design Business Studies (BS) 150 Organizational Behaviour Office Administration (OAG) 57 Office Technology Management Pre Health Sciences (PHS) 90 Information Processing for PHSTHE WEB SITE
A web site was prepared for each group based on the course content learning outcome. Each web site contained these elements:
Students received the web site location and the professor's e-mail address at the beginning of the course. Students were encouraged to use e-mail as a vehicle to communicate with the professor and to send completed assignments as attachments.
While it was felt students would benefit from College funded email addresses to communicate with the professor, in some groups this was not available for various reasons (PHS, OAG, BS). Other methods of communication were required and Internet resources such as hotmail (http://www.hotmail.com) addressed this shortcoming. File Transfer Protocol (FTP) was used by those groups without College funded e-mail addresses. Students in all groups except BS had full access to computer labs equipped with a web browser (Netscape, Explorer), FTP client (Winsock FTP), and e-mail software (Eudora or Pegasus).
FILE TRANSFER PROTOCOL (FTP)
Students in PHS without personal e-mail addresses used FTP to upload their assignment to the web server (to be retrieved by the professor). Those students with personal e-mail addresses sent assignments as e-mail attachments. Graded assignments were posted on the web server to be downloaded by students. The same procedure applied for graded case studies and assignments. One benefit with FTP, is that it allows for date/time stamping. As a result, students met assignment deadlines without exception.
Course evaluations indicate students were motivated to attend class by these factors: a) new technology was being used b) their progress could be easily monitored c) access to information was readily available d) resource collection was pertinent to field of study e) students were learning a generic skill (computers) f) there was open access to the professor
A more elaborate survey is required to quantify the degree of motivation, to measure student achievement, and to look at other issues relating to student Internet access. This survey will be presented at a later date.
Each hour of classroom instruction required on average 5-7 hours of prep time. Lecture notes were converted into HTML and posted on the web site. PowerPoint slides were converted to a virtual slide show and posted as a link on the web site. In the COR program, the professor received over 246 e-mail messages in a 2 month period. This could be decreased substantially by the use of web conferencing software (http://www.saminc.com/fan/cmpt627/wwwboard.htm) since 60% of the messages received were common questions on assignments, process, and technical issues.
MEETING LEARNING OUTCOMES
All learning outcomes specified in the Fanshawe College Student Course Information were met. In some cases they were exceeded (BS, T&T, COR).
HARDWARE & SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS
College computer labs were equipped with a web browser, FTP client and e-mail software. Thirty percent of the students completed assignments, reviewed lecture material, and completed case studies on home computers. Others relied on college computers either during scheduled class time or after hours.
This technology was recently introduced in an online course sponsored by The Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (http://www.saminc.com/mcvent) and on-line testing will be used in the COR program in April (http://www.saminc.com/fan/cmpt627/quiz.htm). An on-line random question test has been used elsewhere (http://www.prohnet.com/whmis/) and this technology is robust in delivering on-line exams and quizzes.
The use of commercial chat software such as Powwow (http://www.tribal.com), NetMeeting (http://www.microsoft.com) and CoolTalk (http://www.netscape.com) will only enhance student/professor and student/peer interaction. This modality will be investigated in the near future in the COR program.
Trailblazer pages (8) consolidated information on a topic. The COR class had, as a small group assignment, the task of collecting resources on various Internet related topics (Internet Marketing, Education, Virtual Banking etc.). Students synthesized the information into a web site. This assignment included searching techniques to find the required resources and web design using HTML to create the resource collection. Trailblazer pages fostered in-class discussion and could be used in future courses as a library of useful resources.
A study by Zona Research (9) indicates the entire worldwide web browser installed base is 37 million browsers. A similar study (10) reports 34.6 million browser users. This figure is growing at an exponential rate. More and more Colleges, Universities, Training Companies, and Businesses will use the Internet as a vehicle to deliver on-line education programs. Educators must examine the approaches they use and choose one to enhance the learning process making it as good, if not better, than traditional teaching methods.
The Fanshawe experience indicates: a) students have become more effective and efficient at controlling their own learning; b) students are receiving performance feedback and extra assistance when needed; c) students are able to regulate their own learning progress and receive individual achievement and progress reports through a virtual connection to their classmates and professor from another school or work.
There are some problems associated with using this technology in the classroom. The Fanshawe experience has shown that access to a server with FTP privilege and rights to scripting tools is an integral component for developing interactive resources for students. In some cases, the professor has neither the technical expertise, the time, or access to such a server and technology. This poses a serious threat to developing interactive resources in the classroom. Student e-mail is an advantage. As more web sites develop browser-based mail servers such as HotMail this requirement will be eliminated.
Currently the professor must be HTML literate, however newer programs (WordPerfect 7.0 and Microsoft Office 97) offer HTML file conversion utilities. PowerPoint has a utility which converts PowerPoint slides into HTML format. This technique was successfully employed in various workshops at Fanshawe College and The Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences in Toronto.
In the Fanshawe experience, the professor had access to a dedicated server with the resources needed to create and maintain course web sites. Furthermore, the professor is an educator with a strong background in information technology, HTML web design, and computer technical skills.
Microsoft Internet Explorer v4.0 will allow a new breed of utilities and embedded technology to be developed (http://www.microsoft.com/announcements). These enhancements will increase the tools available to educators to deliver on-line education. A November 1996 ActivMedia report entitled 'Secrets of Education Marketing on the WEB,' (11) claims educators, academic researchers and academic institutions are key buyers for profitable Web marketers. It found companies targeting education markets averaged sales nearly twice those of Web marketers in general.
The Fanshawe experience has shown that combining web-based materials with the Mediated Learning approach addresses concerns of new technology's role in the classroom. These concerns include: increased class size, decreased funding, and creating a learning environment that motivates students. One could argue, based on the author's experience, that a motivated learner doesn't really need the "traditional school" anymore.
In December 1996, an International Data Corporation report entitled 'The Market for Web-based Training: A Look At Current Developments in Internet and Intranet Course Delivery,' predicted that the IT training market will exceed 1 billion US dollars by the year 2000.(12)
1. Gifford, Bernard R., Mediated Learning: A New Model Of Networked Instruction And Learning, California Business-Higher Education Forum at Stanford University on 18 September 1996, WWW document, URL http://www.academic.com/research/mllibrary/Educom'96/index.html
2. Quality Dynamics Inc. November 1996, WWW document, http://www.qdi.com/
3. The Gartner Group, WWW document http://www.gartner.com/ and http://cause-www.colorado.edu/ v 4. Nua Ltd: Internet Strategy and Marketing Consultants March 1997, WWW document: http://www.nua.ie/surveys/companies/internationaldatacorporation. html
5. Mediated Learning Library WWW Web Site http://www.academic.com/research/mllibrary/bibliography.html
6. Gifford, Bernard R., Mediated Learning: A New Model Of Networked Instruction And Learning, California Business-Higher Education Forum at Stanford University on 18 September 1996, WWW document, URL http://www.academic.com/research/mllibrary/Educom'96/index.html
7. Gifford, Bernard R., Mediated Learning: A New Model Of Networked Instruction And Learning, California Business-Higher Education Forum at Stanford University on 18 September 1996, WWW document, URL http://www.academic.com/research/mllibrary/Educom'96/finding.html
8. Pfaffenberger B., Web Search Strategies, MIS:Press, New York, 1996
9. Internet and Intranet 1996: Markets, Opportunities, and Trends", 1996 http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/netmyth.htm
10. Internet Commerce, The Global Market Forecast for Internet Commerce", 1996 http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/netmyth.htm
11. EDUCATION, Web Market Sector Report, ActivMedia, November 1996, WWW document, http://www.activmedia.com/Education.html
12. A Look At Current Developments in Internet and Intranet Course Delivery, International Data Corporation, December 1996, WWW Document, http://www.nua.com/surveys/companies/internationaldatacorporation.html
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