TIPS on Online Classes:
There is increasing interest in using the power of the Web to enhance and supplement our classes, whether to support our campus-based traditional ones or to explore delivery totally online and at a distance.
There are several ways for faculty to put course material online for their students to access. In decreasing order of complexity, skills, and time required I would suggest the following list of options:
Today, all major publishing houses are putting their content into a Web format. Many are designing their materials for easy placement with some of the Web management tools mentioned above.
The latter partnership is an excellent starting point for those new to the reformatting of courses, since it most closely mirrors the current relationship that exists between the professor and the publisher. Today most publishers are allowing some form of Web access as an ancillary to the adoption of the textbook materials either their Web site is made available to the student or they have a strategy to download content onto your campus Web site.
This semester, I used such a product to easily create an entirely online Introductory Biology class by partnering with Archipelago, a subsidiary of Harcourt Higher Learning Company (www.archipelago.com). This product finds a usable solution to the media rich content within the field of biology by providing some of the instruction on CDs to compliment the material that I design within the Web site they provide.
Students purchase a three-ring binder that gives them written instructions on setting up their computers and how to log on to the Web site. The binder also contains 4 CDs that have content on them in the form of lesson snippets. Within these snippets, the student is able to see a QuickTime video of an "instructor" presenting concepts, with animations and graphics, along with a full text of the lecture. This is run on the CD drive on their home machine so it is able to deliver content that normally consumes large amounts of bandwidth.
The CD material is complemented by the use of the Web site. Here, the instructor can set the course up with the desired sequencing that works best. It is interesting to note that between making the decision to use this product and the beginning of the semester, our campus department opted for a different sequencing than usual, and since some of these online students might want to take the campus lab sequence, which follows this new schedule, it was very easy to rearrange the module sequence.
Students log on to the Web site, check assignments such as complete Module 3-6 on the CD, or read Chapter 4 in the textbook. The Web site also allows for the easy assignment of Web sites related to the content or various offline activities, and there is a built in discussion forum to facilitate a student dialog about a particular subject.
I found that it was quite easy to adopt this rich material and to find the appropriate place to insert my own professional spin on the subject, allowing easy interaction with the students through e-mail and discussion. The students have appreciated the richness of the content, and the convenience to doing this class at their own time. As the professor, I have appreciated the quality of the work that went into the production, and to be able to access the deeper resources that are available to a publisher than to a twenty-year faculty member. Yet it is not a turnkey product, and there was ample opportunity to me to structure and run the course as I see fit, to include additional material that I desire to emphasize and to omit that which I have deemed less important.
I strongly recommend that each faculty member look at what other publishers have available in your own areas of specialization. I have seen the material which Pearson Publishing, an accumulation of many publishing houses, has completed for transition into the Web environment, as well as Macmillan Publishers. Check with your favorite textbook publisher to see what they have ready to assist you.
Textbook Publishers Online