Using the WEB as an Instructional Tool

Report prepared by Policy Committee.
(Hypertexted version of this document found at http://zebu/webreport.html)

Preface

Instructional Technology and its link with improved faculty productivity has been the subject of much recent debate. Currently, there is no resolution on this subject. However, if the University of Oregon wishes to effectively explore this link, then it must make serious commitment in two areas:

Without these commitments, any potential at improving faculty productivity, course content, student interaction with the course material, and student learning will be lost. We need to move towards real implementation and away from rhetoric and we need to do it now.

Overview

The Web Policy Committee. has meet several times during the 94-95 academic year. We have engaged in extensive discussions on the use of the World Wide Web as an aid to classroom instruction as well as the campus infrastructure which is needed to deliver it. We have also been tracking the explosive growth of material now available and how students are accessing and using this material. Based on this, the committee has reached the following conclusions with respect to Web-based instructional materials and its relevance on the University of Oregon campus. These conclusions are formulated in the three general areas enumerated below:

Examples of Web Usage in the Classroom:

On the University of Oregon campus the committee has identified three primary uses of the Web for classroom instruction:

We also note two other instructional areas which are not listed above:

Progress on the use of this medium in classroom instruction on the UO campus has steadily increased from a single practicioneer in the Spring of 1994, to a few participants in the fall of 1994 to approximately 30 courses by Spring of 1995. A document that maintains links to all UO ON line courseware, course notes and/or discussion groups can be found at:

The growth of Web-based instruction across the country mirrors that which has been accomplished locally although other campuses are more vigorously engaged in Level C use of the Web than we currently are. A nice listing of discipline specific web instructional material is maintained at:

and a comprehensive view of the explosive growth of web-related disciplines can be found at The committee notes that Penn State, Stanford and the University of Texas are among those campuses establishing leadership in terms of ON Line educational courseware. The examples cited above at the University of Oregon, however, are recognized on the Internet Landscape. For example see:

However, it is clear that this is a time-critical period and the University of Oregon has 3 choices:

1) continue the slow, gradual development of courseware for instructional use on this campus

2) wait for other campuses to develop material that we can link to

3) establish leadership on the national landscape by being among the first campuses to develop multimedia courseware in a variety of disciplines.

These three choices, of course, are available to all campuses. The time-critical nature of this is such that if we opt for 1 or 2 above, we will no longer be in a position to establish leadership in a year from now.

Student Access to Web Instructional Materials:

As more and more classroom material gets put ON line there will be increasing pressure on the University to provide access points for students. If access is difficult, it becomes an exercise in frustration/ futility for the instructor to prepare Web course pages. We have identified the following problem areas:

1. Unfortunately, due to lack of education or explanation, students believe that their educational resource fee automatically guarantees them OFF campus access (principally through modems). This is self-defeating in many respects.

2. There is no distribution medium for WEB-based course notes. In theory, course notes could be placed on diskette and the student could then run Netscape/Mosaic in a standalone mode on their home machine and access the course material at high speed. This is an extremely viable solution to the problem noted above but would require a centralized facility that could down load courseware onto diskettes in a structured way so that all the student would have to do at home is to use the OPEN LOCAL feature of their browser and refer to the diskette which is presumably in their drive.

3. It is not practical to simply print WEB pages because many WEB pages have embedded graphics. Text only versions could be printed which would be a valuable aid for the student. There is no central facility that really allows the student to currently do this.

4. There simply are not enough student access points on campus. A rough count suggests about 250 public access terminals. For reference, there is at least one WEB based class which has 180 students enrolled in it this term. The number of student access points must increase else any effort to further develop this instructional technology will again be self-defeating.

Faculty Incentives

1. The issue of faculty incentives for production of web-based instructional materials is an important one. The committee feels that the UO administration needs to have an explicit policy that would support such a faculty effort in terms of tenure-related credit or consideration for merit-based pay increases on the basis of excellence and creativity in teaching.

2. Without such explicit rewards, there would be little or no incentive for a faculty member, especially at the assistant professor level where we might expect the most enthusiasm, to make the time commitment required to produce a robust and high quality instructional product.

3. The committee also notes that the lack of adequate desktop resources and support personnel for the typical faculty member is a further hindrance to development. The most important recommendation that this committee can make is for institutional commitment to upgrading desktop computing facilities for the average faculty member. We are simply shooting ourselves in both feet if this can not be done.

4. The committee thus feels that if the UO administration is serious about using Web-related instructional (and research) activities as a means of boosting faculty productivity then they must realize this can not be accomplished in a vacuum. Resources and rewards for the individual faculty member must be made on this campus, else other campuses will develop our material for us.


End of Report
For a related report on Educational Technology please see zebu/tech.html