How Using Technology Affects the Learning Process and Faculty Behavior
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Wondering how technology affects the core enterprise of higher education? Ask the faculty involved in that enterprise. In January 1998, the Faculty Development Committee of the Indiana Partnership for Statewide Education issued a call to Indiana faculty teaching with technology that invited them to consider the question "Using Technology to Enhance Learning: How Does It Change What Faculty Do?" Thirty faculty answered the call. After review, the committee published twenty-four of their responses simultaneously in print and on the Web site of the Indiana Higher Education Telecommunication System (http://www.ihets.org/distance_ed/fdpapers/1998/index.html) in October 1998 under the title Enhancements: How Using Technology Changes What Faculty Do.
Mediating technologies, no longer the exclusive province of departments of continuing education, is blurring the boundaries between distance education and campus-based instruction. Increasing numbers of faculty are being called on to explore new ways of working with learners and even to rethink their understanding of teaching and learning. The authors of these papers are incorporating a variety of technologies into their work as instructors. In some cases their own pedagogical concerns motivate them; others are responding to new directions their departments or institutions are taking.
The authors of these papers are working with a wide range of technologies, from development of computer applications to participation in interactive video courses. Their degree of hands-on technical effort varies widely, as does their personal experience with new technology. Some, such as Aaron Montgomery (Purdue University North Central) in Weaving a Course Based Web, assume that faculty who develop Web course sites will themselves design the layout and create the electronic material. Others embrace a team concept: nursing professor Pam Jeffries co-authors of Development of an Interactive, Multimedia CD ROM to Teach Medication Administration to Undergraduate Health Professionals (Indiana University) are her media specialist and computer program designer. Still others show how their use of technology has evolved over time. Since 1994, Spinning Biology's Web author David Prentice (Indiana State University) has increased his use of the Internet for instruction. Gabriel Frommer (Indiana University) has expanded his use of computerized quizzes since 1992 (A Web-Based "Book" for Introductory Psychology). In contrast, Helen Sword (Indiana University) recounts the single semester when she taught a course on changing publication technologies in From Manuscripts to Microchips.[Can you provide a more substantive teaser for this article?]
Though they may use technology differently, these faculty are motivated by a common desire to improve student learning. Jeanne Sept (Indiana University) shows how she uses real archaeological data to give her students a taste of "the authentic excitement of archaeological research" in Engaging Students in Prehistoric Problem-solving: The Development of Investigating Olduvai-Archaeology of human origins CD-ROM. Mary Rizza (Ball State University), in Cyberspace and Beyond: One View on the Possibilities of Course Web Sites, tells how she surveyed her students to determine what features they wanted to see as part of the course's site and then worked with university technologists to realize the class vision. George Weimer (University of Indianapolis) explains in Interactive Audio CD-ROM Technology for Music Appreciation how he created an application to render selections of serious music "intelligible, even enjoyable" to his students.
These writers make it clear that technology alone will not transform learning. Many of them discuss the new dimensions of communication required if technology is to have significant impact on outcomes. In Going the Distance with Distance Education, Patricia McNames (Indiana University Southeast) summarizes the steps in planning and implementing a distance education course. She observes, "One of the most difficult challenges that an instructor faces is creating a sense of community among students . Developing a virtual learning community begins and ends by focusing on people." In Promoting Student Interaction in the Virtual College Classroom, Jack Cummings (Indiana University) explains how he uses the Web conferencing application Allaire Forums to facilitate electronic introductions among class members. Bryan McCormick and David Austin (Indiana University) detail strategies they employ to enable informal communication with students on a video network in Technology is Only a Beginning: A Humanistic Approach to Reaching Students. In Collaboration over the Web: Strategies and Goals, Bill Brescia, Heike Schaumburg, and Thomas Duffy (Indiana University) report on their work with online conferencing tools. They tried several; the resultant electronic conversations differed in quality. And in Web-Based Instruction and the Needs of Students with Reading Disabilities: One Approach, Susan Powers (Indiana State University) describes techniques she developed to ensure success for a learning-disabled student in her online course.
The authors acknowledge that even the most determined faculty effort, in isolation, may not ensure a successful integration of technology, and they show how cooperation from other areas of the university is a critical factor. In Internet-based Instruction in CIS Courses, Judy Ann Serwatka (Purdue University Calumet) discusses the importance of appropriate advising, not only in the department offering the course but in any department whose students may enroll in online classes. When Bonnie Bolinger's campus (Ivy Tech State College at Terre Haute) began an initiative to move not only courses but entire programs to the Internet, it was critical to make online admissions and registration available for students, as she explains in Food for Thought and Credit: Restaurant Management Instruction at a Distance. Judith Halstead and Nadine Coudret (University of Southern Indiana) describe another ambitious undertaking, the migration of all fourth-year nursing courses to the Internet, in Implementing Web-Based Instruction in a Baccalaureate Nursing Program. They highlight the importance of having support personnel to work with faculty in this effort, providing department members engaged in the project with appropriate training and also with time to share progress and questions among themselves.
The writers reveal in a number of ways the effects which the incorporation of technology had on their own thinking about their roles in the classroom. Ronald Roat (University of Southern Indiana), for instance, found himself recognized around town by strangers after his course appeared on the local cable channel. He discusses the ways in which teaching in a public forum shapes public perceptions of the kind of instruction that goes on in our institutions of higher education in Distance Educations Collateral Audience. Paul Ranieri (Ball State University) includes in Measuring Ourselves: Adapting a First-Year Writing Course for Distance Education several examples of the ways in which preparing materials to help his distance education students understand the subject matter visually gave him new insights into effective techniques of making abstract information comprehensible and meaningful. Elaine Kleiner (Indiana State University), author of Preparing to Teach at a Distance: Using Nicenet's "Internet Classroom Assistant" to Create a Community of Writers, comments on the way in which the use of online interaction tools "[changes] the instructor-student relationship, putting it on a more personable and equal footing."
While virtually every article in this collection includes caveats about particular or general problems that the use of technology poses, most of the writers come down strongly on the side of the significant benefits that can result. Joan Esterline Lafuze and Randall Osborne (Indiana University East) and Anna McDaniel (Indiana University School of Nursing) describe the inclusion of guest lecturers in their three-site interactive video course and report their students sense of "feeling privileged to have such guests enter the classroom." In their paper, Closing The Distance With Technology: Changing How We Teach to Meet Student Needs, they note that "one of the primary strengths of the use of technology .[is that it] truly opens up the world of opportunity to students." Students in Mark Mabritos online technical writing class (Purdue University Calumet) did more writing than they would have done in a face-to-face class because all communication in the class was itself done in writing, rather than spoken interchange. As a result, he reports in Teaching Professional Writing via the Internet/Web, "they [gained] additional experiences in formulating text so that the entire classroom experience became a type of prewriting exercise." CHIP: Computerized Homework in Physics, an application developed by Virendra Saxena and his colleagues (Purdue University), ensures that students take homework seriously and also makes it possible for teaching assistants to spend more of their time providing substantive help. Kyle Forinash, William Rumsey, and Raymond Wisman (Indiana University Southeast) describe several innovative World Wide Web projects in Interactive and Collaborative Uses of the Web. Among them are a computer simulator and a collaborative online biography of women in philosophy, both of which employ the new medium to do virtual work which could not be duplicated in the "real" classroom.
The dedicated and creative Indiana faculty who wrote the papers in this collection have
not climbed blindly onto the bandwagon of new technology. Rather, they have given due
consideration to its appropriateness and value, based upon their students' needs as well
as their own. In doing so,
they are finding that the process actually transforms some of these needs.
Their papers offer new perspectives on how technology affects
not only faculty participation but the learning process as a whole.
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