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EMBRACING TECHNOLOGY: Integrating Web Pages As Part of the Teaching Process

October 20, 2000 Community College Journalist

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2001
Rich Cameron
Rich Cameron

Throughout the country more and more educators are embracing technology as part of the teaching process. One way even the most technophobic instructor can join the revolution is in the creation of course web pages.

A course web page is just one of the types of web pages instructors should be looking at to reach today's computer literate student.

Department pages -- Students today want to know about a journalism program before they enroll and creating a departmental page can give the student information beyond what might be printed in a college catalog. The individual instructor might not have the responsibility of creating department pages, but if you are a one-person department or no one else is creating one, then maybe you should take the initiative. The larger the department, the more complex maintaining a department page, or set of pages, can be.

Personal web pages -- Students have always wanted to know something about their teachers and have often looked to student evaluation programs or word of mouth to find out about item. Sell yourself by creating a personal page about how to contact you and what your teaching philosophies are.

Course web pages -- Course web pages are designed to tell the student about your course. The course web page may simply be a reproduction of your syllabus, or it might be much more. This article talks about the course pages.

The first question to ask, of course, is "Why do a course web page?" It is extra work and must be maintained. I'm not going to discuss the negatives here. You might want to look at a web site that does: "C'mon... Everybody's Doin' It . . . And Other Reasons Not to Utilize Technology" at www.utmem.edu/~vmurrell/cmon/cmon.htm

Some of the reasons to create course web pages include:

  • Increase student participation, preparation and attention -- Students are given more resources with which to work. You can require them to access bits of information for the class outside of class time and keep them engaged.

  • Increase higher student scores -- Anecdotal experience suggests that students who access information from course web pages tend to do better in your course. Of course, that might be because the good students are simply making good use of the extra resources or that by creating course web pages you've become more organized and a better teacher.

  • Students can check out course first -- Sell your course to the right students and avoid those early drops because students were unclear what your course is about. For every student who chooses not to enroll because of a web page you'll probably gain one or more students who decided the course sounded interesting.

  • Extension of lab/library -- Pool the resources from your labs or from the library that students in your course will specifically need.

  • Reduce paperwork with handouts -- Put assignments and class handouts on your web site. While I always hand out assignments in class --usually a printout of what is on the web site-- students inevitably will come back later and ask for copies. Now you can just say, "You'll find it on the web site."

  • Provide convenient access for students -- Students can find out about missed materials when they must miss class. And they can check in 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

  • Advertise your course -- Today's students are tech savvy and want tech savvy instructors. They may be shopping your college web site for classes. If you've got a course web page students may find your course more appealing by that fact alone.

  • Increase student confidence in computer use -- While most students today are tech savvy, many students are re-entering the academic world and may have avoided learning computers. The first assignment in any of my classes is to send me an e-mail message --from which I create databases so I can alert students to interesting web sites and articles available on the web. For some students this is the first time they've dealt with e-mail. You may need to help them set up a free e-mail account. And accessing your course web page will further help them learn their way around the Internet.

  • A stepping stone for distance education -- The pressure is on to create more and more distance ed classes. If you've ever feared that prospect, creating a course web page might serve as a stepping stone for you. Distance ed is not for everyone, but you may become more comfortable with the prospect as you become more tech savvy.

    When you get involved in course web pages there are some issues you'll face eventually. They include:

  • Copyright -- There are two sides to this issue. You'll need to make sure you don't violate others' copyright protections and you'll become concerned about protecting the copyright of material you create. Discussing these issues would be another whole article in itself. Just remember that fair use of materials, say photocopying an article from a magazine, takes on another whole dimension when you reproduce it on a web site. While it may be fair use to share it in a timely manner in a single classroom, when you put it on the web you are sharing it with the world.

  • Hosting -- Do you put your course web page on the college server or do you put it on a private server? Space on your college server is free, but your institution may have access policies that make it difficult to update pages. Be sure your school has a policy that says the materials belong to you. Some schools want to assume ownership if they can find economic value in doing so. Your recourse to these problems is to put the materials on a private server, but this might cost you money out of your own pocket.

  • Support and training -- If you are not comfortable with creating web pages and managing and transferring electronic files across the Internet you may seek support and training from your school. Check into what is available. Some schools are better at it than others.

  • Design -- Your pages will be more interesting and more usable if you develop a simple, consistent design for your entire site. Keep in mind that most student still will want to print out your pages to read them, so keep in mind how they will look once printed.

  • Disability Issues -- When designing your pages keep in mind that disabled students may need to access them. Great graphics are interesting, but do nothing for the blind. Audio files don't help the deaf. Be sure to check your pages for disability friendliness. There are web sites that can help you evaluate your pages.

    Okay, you're convinced, you're going to create course web pages. What should you put on them? Joseph Kayany (http://www.acjournal.org/holdings/vol1/iss3/articles/kayanay/kayanay.htm) listed four major areas of content for course web pages you might consider.

  • Organizational material -- This can include your course syllabus, calendars or timelines and updated announcements for the class.

  • Links to other online sources -- This is a powerful tool that can help your students. Textbook companies these days often include web pages to go along with the texts. You'll want to link to them and to other research web sites that will help your students.

  • Course content -- This can include lecture notes, related essays, study guides, handouts, etc.

  • Student work -- You can include samples of work from your current or former students to help your current students better understand course material.

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Does technology detract or enhance journalism education?
The jury is still out