Worlds within which we teach: Issues for designing World Wide Web course material

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [North Dakota State University]On: 26 October 2014, At: 07:20Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number:1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street,London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Technical CommunicationQuarterlyPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:</p><p>Worlds within which weteach: Issues for designingWorld Wide Web coursematerialMary F. O'Sullivan aa Coordinator of Virtual Online InstructionCenter , Western Wisconsin Technical CollegePublished online: 11 Mar 2009.</p><p>To cite this article: Mary F. O'Sullivan (1999) Worlds within which we teach:Issues for designing World Wide Web course material, Technical CommunicationQuarterly, 8:1, 61-72, DOI: 10.1080/10572259909364649</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of allthe information (the Content) contained in the publications on ourplatform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensorsmake no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy,completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Anyopinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinionsand views of the authors, and are not the views of or endorsed byTaylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be reliedupon and should be independently verified with primary sources ofinformation. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions,claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and otherliabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectlyin connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content.</p><p></p></li><li><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private studypurposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution,reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of accessand use can be found at</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Nor</p><p>th D</p><p>akot</p><p>a St</p><p>ate </p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 0</p><p>7:20</p><p> 26 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p><p></p></li><li><p>Technical Communication Quarterly 61</p><p>Worlds within Which We Teach:Issues for Designing World WideWeb Course Material</p><p>Mary F. O'SullivanWestern Wisconsin Technical College</p><p>Initially, online courses were created by pioneersself-taught Web site writerscomfortable with uncertainty. As Internet-based instruction has becomeincreasingly popular, others are less inclined to struggle with writing their ownWeb pages but are nonetheless interested in having an instructional Web site.A growing number of course-construction programs are becoming availablewhich could make Internet-based instruction more accessible. Only byaddressing both pedagogical and technical issues can evaluation of suchcourse creation products provide information useful for thoughtful and appro-priate use of that technology to support and extend traditional pedagogies.This article concludes that creating online instructional sites by hand with thehelp of an HTML editor is generally preferable to using course-in-a-boxsoftware because instructors can select the components needed to supporttheir pedagogy and construct successful learning experiences for theirstudents. On the other hand, the dilemma of faculty intimidated by thetechnical expertise needed to produce even a basic Web site can be amelio-rated by the use of course-in-a-box software. However, that software shouldbe seen only as a stepping stone. Instructional sites created by course-in-a-box software certainly are worthwhile, but the course or site produced by thissoftware remains constrained by its box, even if that box is often commodious.</p><p>C omputer as both tool and environment is quickly becoming asubiquitous as the telephone in the work and recreationallives of not only North Americans, but also for a significantportion of the world's population. In some respects it is less the actualconnection of physical computers around the world and more theconcept of that connection which influences our milieu. This influ-ence is found in the content of what constitutes technical writing, andin the pedagogy as well (see, for example, Hawisher and Selfe;Hawisher and LeBlanc). It influences the way we look at documentsin an electronic medium, requiring a new awareness of what consti-</p><p>Winter 1999, Vol. 8, No. 1. (61-72)</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Nor</p><p>th D</p><p>akot</p><p>a St</p><p>ate </p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 0</p><p>7:20</p><p> 26 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>62 TCQ: O'Sullivan</p><p>tutes literacy (Selfe; O'Sullivan). It seems natural that just as writingdocuments for Web publication has become part of the purview of atechnical writing course (see, for example, Norton, Segaard, and Duin;VanHoosier-Carey), instruction in the discipline of technical writingshould also migrate to the World Wide Web. A quick survey of thelinks from the World Lecture Hall (, or a search with any of the popular search engines willuncover technical writing courses supported by World Wide Webcontent or taught online using Web pages, conferences, and e-mail.</p><p>Initially, these online courses were created by pioneersself-taught Web site writers comfortable with constant uncertainty and theongoing necessity of learning one more thing. As Internet-basedinstruction has become increasingly popular, those who are lessinclined to struggle with HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) andCSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are searching for ways to put coursesonline. A growing number of course construction programs arebecoming available which could make Internet-based instruction moreeasily accessible.</p><p>My interest in course-in-a-box software and my efforts to evaluateit began in the fall of 1996. At that time, only a handful of suchprograms and no extensive reviews were available. By March 1998, asis the rule on the World Wide Web, the status of course-in-a-boxsoftware availability had changed dramatically, as had the evaluativereviews of that software. Even the Chronicle of Higher Education(McCollum) reviewed some of what it termed the "dozen or so leadingsoftware packages." In fact, there are around three dozen programsavailable to assist in creating Web sites for teaching and learning, notincluding those programs designed to help ease the writing of HTML,such as Homesite from Allaire or Visual Page from Symantec.</p><p>Any evaluation of these course-creation products must addressboth technical and pedagogical issues. The mechanics of delivery forcourse package software certainly are important, as are costs to acollege and to the students, and as are considerations about theplatform that supports the particular software. This technical informa-tion is readily obtainable at a number of sites on the World Wide Web(see Table 1). Rather than summarize what is available, or comparespecific components of course-creation software, I will focus on howthat software influences the creation of an online course. I cannot, ofcourse, examine all three dozen course-in-a-box software applications;instead, I have chosen some which are representative of those avail-able. Finally, I do not debate the worth of online or Web-supportedinstruction; rather I argue that good teaching with or without technol-ogy has some commonalties, which software used for Web site creationand instructional support may help or hinder. In other words, course-in-a-box software may offer opportunities or constraints to the teach-ing endeavor.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Nor</p><p>th D</p><p>akot</p><p>a St</p><p>ate </p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 0</p><p>7:20</p><p> 26 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>Table 1</p><p>Course-Creation Software Comparison Sites</p><p>Web Site URL Contents</p><p>The NODE:Technologies forLearning</p><p>Murdoch On-Line:University of Murdoch,Australia</p><p></p><p>http://cleo/</p><p>PC Week: ZDNET</p><p>Dr. Bruce Landon's Site</p><p></p><p>Web-Based Training Center</p><p>University of Manitoba</p><p>Tools for Developing Training</p><p>Links to software sites, technicalspecifications, reviews, and user storiesfor 24 course-creation packages</p><p>Links to 14 software sites includingfive not available at the NODE site,links to examples of university-basedcourse-creation tools, comparisons,and references</p><p>Chart comparing software evaluatedin WTCS test</p><p>Comparison of software features anda discussion list on the topic</p><p>Lists tools for Web coursepresentation</p><p>Chart comparing features ofLearningSpace, TopClass, WebCT,and ToolBook</p><p>This is the appendix froman upcoming book from Jossey-Bassby Margaret Driscoll.</p><p>CDo</p><p>o5LOo33</p><p>o</p><p>oc</p><p>5T</p><p>CODow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Nor</p><p>th D</p><p>akot</p><p>a St</p><p>ate </p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 0</p><p>7:20</p><p> 26 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>64 TCQ: O'Sullivan</p><p>Purpose and Goals for Course-in-a-Box Software</p><p>Institutional and individual goals affect evaluations of course-in-a-box software. For example, an educational institution that is attempt-ing to create a virtual college parallel to a physical college might needthe resources provided by, for example, the Real Education ActiveLearning system (REAL). REAL ( sets up atotal online campus with a course catalogue, academic calendar,degree information, student inquiry form, application form, and courseregistration as well as individual virtual classrooms for courses. Theresulting site resides on the Real Education server. The product isimpressive; it uses streaming audio and video, synchronous chat,asynchronous threaded discussion, and internal e-mail. In this in-stance, the college or university abdicates some control, and certainlypays for the services rendered. On the other hand, if an educationalinstitution is only attempting to foster college-wide faculty onlineventures, it might find the technical support and course managementfeatures of LearningSpace more attractive. If ease of site creation is amajor issue, then perhaps TopClass or WebCT might be chosen tofacilitate such an endeavor and be worth the licensing costs. Or if aneducational institution simply wants to make a free resource availableto faculty, it might turn to Web Course in a Box (WCB). Finally,college technical personnel might create in-house, course-in-a-boxsoftware. Some, like the University of North Carolina (Share Caro-lina: and the University ofWashington (Web Worksheet:, also offer their software for free download. All of thiscourse-in-a-box software could fit specific institutional requirements.Because this article is focused on pedagogical opportunities andconstraints inherent in course-in-a-box software, I will not discuss thecomponents that manage courses or create an online campus, but willinstead be concentrate on those components that support instruction.</p><p>The purpose and goals of an instructional site can also be different.For this discussion, I will use the definition offered by both JohnSechrest and Chuck Shave of a four-level hierarchy for instructionalsites: informational, supplemental, dependent, and fully online. Theinformational course Web site provides essentially the same informa-tion an instructor would provide on the first day of a course, includinga syllabus, statement of goals, list of required books, and so on. This isa fine first step, but often is not, of course, an integral part of a course.The second step is the supplemental Web site. In addition to syllabiand so on, a supplemental Web site contains other course materials.Sites at the first two levels are usually created by those who have littleexperience with discussion lists, synchronous conferences, or othermore interactive World Wide Web elements. The material on the siteis useful, but not actually required for successful completion of thecourse. The third level is the dependent Web site, one that requiresthe students to use the materials online if they are to successfully</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Nor</p><p>th D</p><p>akot</p><p>a St</p><p>ate </p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 0</p><p>7:20</p><p> 26 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>Technical Communication Quarterly 65</p><p>complete the course. Finally, the fully online course Web site is anonline class, containing everything needed for completing the course.</p><p>Often the development of a site is a progression from creating aWeb page with a syllabus, reading materials, and assignments; toadding conferencing and discussion groups; to linking these confer-ences to Web page assignments, adding testing and course manage-ment tools, and providing for evaluation (Bourne et al.). The level atwhich an instructor utilizes a Web site is dependent on not only thetechnical skill level of the individual, but also on the pedagogicalframework used by the instructor. In other words, a teacher with onlyrudimentary Web site creation skills may choose to create a static pageon which materials that could have been handed out to students ashard copy are posted; or the teacher may see the Web site as simply abulletin board upon which to post materials to manage a class andsupplement lectures.</p><p>As is true with all instructional strategies, both those employed ina traditional classroom or in an online classroom, the design emergesfrom specific learning goals and objectives (Pitt and Clark). Ofprimary concern is the level of interaction that is designed into thesite. There are two kinds of interactivity, both of which are impor-tant. Students need to interact with the material they are learning.Students also need to interact in a community of learners made up ofothers in their class and their instructor. The power of the WorldWide Web is communication and any course-in-a-box that does notexploit the communication possibilities is severely handicapping theeducational endeavor.</p><p>Thus the questions that must be answered to situate course-in-a-box software in the Web-supported instructional endeavor are: Whatdoes the software produce or what pedagogy does it support? Is theresulting Web site static or active? How is the page created and whatskills does it take to employ? How much control does the instructorhave over the result, aesthetically and also mechanically?</p><p>Pedagogy SupportedPurchased software will reflect the designer's conception of</p><p>instruction. Technological advances are only partially a constraint ora freeing mechanism. For example, in 1988 at the New Jersey Insti-tute of Technology (NJIT), Starr Roxanne Hiltz and her colleagueswere creating what they called a "Virtual Campus," which focused oncommunication am...</p></li></ul>


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