The New Pedagogy--Part III: Balancing Innovation and Time Finding The Time To Use New Tools Mike Field --------------------- Staff Writer When Nancy Norris agreed to lead her class into the new world of interactive computer technology she began with only limited expectations. "I went to a faculty meeting which included a presentation about Mosaic and the World Wide Web, and I thought it would be great to access chapters and articles electronically," said Norris, a faculty member in the School of Continuing Studies and director of the school's MLA, MDS and BLA programs. Norris, who has been teaching for 30 years, currently has six courses active on her teaching roster. Many of them make extensive use of additional reading lists which, in the past, she has put on reserve at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. If her students could access the same material from their computers at home or work it would be, in Norris' words, "really wonderful" both for the time saved and the logistical problems it would solve. "I thought that was all we could do," she said, "but then it just mushroomed." In a trial program that may serve as a model for future interactive courses, Norris' Evil from Greek Tragedies to Gothic Tales class in the MLA program was brought fully into the computer age. A World Wide Web homepage was created as an online gateway to the class. It is still accessible at http://Milton.mse.jhu.edu:8001/research/education/distance/scs.ht ml. But instead of serving merely as a repository of resource materials, the site soon became the intellectual nexus of the class outside the classroom. In addition to the source materials, the page included the complete course syllabus, a list of recommended secondary sources, study questions, a glossary, and guidelines for writing papers and documenting sources. Students' papers, submitted in electronic format, were posted for classmates to read and two special sections allowed students to communicate (via an e-mail format) with either the professor or the entire class about issues pertaining to class work. In time, the online discussion section came to play an important role in the group dynamics. "Teaching doesn't end when the period is over," Norris said of the electronic experiment. "This project dramatizes that learning is not expected to take place only within the four walls of the classroom. It goes on afterwards, and the computers enabled students to continue to share and exchange ideas for the rest of the week. In a seminar at the graduate level at Hopkins, it's extremely important to have this interchange." Norris identifies four components she deems essential to the electronically enhanced classroom of tomorrow: a homepage, the opportunity to access supplemental reading in the form of articles and chapters from books, the ability to communicate with the instructor and classmates, and a place where students can post their papers and read the work of other students in the class. Yet these features do not magically leap onto the Internet of their own accord. Designing a homepage and loading it with information are labor-intensive tasks that require fairly specialized knowledge. Many professors simply do not possess the requisite skills to make their classes fully computer interactive; most lack the time it takes as well. "It's fairly simple to come up with the tools to make a course interactive," said Candice Dalrymple, associate dean for external programs in the Whiting School of Engineering and chair of the Committee on Electronic and Distance Education. "More problematic is the unresolved issue of time. Making a course interactive is a labor-intensive activity on the part of faculty, and they end up with a product that has a limited shelf life." Dalrymple estimates that each fully interactive class could require as much as three to four extra hours per week from faculty members, an enormous additional commitment from individuals who are expected to conduct research, apply for new grants and participate in the academic affairs of the university. "There is always a tiny number of faculty who catch the bug and will spend a great deal of time with their computers simply because it interests them," she said. "But is it reasonable to expect all the faculty to do that? I don't think so. Most faculty members who would welcome the benefits of the interactive technology are not interested in becoming computer programmers on the side. Technology will be used to the extent we manage to make it easy to use." Others have voiced Dalrymple's fear that the new interactive technologies might require a large additional time commitment from faculty. Yet not all observers consider this a cause for worry. "I think it's both a problem and an opportunity," said William Engelmeyer, chair of Information Technology in the Business Department of the School of Continuing Studies. Students from Engelmeyer's class helped design and implement the interactive computer elements of Norris' Evil from Greek Tragedies to Gothic Tales course. That experience, combined with similar projects Engelmeyer has directed, lead him to conclude the benefits of the new technologies will ultimately validate the extra time involved. "The interactive classroom represents tremendous potential and the issue of teaching load can be addressed," he said. "There is already a growing body of literature on this subject. Maybe an interactive course that requires extensive computer work can be counted as one and a half courses taught. There are ways to compensate the extra time commitment." One way to overcome the technological barrier has been to bring additional help into the classroom in the form of technical assistants and computer specialists. Norris' interactive class, with its customized home-page, electronic text reserves and other features, needed the assistance of several individuals, not only to design the Internet presentation, but also to type or scan printed material into an electronic format. Yet extra help requires extra funding. Evil from Greek Tragedies to Gothic Tales was made interactive only through an estimated $4,000 of in-kind services provided by the School of Continuing Studies and the Eisenhower Library. Other courses could be much more costly to produce. Willis K. Shepard Professor of the History of Science Robert Kargon's new course "The City" will cost more than $25,000 to create, using the latest technologies and including the development of specialized software. Clearly, financial constraints will prevent widespread use of the new technologies unless ways are found to deliver similar services at a lesser cost. "The first task in developing new ways of teaching is to get the right infrastructure," said Provost Joseph Cooper. "This involves creating a comprehensive network with ample bandwidth, and we are making good progress on that front. The second part is the encouragement of innovation on the part of faculty, which is what we need to concentrate on in the future. No one will be able to dictate or control how this will develop. We need to encourage and help people with ideas to innovate; at some point soon we will need to provide an institutional set of production and distribution capabilities to promote and support both classroom and long distance learning." For now, the new pedagogy is developing in bits and pieces in classrooms throughout the university. It is somewhat tentative, as all new technologies and approaches are at first; but already, there are those who are proclaiming a new way of teaching is at hand. "This is something I could have thought up myself if I knew it was humanly possible to do it," Norris said. "I wasn't sure all this was necessary at first; I thought the old ways aren't broken, so why fix them? But the increased learning I witnessed makes me a believer. Now I'm spoiled. I want this same capability for all of my classes."
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