Canadian College's Online Courses Stress Grammar, Writing Skills

Article excerpt

The Owen Sound Campus of Georgian College is located at the southern tip of Georgian Bay and the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, Canada. The campus began modestly in a former church dwelling in 1968.

Today, the 20-acre site houses the latest in computer-driven marine simulators, used to provide training to deck and engine room cadets as well as to marine officers from Canada and around the world.

The multimillion-dollar complex can simulate a wide range of vessels -- from fishing trawlers to large tankers -- and a variety of power plants. Specialized academic programs include Marine Engineering Technology and Marine Navigation.

* Not Just for Mariners

Not all of Owen Sound's 700 students engage in marine training, however. Many pursue degrees in accounting, marketing, business administration, nursing and food preparation.

In the fall of 1996, instructors offered their first series of online courses, delivered entirely over the Internet. Any student at Owen Sound or its two sister campuses could enroll in courses for lull college credit.

During the first semester, 136 students registered for an online course titled "Techniques of Writing and Speaking," taught by Kathryn Cook and Trevor Davies. Class members never met the two instructors face-to-face.

Instead, students reviewed the assignments listed on the course's Web site, completed the necessary reading -- on- and offline -- and submitted their homework electronically. Students also participated in online discussions using FirstClass conferencing software from SoftArc (Markham, Ontario).

According to Cook, those who completed the course reported that the lack of human contact did not hinder their learning. Indeed, most students said they enjoyed working in the privacy of their homes or dormitories rather than in a crowded laboratory.

* Sharing Experiences

One student even successfully took the class from a distance of 300 miles. Cook and Davies shared their experiences with colleagues at the annual conference for the League for Innovation in the Community College last November.

The presentation, called "Integrating Grammar Tutorials and Testing with Online Course Delivery," explained how the instructors utilized Perfect Copy, a software package from Logicus Incorporated (Schomberg, Ontario) that allows students to practice their grammar, punctuation and proofreading skills. …