Development and Evaluation of a Web-Based Classroom

Article excerpt

The use of computer technology in education is a topic that has received extensive attention as advances have been made and greater opportunities for incorporating technology within classroom settings have occurred, Internet courses, multimedia classrooms, World Wide Web (Web) discussions, and the use of multimedia visual displays to accompany lectures have all become more common, but reactions to these advances have varied. Web-based components were introduced into an undergraduate Applied Psychology course, including visual displays to accompany lectures, interactive Web-based instructional exercises, and course materials accessible almost exclusively through the use of the Web. Students were asked to evaluate these methods and reported that they used the available materials frequently, finding them to be highly accessible and helpful.

In this dynamic technological age, instructors are using computers at increasing rates and in novel ways to enhance the teaching of psychology. Examples of such methods involve classroom use of visual displays for lecture-based courses (Seaman, 1998), the development of multimedia computer-assisted learning (MCAL) (Barker, 1989), and the ability to provide students with access to a wealth of information through the World Wide Web, including interactive learning Web sites (Sherman, 1998). Researchers have examined the effectiveness and benefits of these methods on specific aspects of student learning, including relevance to information-processing capabilities (Seaman, 1998), motivation and involvement (Sherman, 1998), and academic performance (Erwin & Rieppi, 1999). These methods are believed to enhance learning and create a more active role for students in the learning environment, providing an opportunity for students to experience and manipulate new information directly (Sherman, 1998). One specific technique, the use of visual displays of text, outlines, or graphics to accompany lectures, is believed to reduce the demand upon students for detailed note-taking and, therefore, facilitate enhanced learning and processing of lecture material (Seaman, 1998).

A Case Study

A number of these approaches were incorporated into the methods of an undergraduate level Applied Psychology course taught by Dr. Leonard Jason at DePaul University. Undergraduate students enroll in this course as part of an internship series, which consists of two applied psychology courses taken during the junior year (of which this was the first), and a nine-month fieldwork experience in an internship setting during the senior year. The first Applied Psychology course is designed to convey a basic overview of behavioral community psychology, and it focuses on (a) teaching behavioral strategies aimed at modifying individual behavior and changing environments and (b) analyzing the effect of systems-level forces on organizations and communities. Required readings were selected to accompany in-class lectures (Glenwick & Jason, 1993). The readings served to identify the unique contributions of behavioral approaches and community psychology in more effectively treating disorders and improving mental health delivery systems. The undergraduates become acquainted with the systematic application of behavioral principles to clinical and community problems, and receive training to implement a personal self-control project as well as a community-oriented intervention. Throughout the course, attempts are made to integrate theoretical issues with concrete applications, and students are exposed to a variety of behavioral strategies for bringing about change in environments and individuals (Jason, 1984).

Implementation

For this winter quarter (2000) course, the first author decided to use completely Web-based materials with the exception of the primary text. He created a course home page (http://www.depaul.edu/~ljason/applied), that contained all important material and links. Specifically included were the course syllabus, the weekly course schedule, instructions for how to access electronic reserve readings, Web links to important topics and student resources in psychology, and a link to his professional home page. …