Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Web Based vs. Web Supported Learning Environment-A Distinction of Course Organizing or Learning Style?

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Web Based vs. Web Supported Learning Environment-A Distinction of Course Organizing or Learning Style?

Article excerpt


The debate of online teaching and practice has never been ceased since our university college introduced online solutions as an alternative teaching tool. Like other academic discussions, there is still no clear answer for this debate yet. There are always divided opinions for what is the best learning environment online, whether it was web based or web supported. It is likely an enthusiast will appreciate highly a web based learning environment and believe this will replace classrooms in the future. On the other hands, a traditionalist might be more careful to adopt a learning environment fully online, and it is likely that web supported option is more welcome here. However, the distinction between these two options is not always clearly made for learners, or even for instructors. This paper will describe a case of such online environment, and it will demonstrate the difference of web supportive and web based learning environment, throughout this case.

The Best Learning Environment--Web Based or Web Supported? Though many adopt and use web courseware as their new teaching tools, the definitions of web based and web supported practices are not always clarified and familiar for everyone. Not every user knows the difference between web based and web supported learning environments. Below is one common and popular definition that we used to distinguish the two environments:

* Web based learning environment--the majority, say, at the least 50% of teaching and learning activities, for instance, discussions, questions, comments, and feedback evaluations are conducted through the web or web courseware.

* Web supported learning environment--the minority, say, less than 50% of mentioned activities are forwarded by the web or web courseware. Over a half part of mentioned teaching activities are dominated by traditionally face-to-face classroom teaching.

The crucial distinction is the volume of teaching and learning activities. There are several indicators that reflect such activities, for instance, a statistical summary of written documents by users, or their visiting frequencies in the virtual classroom, or their working hours online versus offline.

The Case of Online Course for "Construction Engineering and Project Calculations"

As a pilot project of online teaching for on campus students, the course "Construction Engineering and Project Calculations" is was adopted online at Ostfold University College in 2001. The course was also opened availably for off campus students, so that both on campus, off campus students and industrial professionals are able to follow the course at the same period. This opening was indeed a practice integrating the mentioned teaching services, on campus, off campus and professionals, together. It was a practical online approach for teaching activities (Selwood, Fung & O'Mahony, 2003). The primary intention was extending the course accessibility for these different targeting groups, as objectives sound:

* Offering course participants, especially professionals, an opportunity to upgrading their competence and skills without absence from their daily work.

* Flexibility for the course participants, so that they are able to follow the lectures whenever and where they have Internet accesses.

In addition, there is also an intention for the university college to conduct such an online course to acquiring experience in this field.

The course was conducted online and accomplished for a class of 36 on campus engineering students, plus an external student from another university college (which is located approximately 500 km away) in early 2002. The entire course curriculum and related assignments, student project reports, course instructor's consulting and evaluations for these reports are adopted online, (Barrett, Levinson & Lisanti, 2001) through a pre-selected courseware--Learning Space (IBM Lotus software, 2003). …

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