Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


Article excerpt

Distance education occurs when instructors and students are away from each other by physical distance, and technology (i.e., voice, video, data, etc.) is used to bridge the instructional gap (Gottschalk 1995). Research comparing distance education to traditional classroom instruction shows that teaching at a distance can be as effective as traditional instruction. When the method and technologies used are appropriate to the instructional tasks, there is student-to-student interaction, as well as timely teacher-to-student feedback (Verduin and Clark; Willis).

The Java course described in the following article was developed as a joint project involving the Center for Newly Independent States Studies (CNISS) at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) and Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) in Russia. The CNISS director had the overall responsibility for project management. The CSULA faculty developed the course material and provided help to students. The EDE coordinator, part of the TPU faculty, was responsible for supervising student work in Russia. This was our second attempt in providing Information Systems-related courses in Russia using distance education (Slusky, Yampolsky, Partow and Dubina 1997).

Introduction to OOP using Java

At the present, the subject of the course "Java Programming" is quite popular. There is an enormous need for people trained in this programming language. Object Oriented Programming (OOP) demands new techniques for program development and Java has gained the reputation of being painful to learn. For us to indicate that the course was covering a challenging subject and trying to teach it using a new medium would be even more of a challenge.

The Course: What happened?

The subject matter of the course was to be studied by going through a chapter of lecture material and asking questions from the instructor. Early on, students were asked to work on a project that became an integral part of the class. The students' backgrounds were quite diversified, which mirrors the diversity of the Web itself. Projects were introduced to accomplish the need of the more advanced students.

The decision to use an HTML-based textbook was made early on by the course instructor. The benefits of a hypertext document versus a traditional textbook document will not be discussed here. However, the ease with which students can access a glossary of Java terms, read comments on a particular piece of code, or download the source of a program lets students concentrate on understanding the material. This integration of all the information required by students is very popular and demonstrates the power of Web technology.

The Web was used to provide the following information:

* Course policies

* Course syllabus

* Assignments

* Lecture notes in HTML format

* Java compiler (JDK 1.1.2) --

* Documentation for Java programming language tutorial/

* Java programming information from all over the Internet fag/howdoi.html

Telnet and e-mail were also used as communication tools. Course testing was conducted in person under the supervision of the EDE coordinator to guarantee dependable evaluations.

Distance Learning using Web-based Tools

Students can now access the course material using WebCT. WebCT is a program that facilitates the creation of Web-based courses. It is a client/server application, which allows users to access the program (residing on a server) through use of a client (in this case, a Web browser). This provides a great deal of flexibility. Students and instructors can use WebCT without installing any new software. All the students need is a browser capable of handling frames, such as Netscape (version 2 or higher), or Microsoft Internet Explorer (version 4 or higher). …

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