The Electronic Classroom
Powers, Mike, Human Ecology Forum
. . . The result is an electronic classroom that's accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The benefits to learning are enormous. There are also a few negatives. Here are just a few of the ways College of Human Ecology faculty members are putting the Web to use.
Here's the format for your final exam: Find the exam on the course Web site and download it onto your computer in your dorm room or apartment. Have three or four of your classmates come over to help you with it. Take your time and look up all the resources you need to answer the questions. When you're finished, you and your classmates sign off on it and send it by e-mail to the professor. Whatever grade is given for the exam is your grade and the grade of each person in your group.
"Teamwork is the watchword in the outside world, and this type of exam fosters teamwork," says Division of Nutritional Sciences professor Virginia Utermohlen, who gave just such a final to her students, mostly premed majors, in her course on human anatomy and physiology last spring. "In the medical profession they're going to have to work with other people, listen to their opinions, present their own arguments, and arrive at an outcome that's beneficial to the patient. This type of exam helps them learn to communicate and take responsibility for the group's effort. It models real life."
Utermohlen's rather unconventional approach to testing is the latest innovation in a course that uses the vast resources available on the World Wide Web to augment classroom instruction.
"The Web has given me so much power to do things," she says. "What I teach is visual, and the visual power of the Web is extraordinary. I can take my lecture slides, scan them, and put those images on the Web so students can keep referring to them rather than just see them for a brief moment in class. They also can find images at other sites. The Web gives them the ability to roam as far as their curiosity will take them."
Utermohlen first started putting information on the Web in 1995. She says her initial motivation was simply to have the syllabus and class schedules and other information available where students could easily get at it.
"It kept students from asking me constantly for countless copies of things," she says. "But then I discovered that many Web sites, particularly those of medical schools, have tremendous material that is applicable to my classes. …