If You Build It, Will They Come to Class?
Nigri, Peter, Human Ecology Forum
The potential of the World Wide Web for teaching seems almost limitless. Students can find more information with greater ease than ever before, and faculty members can put course schedules, syllabi, notices, and even class lectures on their Web sites.
There may be a downside, however. In some courses, one of the side effects of putting lectures and other course information on the Web has been a decline in class attendance.
"I know there are students who only show up for exams and the final," says textiles and apparel professor Peter Schwartz, who puts his class lectures for TXA 135, Fibers, Fabrics, and Finishes, on his Web site after he delivers them in class. "They just pull the material off the Web. But I don't know to what degree the fact that the material is on the Web is responsible. The class is at nine in the morning, so a lot of them wouldn't come anyway."
The Web wasn't the first thing to affect class attendance. Schwartz says he noticed a decline several years ago when he began handing out hard-copy outlines of his lectures. The Web has only made it easier for students to miss class. Schwartz says that of the 85 students registered for the course last year, 35 to 40 appeared in class on any given day. And while he admits that some students are able to get through the course by relying on the Web site information, he also points out they still miss a lot by not attending class.
"What I put up on the Web is not everything I cover in class, and that's where they get into trouble," he says. "Those who don't come do poorly. But I do this for the people who do come to class, not for the ones who don't.
"If someone can download all the information from the Web, not come to class, and still learn, I suppose that's fine. If someone has a question, however, they need to come to me, and they don't do that. I encourage them to use e-mail, but the students I get e-mail from are the ones who come to class."
Despite this obvious downside, Schwartz still feels the benefits of the Web far outweigh any negative aspects. …