Internet Distance Learning: How Do I Put My Course on the Web?

By Serwatka, Judy Ann | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), May 1999 | Go to article overview

Internet Distance Learning: How Do I Put My Course on the Web?


Serwatka, Judy Ann, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


Introduction

Distance Learning is the hottest topic under discussion in higher education today. If one attends distance learning conferences, the wide variation in preparation for distance learning is quite evident, with some institutions offering entire degrees online, while others are still asking "How do we do this?" The first step is often the hardest to take when radically changing the format or the delivery of any course. This paper will describe the steps taken at Purdue University Calumet to put our courses online and the problems we encountered, along with our solutions.

Distance Learning at Purdue Calumet

A distance learning pilot project at Purdue Calumet began during the 1996 summer session. Two courses were chosen for the project: CIS 204, Introduction to Computer-Based Systems and CIS 286, Computer Operating Systems I. The former course is composed of computer literacy and an introduction to office productivity software (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.). The students in this course are both CIS majors and non-majors. The latter course is a required course for CIS majors and is an introduction to the concepts relating to computer operating systems. A major portion of the course is the use of laboratory assignments to reinforce concepts learned during the lecture.

During each subsequent semester since the pilot project, additional courses have been added to our list of online courses. As of this spring semester, 12 courses have been converted to the Internet format. The ultimate goal of the department is to offer our Associate Degree as an online degree. We currently offer a postbaccalaureate certificate online, since that certificate requires eight CIS courses for completion. As more courses become available on the Internet, the goal of an online degree will become a reality.

Class Conversion Techniques

CIS 204. This course was the easier of the two pilot courses to convert to the online format. The two books used in this course contain all the lab materials and a CD-ROM with lecture material for the students to use. A course syllabus was developed that matched the syllabus used in the on-campus course with lab and homework assignments, due dates and test dates. An important aspect of distance learning is to ensure that the course that is offered over the Internet is of the same quality as those courses offered on-campus; thus the two syllabi were identical.

The home page for the class includes a course description, instructor information, the syllabus, textbook information and hardware/software requirements. The latter lists the minimum system requirements that the students must have in order to run the required software for the class. The course uses the newest editions of Microsoft's Office (distributed on CD-ROM), so the students must have access to this software in order to participate in the course. The students must also know how to access their e-mail accounts and attach files to an e-mail message, since these concepts are not taught in the course.

CIS 286. A course for CIS majors, this one is more rigorous than the CIS 204 class and thus requires a more complex set of laboratory assignments. The lecture portion of the on-campus course uses PowerPoint slides to illustrate important points and to keep the material organized for the students. The on-campus students were required to buy a workbook that contained copies of the slides so they could spend more time listening to the lecture material rather than copying notes. The slides used in the class were converted to a PowerPoint format that could be loaded on the Internet server so the online students could download them. Since the introduction of the online course, the workbook is no longer sold in the bookstore, and all the students are given access and drawings had to be scanned in and included with the slides to complete the material.

The other challenge with CIS 286 was to allow students access through the Internet to several computers on the Purdue Calumet campus. …

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