The Rise of a New Paradigm Shift in Teaching and Learning

By Jafari, Ali | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), October 1999 | Go to article overview

The Rise of a New Paradigm Shift in Teaching and Learning


Jafari, Ali, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


This article discusses the design and implementation of a course management enterprise system, the Oncourse project, at Indiana University. The Oncourse project presented the concept and provided a technical framework for the dynamic creation of Web environments for every course section offered in the university. The conceptual definition to the full university-wide implementation of Oncourse (http://oncourse.iu.edu/) is described herein.

It was a hot July day in Phoenix, Arizona when the directors of the Community Learning Network and the WebLab at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) discussed a revolutionary idea with their Dean of Faculties at the 1997 AAHE Summer Institute on Teaching, Learning and Technology. "We can dynamically create a Web site for every course offered at the university," said the directors. "We can write a simple computer program to migrate Student Information System data into our WebLab course management software and give every student and faculty dynamic access to their course Web sites. We can make the environment so easy to use that most faculty will not need to attend any training workshops nor will the university need to spend millions to maintain and operate the system."

The effort to develop a computer program to create a Web environment for every university course began in the fall of 1997 at the WebLab (now called CyberLab)(1) Laboratory at IUPUI campus. The project was called "Oncourse."(2) Although the original idea was only to design a simple "cookie making machine" to automatically produce Web sites, the WebLab Oncourse design group(3) concluded with the conceptualization and design of a big picture solution for teaching and learning needs in the twenty-first century.

The big picture solution evolved into the research and development of a comprehensive teaching and learning enterprise that offers a "one stop shopping" Web solution to all online teaching and learning needs. From a technical perspective, the Oncourse Environment was designed as an "add on" program to the university legacy system and/or to the Student Information System (SIS) to dynamically create a personal homepage and a course Web site for every individual and every course section in the university. From a business perspective, the Oncourse Environment offers millions of dollars in savings by not creating and maintaining duplicate database systems, nor duplicating existing IT services already in a university, not to mention savings realized by automatic Web site creation and maintenance. From a faculty perspective, Oncourse introduces a new and useful technology with a Toolbox that can be easily learned and maintained without, for most users, the need to attend workshops or receive technical consultation.

Drawing the Conceptual Framework

The Oncourse theory of operation is based on the following conceptual frameworks. Every student and faculty member at the university owns an Oncourse Personal Profile, something like a personal homepage that is dynamically generated for every member of the university. Every university member may access his/her profile via a Web browser by visiting a Web site and entering their existing university computing ID, normally the same username and password used to check the university e-mail (See Figure 1). After a successful logon, the user will be presented with the Personal Profile page (See Figure 2). The Personal Profile includes major categories like My Courses, My Files, My Bookmarks, etc. For instance, once a student registers for a course, the course hyperlink dynamically appears on the student's Personal Profile page. Similarly, once a department identifies a course offering for an upcoming semester, the system automatically places a hyperlink on the instructor's Personal Profile page, pointing to that instructor's teaching assignments. All of this happens automatically based on the data entered and maintained by the university registrar. …

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