Harper Online Course Reflects the Future of Education

By Williams, Kendra L. | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 23, 1998 | Go to article overview

Harper Online Course Reflects the Future of Education


Williams, Kendra L., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Kendra L. Williams Daily Herald Staff Writer

At least one student taking Mark Healy's Geography 101 class at Harper College this fall will spend his time in front of a computer rather than in Healy's classroom.

That's because Healy is offering Geography 101- world regional geography - entirely online this fall, the first class of its kind at the Palatine college. Instead of taking notes and raising hands, students taking the online course will scroll through lectures and make their way through point-and-click map tutorials.

Want to learn the different regions of China? Click on China and a new screen will show the lecture on the left side and a full-color map on the right.

Getting to this point hasn't been easy for Healy, who traveled the World Wide Web for the first time two years ago. But he believes his course, which includes a syllabus, readings, written lectures, map tutorials and a geography-related news journal will meet unique student needs.

"There are some students who are better at listening. There are some students who are better at reading," said Healy, who also teaches economics. "This definitely helps the reader."

Considered another form of "distance learning," online courses tend to have high dropout rates because students need to be disciplined enough to stay on-track with the syllabus. The Web pages are accessible 24 hours a day - and so is Healy, via e-mail. The trick is setting aside 45 hours a semester to complete the online classwork, because students will only have to come to campus three times each semester to take quizzes, tests and the final exam.

As a result, computer-literate people who work full-time, lead busy lives and don't need a classroom teacher every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 a.m. to motivate them tend to be the ones who sign up for these classes, said Lee Vogel, dean of distance learning and media services.

"The real key to learning is student interactivity with teachers, whether its in the classroom or on the computer," said Vogel, adding Harper has offered distance learning opportunities since 1982. "At this point, we'll have to see how this works. It's early."

Professors most comfortable with traditional methods of learning are leery of online courses because of the lack of in-person, teacher-student contact, but Healy, who encourages his students to send e-mail to him with questions, does not believe computers will replace teachers. …

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