|Having a Bulletin Board program as part
of a class requires that students be required to use it. Otherwise, they won't.
David Jaffee at the State University of New York, New
Paltz has written a paper describing how he used an electronic conferencing
system, Lotus Notes, as an integral part of his sociology class. All of the text
below the line is a series of quotes from David Jaffee's paper.
INTERACTIVITY - The Principle
Courses should be developed in such a way that they maximize the
opportunities for and encourage regularized and on-going interaction
between teacher and students, among students, and between students and the learning
INTERACTIVITY - The Practice
....Once the students actually connected to the Lotus Notes server, and
opened the introductory database, they were faced with an immediate
set of tasks that involved connecting with the group and interacting with the
instructor. The students were asked to fill out a profile describing
themselves.... This was shared with other members of the class... This served
the dual purpose of immediately initiating student-faculty interaction.... as well as
providing a technical exercise that familiarized them with the communication system.
The importance of constant interaction with students cannot be
overemphasized. Prior studies and student evaluations of distance-learning projects
(Hiltz 1994), indicate that responsiveness is viewed as one of the
most important elements of a successful distance learning course.
MEDIATION - The Principle
In a conventional classroom, instructors have the ability
to situate reading material, ideas, and concepts within a general theoretical framework
through the lecture mode. (In a distance learning course) the instructor must
develop some alternative mediation strategies.
.... the importance of mediation as a means of
intervention between the student and the subject matter, as a way to guide the learning
process toward particular outcomes, and connect a body of knowledge with a student's
MEDIATION - The Practice
A second form of mediation involved the regular practice
of summarizing student discussion comments after they had been submitted. ...this
often resulted in further clarification by the students about their actual position, or
the entry by another student who would take sides or try to reconcile the original
arguments or comments. In either case, mediation in group discussion provided the
kind of instructor feedback that seemed to sustain student participation.
ACTIVE LEARNING - The Principle
The notion of active learning suggests that students must
do more than simply receive information and substantive material but also must engage and
participate in activities and tasks that enhance comprehension, understanding, and
ACTIVE LEARNING - The Practice
...students were asked to formulate responses to
discussion questions each week, submit short written assignments, and compose several
extended essays. The qestions and assignments posed to students were not designed to
elicit a single correct answer, but were worded in such a way that the students had a
great deal of latitude in developing an answer, response, or position.
....that the response to class discussion questions in
the ALN course far exceeded -- in both quantity and quality -- anything I have experienced
in a conventional classroom setting.
COLLABORATIVE LEARNING - The Principle
According to Hiltz (1994:23), collaborative learning
"means that both teachers and learners are active participants in the learning
process; knowledge is not something that is to be 'delivered' to students, but rather
something that emerges from active dialogue among those who seek to understand and apply
concepts and techniques."
COLLABORATIVE LEARNING - The Practice
When students were given the essay exams they were also
encouraged to draw upon and consult the student-submitted items that were a permanent part
of the database. What distinguished the ALN class discussion from the conventional
classroom mode was the quality of the student contributions and the fact that these items
existed to be retrieved and consulted by other students.
A second collaborative learning procedure involved the
sharing of some of the written assignments submitted by students. These relatively
short-answer assignments, scattered throughout the semester, required students to answer a
series of questions... When I shared the work, I asked students to comment on the
strengths and weaknesses of the piece; to indicate whether the student made a clear
presentation; whether the argument or answer was convincing; what suggestions the students
might make to strengthen the piece. While this exercise elicited some student
response, it is clearly a major challenge to convince students that they could and should
comment on the work of their fellow classmates.