This site covers how to begin, how to operate, and how to make Web-based courses successful and enjoyable. Its contents are developed over years, and is intended for my current students, and sharing my personal experiences and exchange of ideas with other educators.
Unlike face-to-face setting, where the responsibilities are ranked with emphasis on teaching than learning, for the online courses the emphasis is on learning then teaching. From my experience in both settings, I have realized that for online courses students and teacher are partners in the learning process. Therefore the contents of this Web site are for both students and teacher as a team without any separation.
Kindly e-mail me your comments, suggestions, and concerns. Thank you.
To search the site, try Edit | Find in page [Ctrl + f]. Enter a word or phrase in the dialogue box, e.g. "learning" or "quality" If the first appearance of the word/phrase is not what you are looking for, try Find Next.
- Is there something new Under the Sun?
- Instructional Technology: From Wooden-sand-tray to Electronic Laptops
- Itemized Factors to Optimize the Teaching/Learning Environments
- Student-Teacher Active-engagement Process Defines Success
- Anatomy of Online Courses
- Preparation and Instruction for Online Exams
- Retaining Your Students:
Dropouts from the Online Degree Programs
- Questions Worth Asking
- References & Recommended Web Sites
- Dr. Arsham's Online Course in Statistics
- Dr. Arsham's Online Course in Decision Science/Management Science/Operations Research
- Student-to-Student: Your Fellow Students' Opinion and Advice
- Teaching an Online Course - The Debriefing: Dr. Arsham, The E-Learning Post
- Impact of the Internet on Learning and Teaching, An invited leading feature article in the Journal of the United States Distance Learning Association, Vol. 16, No. 3, 2002.
- Report From The Front Lines (A review), Eduprise: Enterprise e-Learning
- Students' Dropout: Causes and Prevention, An invited online speech, The Open and Distance Learning, UK Open University.
- Tapping Into E-Learning, An interview with The Military Officer Magazine, Vol. I, No. 1, 2003.
- Advice for Online Teaching (A review), Education World
- Introduction to Electronic Classrooms
There have been many technological dawns in the last 30 years, during which the desktop computer and the Internet have been developed; but there have been similar dawns throughout the 20th Century - film, radio, records, broadcast television, audiotape, videotape, programmed learning machines, etc. Each time enthusiasts have announced the transformation or even the end of the school/college/university. In fact, the impact on the bulk of teaching and learning has been minimal. Developments in paper/printing technologies have had far more influence, with the consequence that face-to-face discussion and paper resources still dominate public education. Audio-visual media have been treated more as an icing-on-the-cake than as something at the very heart of learning -- and likewise their long-suffering support services (though the new media, particularly video, have fared somewhat better in the development of corporate training programs). In fact, there is debate in the instructional design literature about whether there are any unique attributes of media that can promote improved learning [see, e.g., Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate, Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19].
There is an already recognized fact that the need for educational experiences is rapidly growing. Previously there was a sense of audience as a market segment. However one major impact of the Internet is that neatly packaged target markets do not present themselves. Passions for and uses of learning grow in a way that has little to do with demographics. Therefore the flexibility provided by the educators becomes especially important and the new meaning of access to education is quite individual enabling individuals in making their own decisions regarding their private and public lives.
In its capacity as a tool, Internet is but a ripple on the surface of our educational institutions. In its capacity as intellectual challenge, it is without precedent in the educational history of mankind. The importance of Internet in education, particularly using its Web is a well-recognized fact. A wealth of resources and techniques now exist which serve as a source both for exciting examples of new teaching practices, as well as easily accessible methods for adoption into various formats of teaching and learning. Internet technology allow teachers and students keep up with their minds. It let them try their ideas as soon as they come up with them.
Generally, students appreciate the convenience, choice, and flexibility that an online courses offers. Instructional designers value the standardized framework and flexibility. Many instructors believe that an online course is convenient; they applaud the ease of record keeping and the reduced travel. Administrators like the idea of automated, consistent assessment information and the reduced costs that it can bring to an education institution.
On hiring an online graduate, employers are likely to be cautious, if not skeptical. The belief is that an online degree is an interesting exercise, but it is not going to be as rewarding or valuable as a full-time traditional degree. This is partly, because most employers have traditional degrees and may be reluctant to hire someone with a credential not yet established.
As a broader array of communication tools is developed, course designers need a better understanding of what kinds of communication each medium is best suited for learning/teaching environments. The single biggest advantage in online learning programs is the interactivity they offer.
A good interactivity is hinged on the mainstreaming of instructors with their specialized background, getting into more generalized leadership roles. It is only there that they can ensure that creative collaboration and orchestration of online teaching/learning. A good Web-based design might not be in design at all, but in bringing design into mentoring and the leadership.
Web-based learning can be a flexible and cost-effective alternative to classroom learning, but it can also be a colossal waste of time and money if not implemented correctly. One of the biggest issues facing universities wading into online learning is interactivity, both in its level and mode. How can the instructor make Web-based teaching more interactive? How can the instructor create a virtual classroom environment that maximizes participation? Just what constitutes 'interactivity' is hardly clear for some instructors. To some people, it means enabling learners and instructors to share ideas in a virtual chat room; to others, merely posting a question on a bulletin board qualifies as interactivity. Despite the popular conception of the Internet as our most interactive medium, on the great majority of Web-based courses the interaction all goes in one direction. Students interest, motivation, questioning, and interaction must be on display throughout the learning process.
Throughout this site, the keywords and phrases: e-learning, Web-based learning, distance learning, distance education, distributed learning, learner-centered programs, and online learning are used as interchangeable terms.
As the cost of technology decreases, many universities are finding ways to bring the benefits of the classroom into a distance-learning setting. However, distance teaching has been described as an industrialized form of education, characterized by rationalization of process, division of labor and mass production. The new information and communication technologies can facilitate this development, but only if policy makers are sensitive to the opportunities, especially at an international level. Web-based teaching and learning call for a serious reconsideration of the effectiveness(especially in light of increased demand for education and the opportunities for increased student motivation by new technologies) if integrated with knowledge-based design sites. Well-thought instructional design for any Web-based course contributes in moving students' expectations from promises to performance while taking the course.
In developing your online courses you must pull together what may seem like incongruent weekly pieces of lectures, and other information into a cohesive experience for your students by using an effective interface design. An interface design encompasses four distinct, but related constructs--accessibility, usability, visualization, and functionality.
The operational infrastructure of creating a more effective, efficient and accessible learning environment is critical to Web-based learning/teaching success. Yet all too often this element is overlooked or seen as incidental to the design and quality of the learning materials themselves. These are the key success factors in teaching/learning which is orientated towards the students, who will become autonomous self-learners using the media and the support services. The high quality of the Internet education process means the molding of abilities to learn. The advantages of online learning must outweigh the disadvantages for both the learner and the teacher to make the conversion process cost effective. However, there is no doubt that we have already entered the global information society. And there is no way back. Nowadays, content on the Web seems to be inexpensive. But knowledge is nearly never inexpensive. The importance of content will increase to become a critical issue for the Web-based teaching/learning.
Content is the hidden asset in online degree providers by many universities. In order to grow and continue to be profitable, these universities will need to tap this asset in an environment where they can test the effectiveness of content to decide on what content is working and what content is not. However, often the measurement tools for how students respond to content are crude and the decision process is not structured partly because managing contents is a dynamic process.
We must find ways to discover how students respond to the content. For example:
- Making sure you have accurate, consistent contents.
- Focus on action points during each week homework assignment. How many students are failing to submit their homework on time? How many revisions students did during the semester?
- The best web-teachers make it part of their weekly routine to interact with students. There is no greater skill you can develop than to have a deep understanding of how your students think. There is only one-way to develop this: by consistent interaction with your individual students.
- Usability test once a week. Monitor how each students try and complete a task on that particular week.
Online learning communities are considered to be new learning environments and an effective interaction is a fundamental factor that sustains an online learning/teaching community. Nearly three years after the dot-com fizzle began; Web-based teaching/learning has emerged from the wreckage as one of the Internet's most useful applications. By considering the Web-based pedagogical issues for creation of new ideas about teaching/learning have an impact on the educational strategies which are deeply rooted in the cultural environment. The advent of the Web, coupled with a new way of teaching/learning, places increased demands on students, lecturers, and the ways in which they process this particular Web form of extracting knowledge. The demands are still on pedagogical challenges in relation to the use of the Web-based teaching/learning. This pedagogical issue should be viewed as blending and integrating in order that it will no longer be identifiable as a discrete medium compared with traditional methods. There are more collaborative and community-building and its is growing activities that bring learners together. Interactivity and facilitator's supports are not a luxury anymore. To some instructors who once taught on the Web that it is just one more excuse to step back with relief--after all, this stuff is hard. But that's the wrong move.
Good online degree programs courses are well designed and, well written text, and effective learning objects. However, all these alone do not offer guidance and personal engagement. A virtual presence of faculty facilitators and mentors is needed to add a human touch to e-learning.
A technical assistant can help transform Web-based programs into trouble-free, fast moving, interactive technology that keeps learners involved and the instructor on track. Having a technical assistant enables the instructor to stay focused on content while the assistant takes care of everything else.
It is a common misperception that delivering courses online diminishes the personal connection between students and teacher. On the contrary, online learning tools present a new universe of possibilities for creating an individualized, highly effective environment that enhances and personalizes the learning experience.
But can educational institutions make a profit from their online programs? People are still reluctant to pay for online content and generally surfers do not see why anyone would pay. Other issues related to students include their psychological reactions to the new way of learning. Some may have a fear of technology. Others may have a low level of technology skills, though this is changing as more universities are training students more thoroughly. Some students may struggle with independent learning and feel insecure with an amorphous teacher.
Online teaching/learning are not fixed in time or space. Many students find the flexibility of online learning a practical alternative to sitting in a campus classroom for hours on end. Students can interact with the instructor and their classmates at any time from anywhere to seek clarification for issues they encounter in their homework assignment, to discuss topics raised in the course contents, or to initiate new discussions on related topics. A successful online discussion has the same synergistic effect as group or in-class discussion, in which students build on one another's perspectives to gain a deeper understanding of the materials form different perspectives.
Change may not be easy, but it is necessary, inevitable, and often beneficial. Whether your students succeed or fail depends in part upon how well you leverage your full intellectual capital -- and your Web-based course is taking a starring role. Also, think about engaging students in implementing such a learning environment -- combine your teaching and students learning together. Keeping interactivity with students, and following the factors outlined in this site will help to ensure a comprehensive, well-thought-out Web-based teaching/learning system -- and helps to safeguard both instructor and students in the process.
The main question and concern is that: Will technological study aids, from crib notes posted on the Internet to online degree programs, enhance education? Or will Web-education supplant bricks-and-mortar classrooms and perhaps degrade the quality of learning and instruction?
A long time age, Leonardo da Vinci understood the power of experimentation. The act of teaching concepts and techniques is academic pedigree, which is fine, but a direct grasp by experimentation is essential. Using E-labs numerical experimentation is innately more powerful than hiding behind obscure academic methods.
The issues and techniques discussed in this site, together with your students' feedback, can help you to enhance and become a better architect of your Web-based courses.
This site identifies the issues to consider in the definition, selection or evaluation of an effective Web-based course system, regarding both the learning process and the system management in higher education. It presents state-of-the-art learning tools and the lessons learned from my past experiences.
Unlike face-to-face setting, where the responsibilities are ranked with emphasis on teaching then learning, for the online courses the emphasis is on learning then teaching. From my experience in both settings, I have realized that for online courses students and teacher are partners in the learning process. Partnership makes the success faster, less expensive, and easier to achieve. There is great opportunity in putting this concept into the hands of teachers and supporting their change in thinking with exposure to excellent mentoring. Therefore the contents of this Web site are for both students and teacher as a team without any separation.
This site constitutes also a report from the "frontliner" of e-learning, since the University of Baltimore was the first school to offer an all-online accredited Web MBA. I taught the first course in this Web MBA program, which was Business Statistics. A second course in this same program was Applied Management Science.
Is there something new Under the Sun?
The promises of distance education to provide high-quality educational pro-grams that can be undertaken anywhere and at any time are not new. Similar promises were made early in the 20th century by correspondence study programs. These programs failed to realize their promises because they were confronted by a fundamental trade-off between quality - personalized education - and quantity - the widespread communication of the message to large numbers of students. When higher education confronted this trade-off, they opted to choose the quantity model. That choice eventually led to a widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of correspondence education.
Like everything new, at first people refused to believe that this strange new way of learning/teaching can be done, then they begin to hope that it can be done, then they see that it can be done. Rapid advances in information technology and easy access to the Internet are reshaping educational institutions by providing new learning environments and new ways to teach. At its worst, Web-based learning is a poor substitute for the classroom experience. But at its best, the unique attributes of online courses enable learning modes that are not possible in a face-to-face model. To achieve the best possible effective learning environment students must have access to the technology, and the needed training in how to use effectively the technology, and the role of the instructor as expert in learning process design, control and implementation process. Availability of the instructor to serve, each individual student as a motivator, a mentor, and a caring communicator is the key to success. Finally, it is already realized that technology on its own does not improve learning/teaching.
Learning is the act or process of developing skill or knowledge. Modern, Web-based learning provides the means for changing fundamentally the way in which instruction is delivered to students. Multimedia learning resources combined with workbooks attempt to explore the essential concepts of a course by using the full pedagogical power of multimedia. Many Web sites have nice features such as interactive examples, animation, video, narrative and written text. These Web sites are designed to provide students with a "self-help" learning resource to complement a traditional textbook.
In a few earlier pilot studies, [Mann, B. (1997) Evaluation of Presentation modalities in a hypermedia system, Computers & Education, 28, 133-143, and Ward M. and D. Newlands (1998), Use of the Web in undergraduate teaching, Computers & Education, 31, 171-184.] compare the relative effectiveness of three versions of hypermedia systems, namely, Sound, Text, and Sound/Text. The results indicate that those working with Sound could focus their attention on the critical information. Those working with the Text and Sound/Text version, however, did not learn as much and stated their displeasure with reading so much text from the screen. Based on this study, it is clear, at least at this time, that such Web-based innovations cannot serve as an adequate substitute for face-to-face live instruction
Stoll (1999) in his book, High Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don't Belong in the Classroom and Other Reflections, Random House, 1999, argues that schools should use funding to improve real education rather than invest in computer technology and rely on telecommunications for education. Furthermore he indicates that the computer was often a crutch which diverted time and resources from programs, taught students to think and evaluate information. Online learning education does for knowledge what just-in-time delivery does for manufacturing: It delivers the right tools and parts when you need them. However, developing online learning is typically an intense process, which should take much of the faculty development time.
Students today no longer spends their time in a lonely little attic room, a noisy lecture room or the deadly silence in the huge reading room of a university library. These components of learning environment still exist but their functionality has changed. Web-based course delivery is the beginning of a new wave of technology development in higher education. Freeing student work from paper and making it organized and transportable opens enormous possibilities for re-thinking whole curricula: the evaluation of faculty, assessment of programs, and how accreditation works. The supporting evidence of its effectiveness might be the biggest challenge in technology innovation on campus. If used effectively, e-learning has a greater potential to alter higher education at its very core than any other technology application we have known thus far.
Besides the required textbook a collection of online resources replacing the traditional printed materials in the libraries must be provided. The Java applets are probably the most phenomenal way of simplifying various concepts by way of interactive processes. These applets help bring into life every concept, from central limit theorem to interactive random games and multimedia applications.
The Flashlight Project develops survey items, interview plans, cost analysis methods, and other procedures that institutions can use to monitor the success of educational strategies that use technology.
In the knowledge corporate world, it might be true that two-way communication is not always something they need to have in order to complete what they are doing, but sometimes one-way audio (with optional two-way or with chat) is sufficient. Whereas in the university environment, the expectation is much higher, and they require two-way communication in order to have the right level of interaction with students.
Clearly, the main question for students and those who will consider hiring them after graduation from an online degree, is this: Is online education a godsend to busy professionals who cannot otherwise take college courses, or is it a low-quality option that should be avoided?
What is becoming clear is that we are experiencing the same psychological response to today's new media from some old-timer educators . They have spent a tremendous amount of time and energy in face-to-face using the old rules. Consequently, they are often resistant to change and less likely to look for creative, innovative approaches to new opportunities. They must be encouraged to adapt their teaching style to the medium of the current generation of students, and in order to make a positive difference for them. The new medium emerges with great fanfare. Public pressure builds to employ it in education. However, those educators' adoption lags further behind. Moreover, there are a number of factors that online course are not widespread for quantitative-based subjects (such as my two courses). The technology can be expensive and confusing, and designing of these courses that fit digital media can be challenging. However, digital libraries are he most important and influential for educational institutions because of their versatility, accessibility, and economy.
Convenient, flexible, and cost-effective, online professional development is helping instructors meet those changing expectations. Most instructors turn to online training to learn about technology and how to integrate it into the curriculum, but even more instructors are going online to learn the needed new teaching strategies.
The technology spare faculty members from having to photocopy and distribute course packs, and mean that students do not have to hike to a professor's office to look up grades that were posted on the door, or call classmates to ask about the next reading assignment. Such features simplify the administrative tasks of teaching and learning. At many colleges, not all faculty members use the technology; however, their usefulness depends largely on how much effort is put into giving them helpful features.
Facilitating creative dialogues between instructor students is the Internet's greatest contribution to enhancing education, much more important than just putting lecture notes online. Most face-to-face courses involve a low-level of collaboration among students and instructors. A good teacher in the classroom can be less sequential since he or she has the luxury of being able to evaluate the Students' reaction and adjust the teaching process accordingly --- something that textbooks cannot do. Feedback mechanisms do exist in Web learning, but are currently quite primitive in comparison to the face-to-face mode of teaching. The current Web-based courses also force decisions; users must interact in order for the narrative to progress because nothing new arrives until the user clicks another link. A "good' Web-based course environment is where the learner can think and experience a sequential flow of learning allowing "teach-yourself" by way of thinking for yourself. Subsequently, it must allow the learners interacting freely with the instructor whenever they need to.
Online delivery promises a new access route for millions of qualified, motivated students. The development of Web-based courses does indeed amount to a revolution in teaching and learning. At the heart of this revolution is a completely new pedagogy, for which most teachers are not trained, and which, for the most part, their administrators do not understand. What is currently happening, is that too many untrained teachers are fooling themselves, and being fooled into believing, that all they need do to be part of this revolution is to convert existing courses to Web-page format and be prepared to answer emails.
Building, sustaining, and growing sense of a community: A strong sense of community should not be limited to the face-to-face teaching/leaning. The online courses must build and sustain a sense of growing community at levels that are comparable to the traditional classroom. The main challenge is how to design and conduct online courses effectively that facilitate dialogue and decrease psychological distance, thereby increasing a sense of community among the participants.
The concept of an online community is very broad. It is often a small group of classmates who email each other about, for example, comparing their course work assignment before submitting the instructor for grading. One of my former students find an effective collaborative technique: "I've noticed that while studying for this course, I tend to copy, paste and email content segments to myself as a form of note taking, and to my classmates who might be interested in the topic."
Online community is one of the tools for a collaborated learning environment. Web-based collaboration has the potential to enhance the learning process. Educators who value collaboration and implement collaborative activities are more likely to engage in student-centered practice. Constructivist learning, a revised and updated form of discovery learning, is also a student-centered learning approach that is based on cognitive psychology. In this active learning environment, students encounter thinking-for-themselves that enable them to construct personal knowledge through problem-solving and experimentation. Constructivist principles work particularly well on Web-based teaching/learning setting.
Among other issues, the cognitive psychology is concerned with how to measure learning and forgetting rates, and how these are affected by problem spacing, testing intervals and some individual differences. There is an inverse relationship between the structure, a measure of an educational program's responsiveness to learners' individual needs, and dialogue, the extent to which learner and instructor are able to respond to each other. Thus, in Web-based teaching and learning the "distance" between instructor and learner is determined by the level and rate of dialogue and structure, not physical distance.
Unlike face-to-face setting, where the responsibilities are ranked with emphasis on teaching then learning, for the online courses the emphasis is on learning than teaching. The course material cannot really be taught. They can only be learned.
The impacts of the Internet on teaching and learning are highlighted in a later section of this site. In summary, a Web-based learning class is a more effective learning experience, since the learner participates in the learning process and receives individual attention, even when the instructor and the learner are at different locations. This participation in learning is by itself a positive learning experience. The Web-based learning atmosphere allows more effective interaction between the students and instructor. Therefore, it can be as effective as the traditional classroom learning environment where the space, seating, etc., could be inadequate. Online learning teaches you how to think before writing in a disciplined way of communication. It demands discipline of both instructor and student. There is less 'physical touch' but much more intellectual touch.
The major impact of the Internet is that the traditional teacher and student roles change significantly. Students assume increasing responsibility for their learning while teachers become resources,facilitators and evaluators, guiding students in their problem-solving efforts. For you as a learner, the ability to concentrate and to use your time well is the key to succeed.
Introduction: Ancient Greeks were mostly interested in geometry, since their numerical system was based of denoting numbers to alphabets. The word geometry was derived from measuring (metry) and geo (land, earth). Before 400 B.C., Thales and Pythagoras among others, proved theorems that are still useful and being taught in schools. These ancient mathematicians had their own laptops. A laptop was usually a wooden tray contains smooth sand. They used a finger or a stick to draw and provide their convincing arguments about geometric figures. To restart the laptop, they smoothed the surface and started another session. This was the first laptop. This was the beginning of science then it went to sleep.
From Wooden-sand-tray to Electronic Laptops
There was no major new development in educational technology partly because with the advent of organized religion, the church controlled all aspects of individual and social life including education. The introduction of zero and the decimal system to Europe were the most significant achievements in the development of a number system, in which calculation with large numbers became feasible. Without the notion of zero, the descriptive and prescriptive modeling processes in commerce, and astronomy, would have been unthinkable. The lack of such a symbol is one of the serious drawbacks in the Roman numeral system. In addition, the Roman numeral system is difficult to use in any arithmetic operations, such as multiplication. Pascal invented the first digital calculator to help his father with his work of collecting taxes. He worked on it for three years between 1642 and 1645. The device, called the Pascaline, resembled a mechanical calculator of the 1940s.
It was during the enlightenment era that educational system, such as universities as we know it today flourish. Separation of Church and State allowed individual freedom and after over 2000 (from 400 B.C to the 16th Century) years, at last we went back to pre-Socrates to re-invent science. While pre-Socrates put more emphasis on geometry than arithmetic, the combination of both geometry and arithmetic created by Desecrate, as a Cartesian system is what we now refer to as Analytic Geometry. The analytic geometry was the intellectual foundation for Isaac Newton's models in describing his three laws of motion. His work is the first powerful tool we now call Analytical Modeling. Analytical modeling now dominates all fields of human knowledge, including art, science, and social science.
Since the introduction of the Internet in education, and especially online degrees offering by some universities, the selection of technology has been the major concern because of the difficulty of determining the benefits compared to costs.
The aim of any new technology is to enable learners to perform experimentations in becoming conscious of their critical thinking in knowing the scopes and limitations of what they learn. If the learning environment is focused on background information, knowledge of terms and new concepts, the learner is likely to learn that basic information successfully. However, this basic knowledge may not be sufficient to enable the learner to carry out successfully the on-the-job tasks that require more than basic knowledge. Thus, the probability of making real errors in the business environment is high. On the other hand, if the learning environment allows the learner to experience and learn from failures within a variety of situations similar to what they would experience in the "real world" of their job, the probability of having similar failures in their business environment is low.
Development of any successful technology must examine the learning process first and then looking at the technology. The goal of the product must be to produce active learning experiences that are easily implemented and managed.
With the availability of the laptop computers and Internet access learners can learn anything, anywhere, and anytime.
Return on Investment Issues: With challenging times ahead, universities and colleges are actively seeking different avenues to increase revenues. Realizing the untapped market and thinking outside of the box, some schools are turning to the online programs as their entrepreneurial answer.
Since the dawn of the Internet age, advocates have predicted the end of leafy college campuses as schools go virtual. The miracle of the Internet was supposed to let great teachers reach any student, any subject, any time, and anywhere.
Rapid technological advancement may produce problems and challenges for educational institutions when their products and services are rendered obsolete "virtually" within a short time-horizon. The Web-teacher who has properly learned his/her craft will have transferable skills and knowledge perfectly adaptable to the emerging technology. The benefit of having transferable knowledge in such a volatile marketplace is readily apparent. It is insurance for survival of the Web- based courses. The Web sites have highly dynamic rates of birth and death. The Internet is a graveyard of Web sites who tried but failed to keep up with the contents that the visitors really need from them. Many went on the Web very quickly once it was clear that many new sites were "choked with flow" and did not have any useful and interesting information. There is certainly a power in the Internet communication, development, and delivery of intellectual materials via this medium we are mastering in our educational institutions. Effective and efficient Web-based teaching/learning are just getting started, and survival is the test for quality assurance.
Most educational institutions have already established their active E-learning Centers with main mission of integrating of all Web-based courses. The centers activities includes, selection of courseware, assembling, motivating, and rewarding whoever is participating in their online course. Their specific roles are the online training, providing technical expertise, subject matter knowledge data base, and interpersonal communication skills. The success and the effectiveness of any e-learning center, surely depend on a strong leadership that can bring together the group members with very diverse talents.
Usability of a course content is an integral investment in site development. Therefore, it must be recognized as the standard approach to all courses. Clearly, it brings to do less work and get better results while spending less money. By bringing usability within the institution e-learning center and breaking tests into more manageable sessions, administrators may vastly improve their online offering without affecting their profit margin.
It is easy to measure the cost of e-learning and compare it with traditional, however it seems much harder is determining the return on investment (ROI) of an e-learning program. Many schools will want to measure ROI in terms of student learning, faculty satisfaction, and minimizing the dropout rate. But others may also value reductions in cost, increases in revenue, or expansion of markets. For example, here at the University of Baltimore we used e-learning to launch the first fully-online MBA program, thereby growing program enrollment by 25%, while also avoiding construction of a previously-planned $25M building. More generally, e-learning can lead to many financial, operational or strategic returns-on-investment.
Several universities and colleges are now looking to share more of that work by building "institutional repositories" online and inviting their professors to upload copies of their research papers, data sets, and other work. The idea is to gather the intellectual output of an institution in an easy-to-search online collection. One of the best ways to reduce expenses, and concurrently shorten the delivery cycle, is to reuse what has already been built. While usability testing is an integral investment in site development, however it is time to recognize that the standard approach falls short. It is possible to do less work and get better results while spending less money. By bringing usability testing in-house and breaking tests into more manageable sessions, you can vastly improve your online offering without affecting your profit margin.
The Internet is affecting the twin disciplines of knowledge management and content management. Knowledge management is the thinking process of converting information to useful knowledge, while content management is published information. The author of a Web site must provide the efficient content management, and the visitor who uses a Web site must have the mental ability of effective knowledge management. The authors need to learn more about the usability in addition to content of their sites. Every penny of the cost of maintaining your site and keeping it up-to-date is worth it. As the size and complexity of web sites increase, and users and authors demand greater functionality and frequently updated content, effective site management becomes essential. Much web design has suffered from an over reliance on graphic design principles. Too many graphic designers have tried to force the Web to be what it is not, in the process creating ineffective and sometimes unusable Web sites. Quality web design is driven by information architecture design principles. Graphic design should support these principles.
How do you make sure that students learn? How do decide what to learn next and to bridge your weekly assignment to achieve the wholeness of the topics? What factors motivate your students? These questions are central to the challenges of knowledge management, and yet most online courses are designed in ignorance of their answers.
To manage costs while maintaining an acceptable level of quality, educational institutions must spend a significant amount of time on course design and its internal operations which is critical to student support. They must create the service and support role to provide a single point-of-contact for the class. This one-to-one relationship with the instructor gives him/her a resource that understands and even anticipates individual student's needs.
In general, people who use the Internet are reluctant to pay for content, and most people think that the quality of the content on the Internet is poor. Similar behavior exists among the administrators within our academic institutions; they want quality content, but they do not want to pay well for it. This is a circle that cannot be squared.
Like any product or service, Web-based course offering needs an adequately survey of potential market before trying to develop the course. Indeed, many institutions created online courses without determining whether they were even any potential students. As a result, they had trouble finding enough students to maintain the course.
The main difficulty confronting small, residential colleges, are the resource constraints in improving academic quality and controlling costs of online course development. They may transfer effectively what is available at larger institutions.
An unhelpful myth is being spread about content. Web sites are being sold with the promise that one can create content once and then publish it everywhere --- to the Web, print, mobile phones, interactive TV, etc. Unfortunately, this concept of ‘reusable' content takes a very simplistic, commodity-based view of content.
Online education is growing too fast to track. Widespread shortages of qualified online teachers are predicted. However, educational institutions can train and capitalize on the talent of their teachers who may have retired from the traditional setting.
The rapid growth of information, coupled with the ability to exchange it more rapidly among more people than ever before, is creating a new environment for education. Many universities are negotiating for their standing as the de facto source of scholarly knowledge in the new environment.
Hundreds of universities of every sort have been putting some basic courses up on the Web, using sometimes pedestrian software. And students seem to think they are fine. Community colleges and regional universities that have slowly, organically moved into the online arena -- doing their old job in a new way -- have succeeded where the flashy business types and big-time private schools have not.
If administrators start with question similar to "If I replace my traditional classroom teaching with Web courses, how much will I save?" As a strong advocate for Web teaching/learning, I find that approach flawed. Administrators may fail to recognize many non-cost related benefits that the new way of teaching/learning, such as reach for interactivity, consistent messaging and follow-up, and flexibility to meet the needs of individual students, brings to our educational institutions.
The highest cost component of high quality instruction is faculty. Despite the fact that the higher education community tends to treat quality, access, and cost as three separate and distinct issues, they are very much intertwined. Higher education has known for decades that substituting cheaper labor for more expensive labor reduces instructional costs. The use of graduate teaching assistants, adjunct and part-time faculty, and other instructional personnel has enabled institutions to keep their costs from rising beyond what they are now. The disadvantage has always been that our dependency on part-time faculty reduces the quality of instruction, and anecdotal evidence seems to support that view. The educational institutions that rely too heavily on adjunct faculty teaching on the Web, are concerned with two most important factors: control and quality. The academic program falling into the hands and control of administrators who make decisions based on financial expediency rather than academic quality. The quality assurance factor may be difficult to monitor, since the academy has neither the infrastructure nor the culture to support a close supervision of ubiquitous and disenfranchised adjunct faculty.
Web-based courses can be more effective than classroom, and it is becoming less expensive too. Nevertheless, to design a successful online learning program, you must address major learning factors such as customization and communication in teaching students based on their individual learning styles.
Effective course content depends on the protection of intellectual property - or, to be more direct, recognition that knowledge is a commodity to be bought and sold. However, most universities find it hard to accept that knowledge is a commodity. The best research and the best teaching depend on knowledge being "free". Web-based instruction extends the awkward dilemmas universities have already encountered in the commercialization of research.
Web-based Education Is Not an E-Training: To view Web-based teaching as just moving instructional programs online is extremely limiting. Such thinking may cause you to miss out on many other important and essential elements of Web-based teaching/learning; such as, interactivity, knowledge management, performance support, and virtual communities. Web-based communities are essentially student-to-teacher knowledge sharing networks. Communities of practice are usually thought of as knowledge management solutions, yet the time has come to leverage the powerful potentials of combining technology with human-centric approach to knowledge sharing. The right knowledge can make students more productive. An effective teaching strategy is a proven way of transferring knowledge. Students' needs, and not technology, should be the foundation of such a strategy, which include allowing students to think for themselves. Finally, it is important to know that instructing is not teaching, and teaching is not learning. Instructing involves conveying information, while teaching involves imparting knowledge. Teaching is worthless if it is not taught in a manner that enables the students to learn and think for themselves. The challenge for online instructors is in learning the best way to teach.
Today, Web-based course offerings continue to grow; however, much of the momentum has slowed, mostly because of the enormous costs of launching efficacious courses' online. Programs that are pedagogically sound but not fiscally sound may not be endorsed by the administration because of financial strain to the educational institution. Conversely, the faculty whom it represents will not endorse programs that are fiscally sound but not pedagogically sound. The best approach is to develop or maintain programs that are pedagogically and fiscally sound.
Should a Course Goes Online? Possibly. There are two key points to consider: the design of the course material and the level of support given to the student. Online courses are not an inexpensive option for universities. A high level of investment is needed in employing content developers who can use the full array of Web design tools (animation, hyperlink, interactivity) to develop unique online programs. Universities need to make long-term investments in order to obtain long-term returns. It is also unethical to deliver a course that does not meet the needs of the students.
The artless Web sites created during the Web's infancy were of necessity built only with simple HTML tags, and were forced to divide up their functionality and content into a maze (i.e., a web) of separate pages. This made a navigation scheme an unavoidable component of any Web site design, and of course, a clear, visually arresting navigation scheme was better than an obscure or hidden one. But many Web designers have deduced incorrectly from this that users want navigation schemes. Actually, students would be happy if there were no navigation at all.
Classification, including taxonomy, categorization, is to content as mapping is to geography. It is an essential tool that allows students to navigate it quickly and efficiently. Without clear classification a Web-based course becomes a jungle yard that is confusing and time wasting for both students and the instructor. It is not difficult to spot online courses that do not measure up to current standards. These products are a black eye to the online learning/teaching, which is already struggling for credibility and resources. Moreover, in designing your course Web site, avoid the following pitfalls: Poor overall appearance, Spelling/Grammar errors, No contact information, Broken internal/external links, Poor organization, and Confusing and/or difficult to read level.
The administrators are focusing on cost-effectiveness in which educators can deliver their intellectual materials targeting this transformation in teaching/learning. However, one may ask: What is the driving factors behind technology-based changes in teaching and learning? How does institutional culture fit into the picture? Do they have the necessary resources? Student-fee structures have always been unfair. When online students who live hundreds of miles away, must pay fees for campus services, this is a source of considerably greater discontent? The main concern is in targeting the transformation of learning/teaching through technology while reducing the cost.
On the other hand, the new state and federal policies, advances in services to students, new costing of technology methodologies, evolving accreditation and quality assurance issues, new e-learning projects and new institutional practices.
Instructor's Fee, Class Size, and Supervision: The impact of class size is of concern to all parties involved on Web-based learning/teaching. It takes 2 or 3 times as much time to teach an on-line course as a face-to-face course for both students and the Instructors. In almost all cases, the instructors teaching Web-based courses are being paid extra. The extra amount in ($) increases with the size of the class, and whether or not the instructor is the designer of the course content. This is a fair compensation that is practiced in almost at all educational institutions.
An on-line course that works for 15 or 20 students may be impossible with 100 students. Scientific courses (i.e., any course with strong mathematical contents) require much more one-to-one contact, with many iterative corrective-feedback. For these course the manageable size is about 15-20 students per instructor. However, the Liberal Art courses that are mainly based on developing ideologies, such as organizational behavior, sociology, etc. the class size can be as high as 30, they are getting engaged much more in the discussion forum and essays rather than problem-solving.
With face-to-face courses, where the students are met simultaneously, the repetition in providing student feedback may be much less than in asynchronous teaching. Therefore, on-line teaching may not scale as well as face-to-face teaching? In many institutions, the course designers are responsible for quality of the course by supervising (with pay) many sections of the same course being taught by their adjunct faculty members during the course delivery.
The supervisor has access to the course site and receives automatically a copy of all written communication between students and the instructor. However, the instructor is the only person who is in direct contact with he/her assigned students. Remember that, the Internet is a world of ends. You are at one end, and your instructor, your lecture materials, your collaborative learning, etc. are all at the other ends.
The supervisor must make sure how the instructor is going out and dealing directly with students needs, both to sensitize about what students really care about and to see how the instructor deal with students on a daily basis.
Information technology allows knowledge to spread near-instantly, and makes it accessible to everyone, i.e., breaking down the walls of education. Given the ease and speed at which information travels, every institution in the knowledge society --- not only schools, and universities, but also businesses and increasingly government agencies too. This is a fact that, your online program has to be competitive globally, even though some educational institutions will continue to be local in their activities. However, the Internet will keep students everywhere informed on what is available anywhere in the world, and at what price.
An Effective Open-House Strategy for Online Programs: Making all your teaching material accessible on the Internet, free of charge, to any user anywhere in the world is the key in the competitive online course enrollments. While this seems counterintuitive in the trend toward commercialization in today's educational markets, this strategy could prove successful not only economically, but could exploit also human capital resources that would foster innovation and strengthen the democratic foundation of a knowledge-based society.
Needs Assessment Plan to Learn About Student's Learning Style: Is there evidence to suggest that the needed assessment plan to learn about student's learning style was conducted and used to guide the development or redesign of the course content? Was a student's analysis conducted either as part of the needed assessment or as an independent analysis? A huge obstacle in the uptake of Web-based course is the current lack of a customized, tailored service. Any student requires a catered service. There is no single solution when it comes to learning.
Instructional Design: Is there evidence to suggest that an instructional style was used in designing or redesigning the course content? The instructors should understand their students learning styles, introduce them to content they didn't know they were looking for, and--most of all--keep them from using the search function. Were there various adaptations to the media and materials to ensure that a variety of learning styles were accommodated? The instructor needs to think more creatively about how to develop course designs that respond to a greater variety of learning styles rather than concluding that online learning is more suitable for one type of student than another.
Taking this approach rather than limiting enrollment in online courses for some students requires real change, since it requires us both to understand our students as individuals and to offer many more learning options within each course. The instructor needs to treat students as individuals rather than as homogenous groups. Rather than maintaining a fixed view of what all students want or what all students need, we need to be flexible and create environments that enable greater choice in learning styles for students. From my own experience I know that students differ, for example, in the amount of interaction that they require from me.
Course Reconfiguration: For existing face-to-face course, was the course specifically redesigned for delivery on the Web?
Weekly Lesson planning: Were lessons planned specifically with a Web-based delivery mode in mind?
Interactive instructional Strategy: Was interactivity considered to be the most important element in the implementation of the course? Was technical support available to the students and the instructors to assist in learning and teaching on the Web?
Instructional Delivery Systems: Was there any evidence to suggest that an analysis of the delivery system was conducted to ensure that it was suitable and readily available for both the instructor and the students?
Program Evaluation and Learner Assessment: Is there evidence to suggest that the course was evaluated or that learner assessment results were used to assist with the evaluation of the course? Is there evidence to suggest that the course was implemented with relation to other courses where information sharing provided a synergist impact on the outcome?
What is the best we can do to optimize the conditions for the instructor, and the learner? How do you maximize learning in a short amount of time and still emerge with a deep, internal body of knowledge?
Itemized Factors to Optimize the Teaching/Learning Environment
This section provides a continuum of perspectives on successful tips and strategies for online teaching/learning, particularly for those entering online courses for the first time.
It works if you Work on It: Unlike Web-based courses such as Information Systems, where the medium is the message, the first question to ask is whether the context determines the nature of the knowledge to be learned? This is an important question, because different sets of contextual practice related to the knowledge in question need to be acquired in order for learning to be successful. Computer competency is becoming as necessary in the modern workforce as writing competency, and it is necessary for educational institutions to adopt computer literacy requirements for their students.
Since the University of Baltimore was the first school to offer an all-online AACSB-accredited Web MBA, I had to make fast and important decisions, such as how to begin, how to operate, and how to make e-learning successful and enjoyable. In creating the Web sites in both courses, it was beneficial to see what is taking place on the WWW. I have devoted a considerable amount of time, searching the Web and collecting reliable relevant information (which was available at that time) and then published a few articles for professional journals such as "Statistics on the Web".
Although the content of my course is the same, the means of delivering are different. Launching headfirst into Web-based instruction is not for the timid. Many are jumping on the "bandwagon" and using Web-based materials in their teaching, but just how effective are the efforts? If you cannot teach better with technology, do not use it! Merely using Web-based materials in the classroom or assigning URLs for supplementary reading may not be an effective use of these materials. There must be forethought and careful planning in order to make this a meaningful experience for the educator and the student. Traditional education emphasizes learning content; learning the "what." The information age, however, requires people who are competent learners, who understand the process of learning, the "how."
In the very near future, we will be a "learning society" in which education is universally accessible, and lifelong learning is promoted among young students and working adults alike. To learn is to face this transformation.
Many managers are fitting the online learning offered by universities in their busy schedule because unlike short courses, or traditional training university programs strengthen the focus on learning and challenge managers to think about how learning can affect their organizations.
Learning and Teaching Style: I would like to insist that most parts of my courses required a particular learning style known as learning-to-learn. The effective and efficient approach for these courses is doing your homework assignments on a regular weekly basis and learning from your success and from your mistakes whenever I provide feedback to your individual work.
If your lecture notes could stop coddling your students for a moment and challenge, engage, and interact with them instead no one reads what you write online, maybe the problem is not with the students or the medium. Maybe you are just not saying anything interesting beyond their textbook.
The teaching material and teaching style must reflect the change in the real world, which students may not know because they have not been there yet. Unfortunately, some instructors are still using their well over 10-years old lecture notes. Adding to this problem by doubling the difficulties for students, some instructors are devoting not some but most of class time for students presentation and group work. The instructor does not want to lecture most of the time. A few do the extreme opposite "I know, you don't, I'm going to tell you." Some instructors may "buy a reputation" by many false means such as giving good grades to all (sometimes all A's), not giving any exams/test or projects.
Satisfying the Needs of Your Student: The following items are proven useful to student's learning process:
- Know each student's level of knowledge of the prerequisite(s) topics: Give them your prepared questionnaire to fill-in without writing their names on it. Analyze the data and update your lectures to meet their needs.
- Provide an overview of the course material in the first lecture. Ask them to write a 2-page essay on what this course is about. This assignment requires reflections from students, motivates them, and increases their interest about your course.
- Assign, collect, and grade homework on weekly bases. This enables you to find the weak spots of each student. Ask students to re-do the needed parts for a "full credit". If in the second attempt some students still have problem, then give them the solution set, together with a few words of encouragement to revise and resubmit for a few points credit.
- Make sure you are not focusing too much on speed. Make the rate of learning and the duration of learning a strategic choice for each student by providing her/him options.
- Put aside one class for review and students preparation for the midterm examination and one for the final. This review session includes putting together the topics they have learned every week to the wholeness of the material they have learned. Provide also a past sample exam to do as part of their homework.
- Prepare a "My response to the last class questions" in writing and distribute, during the next class. This reinforces and encourages students to ask good questions. It also helps if any student missed your last week lecture. You may like to put this collection of good questions on the course Web site under FAQ. This page also includes a section titled "How things can go wrong" which contains all common mistakes students made during weekly homework and their exams. This will be helpful for their later review and learning from their mistakes not to repeat it.
- In your midterm and final exams you may put some open-ended questions such as, "What are the three most significant topics you've learned up to now" Ask them to write a short paragraph for each.
Evaluating Your Success: Have Your Student Learned It? Web-based courses are being used either as credit or non-credit, While the use of these means of knowledge delivery may offer many advantages about developing more independent learners, there are also information handling skills which students must acquire.
As a new online moderator, you will need to know how to carry out online the everyday activities of a teacher: how to build relationships with and among your students, how to encourage participation, how to start and stop discussions, how to deal with the shy, the dominating, the aggressive and the just-plain-awkward. I do encourage you to re-interpret your skills in terms of the new medium and to identify where online teaching can make a unique contribution.
A teaching portfolio is a tightly written, reflective document, summarizing an instructor's approach to teaching and learning, and providing evidence of significant endeavors and achievements in teaching. In is relatively easy for an instructors to make a case for his/her effectiveness as researchers, but it has not been so easy to justify effective teaching. Having a teaching portfolio can:
- help demonstrate your understanding of professional issues associated with effective teaching and learning and support this with documentary evidence;
- assist in self-evaluation and professional development.
The credibility of the case you present in a portfolio depends largely on how well you link claims about effective teaching practice to evidence. The evidence you select and present should make the task of judging competence or excellence both straightforward and reliable.
Self-Assessment for Continuous Improvement in Instruction: We all have high expectations of what Internet can do for our education institutions. While we all agree that e-learning offers great promise, we must be certain how to achieve it. Clearly, if we do not set our sights high, we could fall significantly short of our goals.
I do consider the following items as important factors for continuous Improvement in my teaching:
- Throughout the semester, information (objectives/content/assessment) was clearly given.
- Student was able to locate and use suggested resources.
- The various components of the unit were clearly linked to one another.
- Activities in my course enhanced my students' range of knowledge and skills in the content area covered.
- The professor presented material clearly at the level I could understand.
- The professor appeared enthusiastic about the material being presented.
- The professor used techniques that stimulated my interest in the content being covered.
- The professor assisted students learning by being available for discussion/questioning/clarification.
- The professor appeared to be well prepared. That is, the professor as a source, providing messages containing the relevant knowledge of the field.
- The types of assignments seemed appropriate. This provides a good channel of communication between the student and the teacher.
- Written comments on material returned were helpful, informative, and returned in a reasonable time. The feedback is used as a means to measure the effect of online learning and teaching.
- The professor displayed good skills in methods of communication.
- The methodology and tools used facilitated the learning process.
- The professor taught me to think for myself. The student as the receiver of the knowledge, understood the material.
- The professor demonstrates confidence in his knowledge, well informed on technical and professional advances and his/her role as a teacher.
To teach effectively a teacher must develop a feeling for the subject; the teacher cannot make students sense its vitality if the teacher does not sense it on the first place. The teacher cannot share the enthusiasm when there is no enthusiasm to share. How the teacher makes the ideas may be as important as the ideas; the teacher must personally feel it to be important.
Clarity in Expectations: Goals and feedback must be unambiguous; otherwise, it is hard to mange your course. The successful implementation of Web-based teaching involves navigating the territory of human perceptions, reactions, and biases. Understanding these human-factors that surround online learning are the critical element for success. The instructor must have some readily well-thought available implementation plans to deal with issues such as resistance, commitment, and culture.
Integrity of Transactional Distance: There must be a commitment to the integrity of transactional distance. The instructor must use effective strategies to increase dialogue interactively. However, the instructor must adapt to minimize the engagement on personal matters. Otherwise, there is a point at which the dialogue about personal matters takes over, and the original learning objectives are compromised. The other problem might be that a very few students took over the dialogue, and turned it into a monologue.
Continuous Evaluation for the Quality: Almost every instructor uses an end-of-course evaluation form - otherwise known as "happy sheets". However, all would probably agree that it's dubious just how valuable this form of evaluation is. Unfortunately, far too often, it is simply a token set of questions that focus on how well the instructor did, whether the trainer was liked, if the courseware was useful, and other questions irrelevant to whether the course delivered its stated learning objectives.
If you have ever designed and delivered an online course, and seen disappointed students' evaluation reports, you have experienced requirement failure. If you have ever had some students rave about how great your course is, you have achieved the requirements of relative success.
The logical role of the professor has changed. Instead of evaluating the available texts and selecting the best, it is necessary to sift through a huge volume of possibilities and recommend the most legitimate. Even the most diligent scholar is unlikely to be able to read even a small fraction of the available material in his or her specialty. This is one reason that the traditional publication process still exists although the review process is done via Internet. The blind review process still serves the purpose of separating the valuable from the useless.
It is a fact that Web sites have a high rate of birth and death in the cyberspace. In time most sites will disappear. Web sites that are not updated frequently quickly lose their audiences. Keeping your site fresh, with thoroughness of the coverage and relevant takes a lot of work to attract large, highly focused visitors.
Quality Assurance as a Measuring Tool and Decision Procedure: Unfortunately, in some existing Web-based courses the asynchronous communication is inadequate in both the turn-around time, and the lack of psychological connection between the learners and the teachers. A Web-based course provides new challenges for a student regarding interactivity with the teacher and other students. There must be a Quality Assurance (QA) process for all components of a Web-based course such as hidden question within the notes, assignments, feedback, computer-assisted learning, and exams.
Every page of your course could and should encourage feedback from students. It makes sense to hear what students have to say. The more you hidden questions you put on your course materials, the sooner you can create a user experience that really connects and encourage thoughtful readings.
The QA provides a measuring tool for these components and promotes a decision procedure for allocation of resources for creating an effective growing learning community.
The following are a few items for considerations while doing the QA process:
- Organize: This good housekeeping ensures less confusion. Organization brings mental clarity and order.
- Systematize: This focuses on efficient and effective methods.
- Sanitize: Eliminate any junk files and maintain a clean and virus free environment.
- Standardize and Specify: The widespread adoption of education technologies for Web courses required some standards and specifications underpinnings of the courses created and taught by faculty that are needed for success. For example, to present, content weekly sequencing, homework assignment, record students answer and your feedback, and keeping creation an online student's profile containing all your communication with the student. Students must be given sufficient information about all aspects of the learning process.
- Sustain: This requires self-discipline to maintain a good practice of the above items.
Readiness to Start: A first step in implementing a pull strategy in which students use as much instructional resource as they need is to assess their knowledge and skill level as they enter the course or program and determine their preferred learning style. Based on those assessments, students can then elect the most efficient path through the required course materials. Familiarity with students includes: An initial assessment of each student's knowledge/skill level and preferred learning style, An array of high-quality, interactive learning materials and activities, Individualized study plans, Built-in, continuous assessment to provide instantaneous feedback, and appropriate, varied kinds of human interaction when needed
Make sure each individual student has the preparation needed to enter the course. You might ask each student to fill in a Questionnaire Form. For example, for a statistics course, knowledge of Algebra is required. To make sure every student has a necessary understanding of Algebra, I first give them a test for diagnostic purposes. Then, I work closely with a few of them for a week, to bring their knowledge to the required level. I do this (not by any facilitator), prior to starting the main course.
Giving Them Credit: Don't expect virtual students to do something you ask them to do without promising to give them some credit for doing it.
Understand Student's Needs: Understand students' feelings and experiences. Communicating by email may make it harder to convey feelings such as concern. Prompt replies to questions at least show we are paying attention. "One size fits all" seems to be bad advice. There are great differences among individual students.
Web-based Teaching Is More Time Consuming: Teaching on the Web is not merely about distance learning. It is a new kind of education and a new way of learning. The teacher has to be available everyday. Students expect instant response. For each course you are teaching, you should expect spending much more (two to three times) amount of time compared with face-to-face teaching.
Giving Them Choices: Student must have a variety of possibilities from which to choose. I tried to give more flexible assignments, giving the students choice of the site to review. More motivated students pick the "harder" assignments and feel challenged by them. To be motivated you have to make yourself a schedule and stick to it, and that can be tough sometimes. It is definitely difficult for some students to stay motivated because they do not have an instructor constantly caring about them in reminding when things are due and giving appropriate feedback on time.
Trusting You: Students must feel comfortable enough to set aside the defensive shield. In the face-to-face stetting, some student might get nervous; they will not speak up, nor ask questions. This should not be the case for online courses.
A Challenge to Teach Virtual Students: Match the abilities of the students to the task. When you're not in the classroom, you miss the glimmer of awareness in students' eyes. It is difficult to tell whether they are getting the subject or not. If you do not give them enough stimulation, they will get bored; if you apply too much they will feel overwhelmed. As every student is different, it seems the best approach is to give a variety of options. Again, the Internet can accommodate a variety of students better than a videotape, but it's an exponential increase in investment in producing the materials.
Provide Appropriate Enhanced Learning Objects: A learning object is any digital resource that can be used as an element to support learning experiences. Other common synonyms for learning objects are: content object, course object, knowledge object, modular building block, chunk, reusable information object, nugget, instructional component. Learning objects come in a variety of formats such as lecture notes, periodic modules, interviews, reading assignments from textbooks, simulations, and sample of quizzes and tests.
When selecting or developing learning objects, the teacher's first priority is to ensure that the lesson objectives determined by the curriculum form the foundation for the lesson plan; once defined and established, these same lesson objectives should in turn govern the design and use of learning objects. In deciding your selection process for your course enhanced learning objects, you might consider the following characteristics to increase their effectiveness:
- Size: Large enough to be used as an activity within a lesson or module, or large enough to be a lesson by itself.
- Reusable: Can be used to create other learning activities, either within a given content or domain area ("intramolecular") or in other content or domain areas ("inter-contextual"). For example, a Java applet showing how to do fit a function to a given set of data could be reusable in several units of a statistics course, as well as in units of economics, marketing, and production management courses (i.e., inter-contextual).
In many courses it is hard to design reusable learning objects. That means you need more skilled (i.e., higher paid) instructional designers who will probably take more time (and therefore more money) to make your e-learning reusable. So there is an actual dollar cost for reusability. Second, in order to make content reusable, instructional designers have to give up a number of useful techniques that they would otherwise employ to deliver the best learning experience possible.
Rather than aiming to create seamlessly and instantly reusable learning objects, one may try to think about which pieces of a course are likely to be useful in other courses. Moreover, whether one can invest a little extra time in the design now in exchange for saving a little more time later.
- Accessible: Easy to locate and use.
- Its Impact: Suitable for being used to create several enhanced learning objects or supporting multiple enhancements of a single learning object
- Durable: Retains utility over a long period of time. Durability is important for learning objects to maximize the value of time and effort expended on developing them, as well as reducing the time and effort needed to maintain online learning materials.
- Interoperable: Can be used on a variety of compatible platforms or course management systems.
In measuring the effectiveness of your own course (not that of the total academic program), you may consider student's performance, student's attitudes about your course, and overall student's satisfaction with respect to interactivity with you during the leaning process.
Computer-assisted Experiment as a Tool for Learning Concepts: Most online courses are not learning systems. The way the instructors attempt to help their students acquire skills and knowledge has absolutely nothing to do with the way students actually learn. Many instructors rely on lectures and tests, and memorization. All too often, they rely on "telling." No one remembers much that's taught by telling, and what's told doesn't translate into usable skills. Certainly, we learn by doing, failing, and practicing until we do it right. The computer assisted learning serves this purpose.
As you used to do experiments in physics labs to learn physics, computer-assisted learning enables you to use any online interactive tools available on the Internet to perform experiments. The purpose is the same, i.e., to understand statistical concepts such as the Central Limit Theorem by using statistical applets which, are entertaining and educating. The computer-assisted learning assignment provide students a "hands-on" experience which will enhance their understanding of the concepts and techniques covered in your course.
Computer-assisted learning is similar to the experiential model of learning. The adherents of experiential learning are fairly adamant about how we learn. Learning seldom takes place by rote. Learning occurs because we immerse ourselves in a situation in which we are forced to perform. You get feedback from the computer output and then adjust your thinking-process if needed.
Microsoft Research (MSR) is assembling a host of interactive objects, interfaces, virtual workspaces, simulation tools and gaming environments designed to transform Internet-based learning. The aim is developing many of these elements in a way so as to expose these learning objects to students and instructors as Web services.
Humanize the Topic: Learning process and product must have personal value to the student. Ask yourself: Is it personally relevant and significant for my student? Is the student truly interested in the question? Otherwise, on-line work is extraneous or even a distraction. I experienced this at first, but now I build the materials and tasks within the teaching framework and the assignment structure.
Students Accountability: Define outcomes for which students will be held accountable by setting goals, agreeing on tasks and roles, meeting deadlines, and prioritizing tasks, etc..
Hard Choices for Teacher and Easy Ones for Students: Teachers have to make choices before starting on new technology. New technologies can be seen as a means of linking students with each other or with you. The following questions are relevant to success of the teachers who create content for the course Web site by adding appropriate metadata to that content:
- Are students familiar with the topic or not at all?
- Does the learning process give the students the choice of choosing the resources?
- Has the professor taught the topic before?
- Has the professor published any articles on this topic before?
- How much time is available? Is there only one author or is there a team?
- What is the level of complexity of the content?
- What skills and experience are students expected to have?
- What resources are available for development?
- What is the expected life of the materials?
- What is the size of the class?
- What media may be used?
- What existing resources can be used?
- What opportunities will there be for interaction with learners?
- What will be the balance between resources directed at developing resources for learners and resources directed to supporting individual learners as they study?
- What will be the balance between resources directed at initial development of resources and resources directed at ongoing maintenance and enhancement of the course?
Core Items for Teaching Effectiveness Evaluation when evaluating a Web-based course, one may get bogged down in the container and lose sight of what should be the real focus of the contents, and its interactivity. The following list identifies some characteristics of effective, interactive Web-based learning to help you sort the best from the rest.
The instructors should have a student-centered Web site contents in mind while developing and refining their course materials: Where your students can actually find what they are looking for, and where they do not have to wait eons for some meaningless graphics to load. Where the organizational structure of the site matches the student's needs. Is this such a strange concept; putting students' needs first?
- The professor made it easy for me to know the standard of the work expected.
- The professor motivated me to do my best work.
- The professor made a lot of comments on my work.
- The professor gave me a reasonable amount of time to understand the work I had to learn.
- The professor seemed to understand difficulties I might be having with my work.
- The professor normally gave me helpful feedback on how I was doing.
- The professor was good at clearly explaining new ideas.
- The professor asked me questions just about facts.
- The professor made the content of the unit interesting.
- The professor made it clear right from the start what she/he expected from students.
- Overall, I was satisfied with the performance of this professor.
What the online students strive for is "what I need when I need it." The availability, ease of access, and good classification of the course contents are needed. Students see the assignments when they need them and receive the appropriate response when they need them. This is indeed a new way of teaching and learning.
Technological Aspects and Issues: A well-designed Web-based course must make its structure and organization as clear as possible. Users do not want to waste time solving the mystery of where resources and information are hidden. A well-designed Web-site should not act as the user's opponent, pitting him/her against the obstacle of finding the needed information. Failure in learning from your students' feedback, ultimately, will cause the student to drop the course, which have been common occurrences.
One may provide the following Online Questionnaire to the students within the first few weeks of semester to allow for any opportunity to improve and/or modify the technology aspects of the course.
A Typical Online Questionnaire for the Technological Concerns:
Good relationships are built on mutual understanding. When students can use the course site to get the targeted information they require, they are more likely to be in touch with the instructor on a more regular basis. This kind of interactivity promotes stronger relationships and deeper bonds between the students and the instructor.
The following paragraph highlights the process of collecting feedback from my students to improve the course Web site intellectual materials, and its structure . Customize it to fit the needs of your students:
Tell me what you think of your course Web site. By filling out this form you are helping me to improve my services to you. Send me an email if you didn't find what you want, or are dissatisfied in some way with the course site, or would like to see a resource added, or would like to tell me what you did like or just want to give some feedback. The form contains important components of the course site, and I will take your comments and feedback into consideration to improve it.
In the Search of a Performance Measure: How You Measure Success Regarding the search for performance measure for an online course that is definable and measurable on a numerical scale, e-learning system has been already adapted a point-of-sale system to measure its impact on the bottom line.
Many administrators already realized that it is hard to get teachers to discuss and expand on the material for online students. One effective remedy for it is to convince the teachers that direct communication is a key element to the online learning success. In many instances, unfortunately, the teachers write course guides for online courses and there is hardly, if at all, any involvement of teachers with students. Often when authoring course guides, teachers tend to make itemized lists of points or restate verbatim what the students' textbooks have already stated.
There must be interaction between the teacher and individual student for in order to build a growing community of learners. Having the course material online is not the essence of online courses, but the energy that flows into it throughout the semester. This energy is the enthusiasm of the teacher to care, motivate, and make sure students understand the material for themselves.
Some of my readers may even say, "It is hard to get teachers to discuss and expand on the material for online students." I do agree with you, it's an unfortunate environment, however, there are remedies for overcoming this difficulty, by means of asking the teachers the following two questions:
a) How do you know for sure that your students understood the material you've assigned?
b) You do not want to find out, say at the of time period, that most of your students are left behind. How do you make sure each individual student's progress is adequate?
To enforce communication among the teacher and students, I believe, the frequent homework assignments as I have already recommemded on this site, is a must. Homework assignments and feedback from the teacher could be used as one of the performance measurement factors for the teachers. An enthusiastic teacher changes problems into challenges.
High Tech and High Touch: Because the instructor cannot see their students he or she must maintain a high level of engagement. While lecture and other types of information dumps have their place, encouraging students to introduce their own experience and reactions is critical to the success of the online course. It helps to keep the training "high tech and high touch". Setting up an environment in which students may participate and share using multiple outlets, students stay involved and are motivated to come back to you.
Dialogue and Knowledge Sharing with Your Colleagues: Knowledge management and peer-to-peer enthusiasts share a common desire to realize the true potential of Internet course delivery. Establish dialogue among other faculty members to make sure your course is relevant to what students are learning from other professors. This knowledge sharing among faculty enables students to see the place of your course within the program they are pursuing. For example, every course in your MBA program is, without exception, about making good decisions in a particular aspect of business from accounting to marketing. For example, Economists like to refer to their discipline as the science of choice. And they often use the definition "a set of principles for allocating scarce resources among competitive means" All courses in your MBA program might possibly seem to you as pieces of a sculpture scattered around. I know that you have immeasurable longing to see the whole. Your course must bring together what belongs together by means of a unification, and integration with other courses.
Grading Homework Assignments: The process of grading and providing the feedback has the following life cycle. Each individual student submits the homework assignments, mostly via email on weekly-bases. I check, and if there are errors, I provide feedback and ask the student for revising the submitted work for some credit, if in the revised version there are still some errors, then another revision is encourage, with some credit. This cycle goes on till student think for himself/herself to come up with correct set of homework. The overall grade is determined by number of revisions. This process is done on weekly based. There is no teamwork in my quantitative-based courses. However, students are encouraged to exchange ideas among themselves or via the Forum.
Students Are More Than Your Customers: Question: What makes a restaurant experience at one establishment more pleasant and attractive to a customer? Answer: Delivery of timely, quality, personalized service. The same applies here for the educators. Technology helps us to deliver more personalized, timely service to students. It's the definition of quality for existing and coming technologies that we need to define. What is quality education in today's global society? What is quality use of technology in educational delivery? I do advocate individual mentoring. You should allow "jumping in". This brings about the needed trust and effective communication in mentoring your students. The secret of dealing successfully with an online student is not to be a teacher but a mentor.
Mentored-learning can mean anything from sending a student a couple of emails to diligently monitoring a student's progress twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We need to rethink how we approach helping students' learning process when we develop our online courses for them. We need to realize that even though our online courses are mostly autonomous, remote, and specific, our students are none of these. They exist in a space defined in three spatial dimensions, a time, a context, and have further dimensions in play corresponding to expectations, emotions, at least five senses, and real need to understand the course contents.
The student-instructor engagement might become a healthy emotional too. While negative emotions tend to make us remember data and details clearly, positive emotions help us remember more complex things. For that reason, an e-learning experience that does not engage our emotions is unlikely to hold our interest-or leave us with much long-term learning.
As do all learners, adults need to be shown respect. Instructors must acknowledge the wealth of experiences that adult participants bring to the classroom. These adults should be treated as equals in experience and knowledge and allowed to voice their opinions freely in class.
Training Is Needed for Making an Online Instructor: Teaching on the Web is a new kind of education and a new way of learning. It is not enough to put the faculty member's course online. Rather we use the faculty member's expertise to define the learning outcomes, the applications of that learning, the content, and potential difficulties that students may encounter.
There are already some professional learning services that provide training and Online-Instructor Degree. These programs aim to train and certify training professionals in online instruction practices and design.
Teacher and Student Are One: An important principle in teaching on the Web is that a good test of whether a student has learned the material or not is whether this student is able to successfully communicate it to others. Since we measure teacher performance in much the same way, the emphasis here is on having the student identify himself or herself as "a teacher" early in taking your course. In fact, after having some experience, you will realize that the teacher and student are one. Otherwise, a student may ask, "I am attending an online college for the first time and I am starting to get a bad taste in my mouth about the amount of effort that some of my professors are putting forward in my courses. I feel like some of them are 'skating' and all I am paying for is a book, a posted syllabus, and a final exam. Have any of you been to an online school, and what where your experiences like? How did you feel about the quality of education you were getting?"
Student-Teacher Active-engagement Process Defines Success
Active learning is the hallmark of the online teaching/learning. Active learning includes the development of outside Web sites review, Web-based presentations, and other creative means for engaging students actively in the construction of knowledge. A Web-based course is a fabric of individuals above all else, not a classroom. Instructors have to connect with the students, not just present, but engaging individual students.
Students will work in an active learning setting known as the collaborative learning environment. To accomplish this, I will pair you with another student to provide you with immediate support. Communication is a vital aspect of any distance learning program and it is especially true with this one. That is so you don't feel isolated. You won't be, and I don't want you to feel like you are.
In an effective collaborative learning environment a group of learners comes together to share and learn from one another. You are held together by a common interest in a body of knowledge and are driven by desire and need to share problems, experiences, insights, templates, tools, and best practices. Active participation in collaborative learning deepens your knowledge by interacting on a daily basis. It is a channel for knowledge to flow and is a means to strengthen the social fabric in online leaning environment. Take away the social fabric and what you have is essentially a person with a computer and no education.
Collaborative learning usually is a three-stage phenomenon. The first is making friends online with whom students feet comfortable communicating. The second stage is community conferment (acceptance) which occurs when students are part of a long, thoughtful, threaded discussion on a subject of importance after which participants felt both personal satisfaction and kinship. The third stage is camaraderie, which is achieved after long-term or intense association with others involving personal communication. Each of these stages involves a greater degree of engagement in the dialogue.
While collaborative learning is sharing what students know and have learnt, the instructor must provide the topics. It is important that sharing and learning to be done around a defined topic and within an established well-defined context; otherwise, students are left with no knowledge or understanding of how, when and why they should participate.
Web-based learning focuses on collaborative skills, which learners develop through experience as they perform work and complete tasks. The best approach your students learn is when they are actively involved in the process. Creating such an environment allows the learners to become involved, to interact with information in ways that enable them to convert information into the concepts, and to acquire knowledge while thinking for themselves.
Web-based courses that engage and empower students increase their enjoyment and encourage them to share and participate in their learning process. The Internet can make it much easier for students to work together. However, in collaborative learning the following is necessary for successful teamwork.
- The team must be a real team, rather than a team in name only.
- It has compelling direction for its work.
- It has an enabling structure that facilitates teamwork.
- It operates within a supportive educational context.
- It has expert teamwork coaching.
There are many reasons why a few students are reluctant to participate in collaborative learning process and share what they know:
- They may forget to share.
- They fear the complex technology.
- They are busy and do not have time to share.
- They are assigned to subject they feel are unworthy of their contribution.
- They face with poor technology infrastructures, and lack of design expertise.
- They do not want the additional work and responsibility that goes with sharing.
- They lack the cultural adaptation which a leading reason why collaborative learning fails to work for a globally distributed audience.
Since humans have evolved to speak face to face, it takes more brainwork to adapt to new forms of communication. With the phone, for instance, we can hear but not see, so our brains have to work harder to communicate. E-mail is a step worse, since we can neither see nor hear. Current study shows that e-mail takes five to 15 times longer to get the same message across compared to speaking face to face. Therefore, having a live person that students can talk to during the office hours is proven to me to be very effective in learning.
The single biggest advantage in online learning programs is the interactivity they offer. Though the instructor and the learner are at different locations, participation in learning is by itself a positive learning experience. The Web-based learning atmosphere allows more effective interaction among the students and instructor. Therefore, it can be as effective as traditional classroom learning environment where the space, seating, etc., could be inadequate. However, the lack of elements inherent in face-to-face communication is doubling the difficulties by the online communication lacking opportunities to give and save face.
What's exciting about the Web-based courses is the ability for students to go online and to think before talking with others in their own voices. In order for the course to work, students an effective engaging environment is needed to express themselves in ways that are as idiosyncratic as they are.
As a new online moderator you will need to know how to carry out online the everyday activities of a teacher: how to build relationships with and between your students, how to encourage participation, how to start and stop discussions, how to deal with the shy, the dominating, the aggressive and the just-plain-awkward. I do encourage you to re-interpret your skills in terms of the new medium and to identify where online teaching can make a unique contribution.
Students and Teacher Are Partners: To Educe means to bring out a potential existence. Education, therefore, is a process of intellectual growth. The biggest impact of the Internet is to change the point of view that education is something that can and should be delivered. Education comes from learning, not teaching. The world's best teachers are not repositories of knowledge, but skilled navigators who lead young minds to discovery and understanding. Learning is about reinventing the wheel, and may all learners have the opportunity to do so. The educator is merely a midwife in this process.
The concept of Web content management systems removes the Webmaster bottleneck and puts subject matter experts in charge of content creation by learners' interfaces that turn students into content contributors. Learning on the Web requires partnerships. People learn best when they learn in context. It requires partnerships between teacher and individual student, between the course and the relevant the discipline.
Why some students leave online courses without finishing them? One possible factor is most some Web-based courses are too long and unfortunately boring, not meeting the needs of the students. This could be also the feeling of isolation by the students meaning students had lost interest because of lack of engagement through interactivity.
There are certain anxieties associated with taking an online course for the first time. Learning anxiety comes from being afraid to try something new for fear that it will be too difficult, and being anxious that one may fail in the attempt. Does our old learning style that have worked for us in the past, will work with the online course? Courage is needed to overcome this fear, none of us would ever try something new unless we experienced and overcome the survival anxiety. This second types of anxiety is the horrible realization that in order to make it, you might have to change your learning style. These anxieties might contribute to dropout.
The dropout rate for online educational programs is much higher than that of traditional educational programs. In my courses, the dropout rate is zero. However, I had a few cases where a few students became frustrated with the weekly demands on their time and effort. The reason was I had to make sure that every student understood the material. I used e-mail to encourage these students to persist and to express what they did not understand.
Effective instructors understand that if there is not a feedback-strategy behind online teaching/learning course, it is bound to fail. If you don not measure by a numerical scale the course success; you may offering equivalent of junk mail-lots of stuff that may not have any impact.
Assessment can be an effective means of gathering critical information about student and course performance. However, the preparation time required of instructors to create quizzes, to grade papers, and to provide feedback to students can be overwhelming, particularly in large courses.
Web-based courses must be viewed as student-centered activity that rely on a combination of high-quality, interactive learning, asynchronous and synchronous interaction, and individualized mentoring on the other end. They are modularized and self-paced, may include group experiences as appropriate and desirable, are delivered anywhere (sites, homes, and workplaces), diagnose students' skill and knowledge level as they begin the course.
What kinds of approaches to online learning will improve the quality of student learning? Greater quality means greater individualization of learning experiences for students. The ability to customize the learning environment so that each student can achieve in a variety of ways increases the likelihood that learning success online will be higher than learning success in the face-to-face setting, dominated by a one-size-fits-all approach.
The key goal is for the students to become engaged in active "doing" in the learning process-that is, to move beyond merely reading text. Helping students feel that they are a part of a growing learning community is critical to persistence, learning, and satisfaction. In many cases, email or other means of human contact is necessary for more than just learning content. Encouragement, praise, and assurance that they are on the right learning path are also critical feedback components, helping students get through rough times and keep on working. Knowing that someone is there to help when they get stuck and to get them moving again gives students the confidence that they can succeed.
To summarize, the following items must be considered by the Web-based Course Delivery Center (including teams of faculty, instructional designers, learning theorists, and IT staff, sometimes in partnership with commercial providers) within the educational institutions:
Student's Preparation for Taking Online Courses: I have observed that, some students enrolled in online courses have difficulty adjusting to the new environment, while others actively participate, e.g., in discussions boards. And the third group is somehow lagging behind. These difficulties can be overcome by a preparation process before taking any online course, such as orientation sessions, and efficient time management skills to staying focused, etc. Adding to these, other factors include speed of Internet connections, server problems and hardware issues like available memory. These factors certainly have major impact on students' perceptions of online learning.
Interactivity Is a Must: The power of learning and making meaning at the interactive, conversational level is already well recognized.
The web offers increasing sophistication in the ways it can present course materials and facilities it can offer to students. Techniques are available which enhance web pages, allowing the user to interact with the page and influence the type and content of courses being offered. Creative and easily accessible techniques are increasingly being used to provide a range of interactive features for teaching and learning.
Students will enjoy the course more if they are able to complete the tasks. Interactive online materials can give the student more rapid feedback than when work is turned in on paper and the evaluation comes back in a week.
In interactivity, what I seek is "what's going on in the student's head", in the dialogue between 'what I already think I know' and 'what I am trying to understand at this moment with the help of these resources'. If the computer can facilitate this, then hooray. But let's face it, books have facilitated this dialogue for the 'mentally engaged' student for centuries! The problem we have always faced is that you cannot see that interaction taking place in the student's mind, so there are no guarantees; and How do you get the mental engagement in the first place? It can be an excuse to assume that interaction with a keyboard is a visible sign of mental engagement and interaction.
Student's Progress Portfolio: One of the main advantages of online is that the notion of effective learning is completely tractable. Instructors know everything that every student did, and they have the opportunity to measure the impact of student's learning on a continual base.
To keep a progress record of your contact which each student, it is necessary to create a separate electronic folder, e.g., in Word.Doc. Such a folder contains also all his/her weekly assignment. You can make comments at the beginning, within, and at the end for student to make any necessary corrections. You may even make any suggestion for further work to be done by student making sure clear understanding of the topic of the week. Your comment should be made in color or bold font and then saving it back to the folder. The week before the midterm and the final examinations send an email with the folder as its attachment. This provides a rubric for the students so they review and know their own progress and learning from their past mistakes. The contents of the folder also are beneficial to you when it comes to overall course grading. Having such as portfolio provides students with the evidence of how well they have performed by the end of semester thus I have never had any complain form my students regarding their final grades.
Whenever interactivity is implemented effectively, the result is self- evident. As in a real classroom, one can automatically feel a connection to the teacher, even without meeting in person. The learner is able to express his/her feeling of excitement in learning, or perturbed about something he/she has done wrong.
How to Promote Teacher's Interactivity with Students? The Internet has brought about dramatic changes in interactivity and knowledge development, but extended educators should promote the same kind of interactivity, discussion, inclusion, etc. in print media and face-to-face instruction.
One way of motivating students and instructors to get actively involved in learning and teaching, respectively, is to have a few hidden questions within each weekly lecture note. Students are responsible for those questions, too. These hidden questions are open-ended type, and not exercises. I find this approach effective in promoting interactivity with online students.
Knowledge Sharing with Students: Incorporating student knowledge sharing into the design of our computer-mediated learning environments also allows us to create true online communities in which students communicate outside the boundaries of the classroom. Only the learning resources must be delivered that bring about the desirable results such as focused learning, diffused learning to open your students' minds to new ways of developing thinking-for-themselves.
The External Web Site Review by Students: When the external links are up and running, Web site review, as a part of homework assignments will offer an online library of networked content that will allow instructors to pick and choose best-of-breed instructional materials. Experts around the world will develop and contribute modules of information specific to their own expertise. These modules constantly evolving in providing different perspectives of the same specific topics being learned and can be tweaked to students.
The external Web site review is to be considered as weekly electronic field trip and electronic invited speaker for enhancing the learning process for the topics covered in your course.
Students should think about these questions as you review the assigned Web sites for submission as a part of their homework:
- What does the Web site provide?
- How do you benefit from online material?
- What are some of the distinguishing characteristics of the Web site?
- How is learning facilitated using the Web site as an educational tool?
These reviews allow your students to understand the same concepts covered in your Web-based course from different perspectives and as a motivating tool for engaging in the learning process.
The content of an online course is usually identical to the on-campus classes, but the delivery method is different. Instead of attending weekly on-campus sessions, students take the course as an Asynchronous Learning experience, which means learning from anywhere at anytime using your own computer. Instruction will be delivered via Web pages, and e-mail.
Anatomy of Online Courses
Most likely, students will use the discussion forum for class communication. They are encouraged to raise questions and to respond to one another. The instructors also have online office hours , during which they will be in their offices and available by phone, fax, and for "live" discussion in the forum.
The instructors also arrange a "Student Orientation" session, during which you will learn how to study effectively and efficiently for the Web-based courses , prior to taking their course.
To succeed in a Web-based course, students should be motivated, and self-directed. Instructors who fail to engage and support students from the start may cause students to expect an easy ride from online courses, when in fact, the online courses are far more rigorous than face-to-face courses. The following are the minimum required characteristics to complete the course work at a distance successfully:
- Seriousness: Online classes are not for goof-offs who seek easy credits. Virtual students should expect to spend at least as much time on homework as those in traditional courses.
- Self-Disciplined: It is up to students to budget their time and keep up with assignments. They must create -- and stick to -- their own schedules.
- Self-reliance: The ability to independently solve problems or to research information is needed. Questions can be answered by e-mail, but that takes time.
- Careful Reading Skills: Because classroom lectures are replaced primarily by written words, students need to be careful and thoughtful readers.
- Computer Skills: Students must be comfortable using computers and the Internet. They must become Netizens (Net Citizens). That includes e-mail, Web browsing, downloading, and word processing.
Online learning enables you to extract information from different types of resources anytime, anywhere.
No one need be ashamed of what he or she does not know or how long it takes to master new information. Learning on the Web can be nonjudgmental and self-paced. Using advantages of this technology to expand learning opportunities is particularly crucial, because we live in a time when learning is becoming a necessity, not a luxury .
A Typical Weekly Assignment: Most online courses are not learning systems. The way the instructors attempt to help their students acquire skills and knowledge has absolutely nothing to do with the way students actually learn. Many instructors rely on lectures, memorization, and tests. All too often, they rely on "telling." No one remembers much that's taught by telling, and what's told doesn't translate into usable skills. Certainly, we learn by doing, failing, and practicing until we do it right. The weekly homework assignment serves this purpose.
- Homework: Weekly homework will be assigned and graded by the instructor.
- Computer Assignments: The computer-assisted learning assignments provide you a "hands-on" experience, which will enhance your understanding of the concepts and techniques covered in this course.
- Web Sites Review: Think about these questions as you review the assigned Web sites:
- What does the Website provide?
- How do you benefit from online material?
- What are some of the distinguishing characteristics of the Website?
- How is learning facilitated using the Web as an educational tool?
In general there are at least five criteria for an intersting and useful Web site:
- Accuracy: Accuracy covers who is the author and can you contact him or her, the reviewer should ask why this document was written. What is the purpose?
- Authority: The reviewer should verify who published the site as well as was the publisher separate from the webmaster.
- Objectivity: The evaluator should determine what are the goals and objectives of the site. Is the information marketing related or is it for informational purposes. This material is reviewed within the objectivity criteria.
- Currency and Coverage: Currency should be determined by the date of the last review. Has the material been updated recently or is the material old.
- Packaging: Are the images and text pleasing to the eye? Is the contact organized in a logical sequence? Is all of the information cited appropriately?
Your reviews allow you to understand the same concepts covered in your textbook and the lecture notes from different perspectives.
- Your Term Project: Students propose their term project topics in a great variety. A good project you would like to work on is the greatest value-added in this course. For example, you may decide for your term project to write a critical and comparative review of a collection of Web sites on a particular topic of your interest covered in your course.
Each of the four items carries 10% of the final course grade. The midterm and final examination contribute 30% each to the final course grade.
Few-minutes Paper: Students must answer the three questions therein, before starting the next lecture unit each week. Students' replies to these questions enable me to serve them better in ensuring their "good quality" of learning.
The exams are not in any particular format so expect both standard numerical problem solving and conceptual type questions. The exams will test your understanding of the material covered in this course. The main purpose of taking the examinations is to find out how reflective your mind is in answering a set of questions correctly. The objective is to maximize the number of correct solutions, subject to a limited time constraint (a 2-hour session). Sample of past exams are available on time for your inspection.
Preparation and Instruction for Online Exams
Your midterm and final examinations are closed-book and closed-notes. However, you may use a few pages of your own prepared summary-sheets. In preparing for the actual test, you are advised to review all the topics we have covered, to review past homework assignments, and then prepare a summary-sheet containing a few pages.
Summary-Sheet: Your mind is what your brain does. Self-consciousness is self-knowledge. The process of becoming conscious distributes what you know throughout your brain via the brain neural network branches, unlike memorizing, which connects only two nodes of the network. The availability and expansion of what you know throughout your neural network branches make the information processing of your brain accurate. Thus, you possess a reflective, brilliant knowledgeable mind.
The process of making your own summary-sheet is the idea of contemplating the topics you have learned. By definition of esthetics, the longer you contemplate on what you have learned the more beautiful the subject matter becomes. Beauty and contemplation is distinguished from other mental manifestations; contemplation is the result of the perfect apprehension of relations and topics.
Use the following Guide to prepare your Summary Sheets:
The above process helps to crystallize your mind to be reflective and responsive to questions posed about topics you've learned in this course; and reinforces the topics in your mind.
Proctor: Remember that the site at which you take your exams must be approved by your professor. Both the midterm and final examinations must be taken under the supervision of a Proctor. A signed Proctor Verification Sheet must accompany the complete examination material for an examination to be considered valid.
Your proctor may fax or even send your handwritten solutions by mail.
Academic Honesty: All students are expected to follow the Academic Honor Code of UofB: Academic honesty is based on the principle that one's work is one's own. The University of Baltimore Academic Integrity Policy encourages all members of the University to accept responsibility for taking academic honesty seriously by being well-informed, by contributing to a climate in which honesty is valued, and by considering responsible ways to discourage dishonesty in the work of others. Students, faculty, administrators, and staff should not condone or tolerate cheating, plagiarism, or falsification, since such activity negatively affects all members of the academic community." Academic Integrity Policy and Procedures. Student Handbook: 2, II.B., 1994.
Retaining Your Students:
Dropouts from the Online Degree Programs
Introduction: Teaching on the Web is not merely about distance learning. It is a new kind of education and a new way of learning. The teacher has to be available everyday. Students expect instant response. For each course you are teaching you would expect to spend two to three times as much time as with face-to-face teaching.
Today, some online educators are concerned with the high dropout rates in their courses. They often assert that student satisfaction and performance can be improved by building learner communities. Some instructors even redesign the course after a significant number of dropouts. On a number of occasions to 'get the group on track' as people dropped from the course, they restructure the course hoping that it averts more serious conflict and dysfunction.
Unfortunately, there is very little awareness of the dropout problem within the education field, a sector that has traditionally operated on an isolated basis in the belief that schooling is an end in itself.
If a student dropped a course it might be because of a few reasons. Perhaps the student got what he/she wanted out of the course or went through parts of the course, realized it would not help, and just stopped going through the material. The question is whether the online course was a failure, e.g., it was too long, or was not tailored to the audience. It is a fact that the online learning/teaching by itself is not failing, but some courses' paradigm is to blame. The zero dropout rate strategic planning is of great importance for the educator, I believe and it is a main factor when measuring course quality.
Causes and Preventive Strategies: The following are the common causes of dropouts with some effective preventive actions. Dropout is not a sudden decision on a student's part. The term "dropout" is a gradual process and must be redefined to mean a person who has given up serious effort to meet his/her responsibilities. Therefore, diagnosis and preventive action are the instructor's responsibility.
The students' needs, context, knowledge, skills, and experience of instructors are the essential items that every online course designer needs to consider and measure their impacts and their effectiveness. Otherwise, the team is going to design something that seems useful, but they will never know if it actually helps the students
The cost and unreliability of your courseware and the Internet connections might be increasing gradual factors in dropouts. Hence, some institutions decided to distribute teaching materials to students on CD-ROMs. However, students are required to go online to access the library, complete administrative tasks, and participate in forums. This interactivity is needed since your students are starting a class and they have no teacher. Students want the content to enable them to learn in a step-by-step, sequential style.
Students are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with pre-packaged content such as CD-ROMs online, because they do not receive one-to-one personal attention. The real value in online teaching/learning comes from the serving the individual student's needs. There is no replacement for the online discussions, and above all the one-on-one communication with a qualified and caring instructor.
Students need supportive learning environments. I advocate individual mentoring. While students are on their own, they should not feel they are left alone. The CD-ROM delivery requires students to use their judgments more, to make sense of the information provided, and to form connections among themselves. Therefore, students are required to be both highly motivated and to possess the study skills required to manage their learning. Unfortunately, this style of delivery closely resembles the traditional "independent study", which is not for everyone.
For Large Classes Facilitators Are Needed: Nowadays we witness the widespread diffusion of online facilitator services, for instance, in exam preparation. Online learning has prompted an array of learning practices and techniques that have been transposed to the Web. These techniques are now mixing more and more with facilitator services. Instructors must be concerned with dropout rates and how to compensate for the lack of face-to-face communication.
Facilitators are often assigned a small group of students enrolled in the course (not exceeding 20) and are expected to:
Unlike the face-to-face setting, where the responsibilities are ranked with emphasis on teaching then learning, for the online courses the emphasis is on learning then teaching. From my experience in both settings, I have realized that, for online courses, students and teacher are partners in the learning process. In many courses, students must create their own support system by, for example, e-mailing classmates for help. However, when a few students drop out of the class, then the whole support system collapses.
The following sample of strategies has proven to be effective and welcomed by students: Provide timely response.
Change may not be easy, but it is necessary, inevitable, and often beneficial. Whether your students succeed or fail depends in part upon how well you leverage your full intellectual capital. Keeping interactivity with students, and following the factors I outlined will help to safeguard both instructor and students in the process. Understand students' feelings and experiences. "One size fits all" seems to be bad advice. There are great differences among individual students.
Match the abilities of the students to the task. When you're not in the classroom, you miss the glimmer of awareness in students' eyes. It is difficult to tell whether they are getting the subject or not. If you do not give them enough stimulation, they will get bored; if you apply too much they will feel overwhelmed. As every student is different, it seems the best approach is to give a variety of options.
The administrators might ask, as a stating point, "If I replace my traditional teaching with Web courses, how much will I save?" As a strong advocate for Web teaching/learning, I find that approach flawed. How much of the course budget should be spent on facilitator-student interaction? With current technology costs, I would say about 10% of direct enrollment fee.
To design a successful online learning program, you must address major learning factors such as customization and communication in teaching students based on their individual learning styles. There are two key points to consider: the design of the course material and the level of support given to the student. Online courses are not an inexpensive option for universities. It is also unethical to deliver a course that does not meet the needs of the students.
The impact of class size is of concern to all parties involved on Web-based learning/teaching. It takes 2 or 3 times as much time to teach an on-line course as a face-to-face course for both students and the Instructors. In almost all cases, the instructors teaching Web-based courses are being paid extra. The extra amount in dollar increases with the size of the class, whether or not the instructor is the designer of the course content. This is a fair compensation that is practiced at most educational institutions. An online course that works for 15 or 20 students may be impossible with 100 students Instructors on the 15-week courses that I supervised were in charge of about 18 students each and expected to spend 15 hours per week on average. A dedicated online instructor is indeed a 24-Hour Professor.
Toward Improving Retention: The dropout rate for online educational programs is much higher than that of traditional educational programs. In my courses, the dropout rate was zero. However, I had a few cases where a few students became frustrated with the weekly demands on their time and effort. The reason was I had to make sure that every student understood the material. I used e-mail to encourage these students to persist and to express what they did not understand.
The main reason for dropout is that the student feels no one cares. When the student receives e-mail from the professor, the student is more likely to continue. The advantages of continuous assessment include an increase in the time that students spend studying, a higher level of familiarity with tested material, a higher level of comfort with the testing process, immediate feedback, and the ability to see the result of effort on achievement. Assessing students' understanding of concepts is very effective in detecting areas in which students are not grasping the concepts, thereby enabling corrective actions to be taken in a timely manner, and in preparing students for higher-level activities in the computer labs. Weekly assignments help students keep up with the readings and recognize holes in their understanding, and they promote understanding of the content. There are always a few students in every Web-based course who need their instructor's constant reinforcement and encouragement throughout the duration of the course. Once students are engaged in the learning process, it ensures maximum retention and understanding.
The most effective means of reducing dropout rate is preparation by both, the instructor and students. The creation and implementation of a required online student-orientation course certainly helps significantly. Poorly designed or untested Web-utility or untrained instructor make students more ignorant and therefore cause dropouts. One way for to minimize this risk is to leverage relationships with subject matter experts who have the information training designers need for any given course and can be exemplary instructors, and supervisors.
There are always a few students in every Web-based course who need their instructor's constant reinforcement and encouragement throughout the duration of the course. The following are some effective factors that an instructor can do to increases students with different learning styles:
The instructors' attitudes and actions have a significant impact on the success of online teaching /learning. Once students are engaged in the learning process, it ensures maximum retention and understanding. Web-based courses must be viewed as student-centered activity that rely on a combination of high-quality, interactive learning, asynchronous and synchronous interaction, and individualized mentoring.
What kinds of approaches to online learning will improve the quality of student learning? Greater quality means greater individualization of learning experiences for students. The ability to customize the learning environment so that each student can achieve in a variety of ways increases the likelihood that learning success online will be higher than learning success in the face-to-face, or distance setting, dominated by a one-size-fits-all approach.
Encouragement, praise, and assurance that they are on the right learning path are also critical feedback components that help students get through rough times and keep on working. Knowing that someone is there to help when they get stuck and to get them moving again gives students the confidence that they can succeed.
Taking this approach rather than limiting enrollment in online courses for some students requires real change, since it requires us both to understand our students as individuals and to offer a variety of learning options within each course. The instructor needs to treat students as individuals rather than as homogenous groups. Rather than maintaining a fixed view of what all students want or what all students need, we need to be flexible and create environments that enable greater choice in learning styles for students. From my own experience I know that students differ, for example, in the amount of interaction that they require from me.
Web-based learning requires changes in opportunities to learn. Instructors must promote the idea that the learning value does not come sorely from lecture notes but from being an unprecedented effective and pleasant "human touch" experience. The new opportunities are affected by the degree to which learning environments are student-centered knowledge centered, assessment centered, and growth in learning community. Students must be encouraged for developing self-education skills, which allow them to confidently tackle challenging problems, generate creative solutions, and learn and adapt from mistakes made in a fearless environment. Students must feel comfortable enough to set aside the defensive shield. In the face-to-face stetting, some students might get nervous; they will not speak up, nor ask questions. This should not be the case for online courses.
Knowing how to build relationships with and among your students, how to encourage participation, how to start and stop discussions, how to deal with the shy, the dominating, the aggressive and the just plain awkward. I do encourage you to re-interpret your skills in terms of the new medium and to identify where online teaching can make a unique contribution.
Online culture includes "etiquette", rules of formality/informality, flexibility, interaction style, greetings/farewells, use of apology, and expectations of response speed. The cultural elements in any online course reflect the values of its developers, that this culture is overtly maintained by guideline creation, and covertly maintained by instructor and students. They must have some well thought plans to deal resistance for cultural differences by means of e.g., agreeing to disagree.
There must be a commitment to the integrity of transactional distance. The instructor must use effective strategies to increase dialogue interactively. However, the instructor must adapt to minimize the engagement on personal matters. Otherwise, there is a point at which the dialogue about personal matters takes over, and the original learning objectives are compromised. The other problem might be that a very few students took over the dialogue, and turned it into a monologue.
Make sure course contents and resources are easy to locate and use. Communication is a vital aspect of any online learning program and it is especially true with this one. That is so your students don't feel isolated.
Concluding Remarks: In decreasing the dropout rate in the online learning/teaching environment, one should never replicate what other educational institutions do for their online classrooms. The essential elements of learning online are an online faculty member, and a self-motivated group of students. The emphasis should be on high level of interaction, a great deal of collaboration, and a heavy emphasis on practical applications that meets the needs of individual students.
The quality of online courses should not be assessed purely on the academic achievements of the 'survivors'. If this type of measure is applied those with highest dropout rates will tend to show the highest levels of achievement, as the most academically able students tend to 'survive'. Assessments of online courses, as with any course, should address both academic achievement and retention. Online dropout is a gradual process. Dropouts are students who have given up serious effort to meet their responsibilities. Therefore, diagnostic processes and preventive actions are the instructors' responsibility.
While the Web-based course materials are available at any time, however the mind of a working student remains considerably less accessible. The information locked inside a course will not morph into practical knowledge without considerable human effort. Online learning/teaching often fails where education stumbled at the human interactivity level.
Online instructors must develop an instructional support system that provides effective assistance to students who would flounder without it. Instructors must realize that their student population has a diversity of learning styles. This course adaptation should lead a student to adjust the time initially foreseen for the accomplishment of a learning objective without the major drawback of losing direct feedback over students' progress. For instance, some students lack confidence in their academic abilities and need more individual attention, while others are highly autonomous and have different kinds of needs. Yet, effective instructional planning requires an accurate profile of student learning needs and weekly progress reports. Finally, when students run into a problem, they seem to make a subconscious decision as to whether the additional information they will gain is worth the "cost" of finding it. The cost the students pays is in terms of concentration, therefore students should have unlimited access to the instructor in guiding them at a total satisfactory level.
The '''World Wide Web''', "the Web" or "WWW" for short, is the network of computers on the Internet that provides information in hypertext. Today, the Web communities have become one of the hottest topics on the wired frontier: You can see it in the rapid commercialization of the grass-roots Weblog movement and how Internet users connect to each other.
The core functionality of the Web is based on three standards: The URL, which specifies how each page of information is given a unique "address" at which it can be found. The second standard is the HTTP, which specifies how the browser and server send the information to each other. Finally the HTML, a method of encoding the information so it can be displayed on a variety of devices. The World Wide Web Consortium, which develops and maintains these and other standards that enable computers on the Web to effectively store and communicate all kinds of information.
Employers are likely to be cautious, if not skeptical. The belief is that an online degree is an interesting exercise, but it is not going to be as rewarding or valuable as a full-time traditional degree. This is partly, because most employers have traditional degrees and may be reluctant to hire someone with a non-established credential yet.
Online classes often add another layer to a woman's workday. Women find time for a "third shift" of study time and online classes early in the morning or late at night, in the free time between the first shift of a full-time job and the second shift of homemaking or taking care of children. Achieving balance today is a hard-wrought process for everyone.
It proves to me that it is a very effective and efficient delivery method while teaching graduate students, and postgraduates. They must be motivated, self-directed, and willing to work on their own . Good time management skills, motivation and self-discipline are required to complete the course work at a distance. Net learning enables them to extract information from different types of resources anytime, anywhere. Students develop these abilities to cross barriers of time and place. Some students may feel that learning must be focused mainly on passing tests.
Professors have to have multiple ways of teaching the same thing, and we need to "diagnose" what kind of student we are working with, and we must then select the best available way of teaching to match each individual student.
Students expect learning to be immediate on the Web. Meanwhile they need to know more and more.
An online class is not for you if you have always chosen to sit in the back of the classroom, because more responsibility is put on the learner in an online class.
Ideal candidates for online learning are those students, who are highly motivated, disciplined enough to complete course assignments on time without outside prodding, and who don't mind working in relative isolation
In conclusion, it is becoming common knowledge that Web-courses are achieving inconsistent results. Some instructors thrive on the increased flexibility and control that the medium provides; others wallow in isolation, struggling to make a start. The day may come that Web-based courses could be developed to become a medium for the masses.
Some students have their own computers, while others rely on computer labs. Such variation in computer access may result in attitudinal differences toward online learning.
There are no regular class sessions; but you should spend the equivalent of the class time on the course (3 hours), plus the amount of time an instructor expects students to spend outside of class. Altogether then, you should expect to spend about 10 hours per week (on average, some may need more and some less).
No and Yes. Since there are deadlines to meet you cannot work at the course any time you want. In that sense, the course is not self-paced. On the other hand, you have plenty of opportunities to fit your work in the course into your own schedule; and for some individual activities, you can work ahead of the weekly schedule if you so choose. In this sense, it is self-paced.
No. You need supportive learning environments. Again, I do advocate individual mentoring.
A Web course offers opportunities to develop more familiarity with computers and the Web; and it shows the potential of the Internet as an educational resource. The course offers students the opportunity to try a different approach to learning, one likely to become more prevalent in the future. In addition to the excitement of trying something new, a student has the chance to evaluate the pros and cons of distance learning firsthand.
Meeting deadlines and even sending material to instructor before deadlines are very important, since you will be engaging in group learning activities where time is crucial. So you should make every effort to complete your work on time.
If you cannot meet a deadline because of emergency or illness, be sure to notify your instructor or a student intern as soon as possible.
If you have an assignment due, you can request additional time (normally a day or two) to complete it. Remember though that you still have to make sure that you meet the deadlines for the next week's assignments.
Think paragraphs, not sentences! That means that you should avoid overly brief responses. You cannot deal adequately with a complex issue in a quick sentence or two. You want to show that you have given a matter serious thought. And you show that best to someone else by providing an explanation in some detail.
You may find some of the assignments or background information different or difficult, in comparison with some of your other classes or reading. Don't panic! Remember that other students probably are facing the same problems. Don't expect to understand or remember everything in a first reading. You should expect to read some material over several times before it becomes clear.
Messages within your group can be very helpful. Someone else may understand something you do not, and you may have information that someone else needs. Sometimes messages back and forth about a problem will clarify it.
You also can contact the Academic Resource Center or your instructor for information through e-mail. Remember that the teaching team is eager to assist you; do not hesitate to seek their help.
Not really. The weekly activities are structured enough that you should know what you need to do in the course rather than having to invent activities on your own. In addition, you will be interacting with other students in a dialogue (even if it happens that you are doing this over the Internet rather than face-to-face) . Think of this as a conversation with your fellow students. Of course, how much of a conversation takes place depends upon the participants. Remember: "More discussion is better than less discussion!" You probably will feel more involved and motivated in taking the course the more you participate in the discussion opportunities.
Finally, communicate with your instructor as needed. He is there to assist you.
The instructor will try to answer e-mail messages promptly, although he cannot be on-call constantly, waiting for messages. You can be quite sure of a response within 24 hours. Your best hope for an immediate response would be an e-mail message during his online office hours.
There is not one correct answer for each assignment task; but there are more adequate or less adequate ways of dealing with each assignment task. So your grade is not based on whether you come up with a single correct answer or on whether you come up with the answer that the instructor supports. Rather, your grade depends upon how well you make use of the analytical tools presented in the course, how deeply and thoughtfully you probe the issues involved in an assignment, and how well you explain and defend the positions you take.
The most likely shortcomings that hold down grades are:
(a) departing from the instructions for an assignment;
(b) failing to complete every part of the assignment; and
(c) being too brief.
In order to avoid these shortcomings then, you need to
As you proceed with the course, you should get an increasing grasp of what is expected in terms of grading. Remember this point especially if you are struggling in the beginning. Remember also that other students probably are facing the same struggles as you. So you are not alone.
Final Advice about your Grade: Stick with the course and finish !!!
Missing assignments is a quick way to dig a hole for yourself in the grading. So you want to complete all the assignments.
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