Build a Solid Curriculum with Internet-Based Educational Tools
April 24, 2000 (SmartPros) As the Internet's wealth of information and accessibility grows, this medium will assume a more prominent role in society. Although Bill Gates claims that "the best is yet to come," Web-based technology has already transformed an established curriculum by opening new doors to the educational process. The Internet is a powerful tool that will enhance the basic interactions at the heart of teaching by fostering a collaborative, critical thinking, and problem-solving approach to learning.
The Internet Tool
With this technology, instructors must now decide how to make this new tool work most effectively. Incorporating the Internet into instruction will have an enormous impact on both the student's and the instructor's approaches to learning and teaching.
The majority of faculty who accesses the Internet's features for instruction use Web pages as an information delivery tool. The Internet is a handy way to distribute standard course materials. In this mode of teaching, faculty and students meet in the traditional classroom or telecourse where the lecture is delivered, while lecture notes, assignments, calendars, course syllabus, and other related materials are made available via the Internet.
Recipe for Success
Currently, most instructors implement some combination of these tools with the traditional classroom or telecourse. Supplementing teaching with Internet-based tools offers several benefits. First, it promotes a student-centered environment and encourages greater participation among students. The emphasis is placed on interactive problem solving and decision-making rather than a narrowly focused approach to learning.
Adding discussion forums and chat sessions to courses is a common way to add an interactive component. There are many implementations of bulletin board and chat session software that enable students to electronically discuss projects and analyze cases. With this, classroom dialogue can extend beyond time and space constraints.
Secondly, instructors can distribute and update information quicker and more accurately than ever before. Web pages can be altered and changed with the touch of a button.
For instance, an online course syllabus provides the instructor with a way to change course material easily and gives students a complete and current picture of course requirements. In addition, with the enormous amount of readily available resources on the Internet, instructors can easily enhance their course content with the addition of existing information.
Furthermore, the Internet can provide students with real-world scenarios with the addition of guest speakers and subject experts into discussion groups and chat areas. Using multimedia tools, graphical representations of any process or function can be simulated so that students develop a deeper understanding of "real world" situations. For example, MBA students can create model systems for local business clients. These prototypes will enable students to focus on business design, development, and management issues.
Finally, with the use of Internet-based tools, the role of the instructor will change. No longer experts and information providers, professors will become facilitators and guides. Conversely, students will no longer be passive learners, attempting to memorize what they absorb from the expert instructor. Instead, they become participants in the creation of knowledge and meaning.
In summary, Internet-based collaborative tools have significantly enhanced the ability to train and educate electronically. These tools are revolutionizing the traditional classroom through increased opportunities for learning and alternative formats for education. As Internet technology continues to expand, more tools will be created to further enhance classroom instruction.
Whether the materials are an online course or a simple tutorial, the Internet provides significant new capabilities in transmitting information and providing forums of exchange. When integrated with tools on the Internet such as videoconferencing, newsgroups, email, and bulletin boards, the level of involvement in the students' learning experience can be greatly increased. Overall, the Internet provides an effective mechanism for integrating many of these tools into a single interface and is itself, an ideal tool for information.