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including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

CHRE Faculty Members Collaborate on Cybercore Project

By Sandy Broughton

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 20 - February 13, 1997

For Cosby Steele Rogers, the most exciting aspect of integrating new teaching technology into her courses is the opportunity to offer different kinds of learning experiences. "We have a chance to break the mold of traditional contact for credit, and shift the emphasis from what the teacher is teaching to what the student is learning. Through the use of multimedia materials, we can deliver information in different ways, and free the professor to discover new resources, set up new experiences, and structure situations that actively engage students in learning."

Rogers, a faculty member in Family and Child Development in the College of Human Resources and Education, offered a graduate-level Internet-based course last summer. Now, with Katherine Cennamo, a CHRE faculty colleague in instructional technology, Rogers is creating a state-of-the-art courseware package using computer-based multimedia materials for Human Development, a core course taken by about 650 freshmen each year. With funding from the Center for Innovation in Learning's Cybercore project and CHRE support, Rogers and Cennamo are collaborating to develop an on-line instructional system which uses current knowledge about instructional design, active learning strategies, computer-based technologies which support learning, and takes into account the developmental characteristics of undergraduate students.

In many ways, the Human Development course is an ideal candidate for a multimedia approach. Child observation sessions can be videotaped to ensure that students see the topic--such as aggression or playfulness--under discussion. Small group projects, such as designing an educational toy, will be enhanced by computer-assisted-design (CAD) technology. Course materials and supplemental resources such as journal articles, photos, videos on CD-ROM, lecture archives, the syllabus, study guides, and assessment rubrics will all be put on "e-reserve" so that students can access them electronically at any time.

Practice tests will be available via the Newman Library electronic reserve system. Peer and professor-student interaction will be facilitated through electronic "chat" rooms, e-mail, a course listserv, and Web site. Links will be established with other departments on campus whose material is related to human development, such as genetics and psychology. "With this course, we have the flexibility to have campus activities as well as technology components," Cennamo says. "We can explore which elements or activities are best suited to technology, and which to other kinds of delivery--lecture, small group, or individual meetings. We want to match the teaching techniques to both the content of the course and the desired outcome."

Special consideration is being given to the needs and capabilities of the freshmen students who take Human Development. "Freshmen, especially at large universities, need to form cohort groups, to feel connected," Cennamo says.

Students' independence, self-motivation, and ability to structure their own time are emerging as significant issues in the use of learning technologies. "This is the most important initial question we will need to look at, especially for freshmen, who are accustomed to having teachers and parents to guide their time and balance their commitments," Rogers said. "We will most likely structure the course as a slow weaning process by which the student slowly take over their time management. We will build in plenty of feedback. We are considering setting up an instant-feedback hotline, so that students can check how they are doing in terms of quizzes, participation, projects, and other assessment elements."

Cennamo and Rogers bring complementary skills to the project. Cennamo has an academic background in instructional technology, educational psychology, and elementary education as well as more than 16 years of experience in the design and development of video- and computer-based learning materials. Rogers, an expert on child development, self-esteem, and play, has taught Human Development since 1973 and has an already extensive archive of video observations. John Moore, director of educational technologies, has provided guidance for many of Rogers's previous technology-based projects. "Because John always encouraged me to develop high-quality materials that could be archived electronically, we have a collection of instructional materials which can be assimilated into the current project," Rogers said. One example is a 28-minute video titled "Self-esteem in School-aged Children." The video was produced by the university's Video Broadcast Services and is distributed world-wide by Meridian Films.

Working with Cennamo and Rogers will be a team of four instructional-technology graduate students, who will receive independent-study credit for the project, and Peter Laws, CHRE's programmer/analyst who worked with Rogers on her initial on-line course.

Rogers says she has learned several things from her first course offered on line, a graduate course in Social and Emotional Development in Children. The course was conducted entirely through distance-learning methods--mailed videotapes, independent readings, e-mail discussions, on-line discussions with experts (called electronic mentors), Web homepages, and phone calls--with no meetings in Blacksburg. Rogers says that to conduct a course in this manner, everything has to be planned in advance, extremely well-organized and thought through. The instructor must take special care that all copyrighted materials are thoroughly cleared for electronic distribution. Finally, she found that computer interaction acted as an amplifier for normal classroom dynamics. "The students who were self-directed and self-motivated became even more engaged. Those who were not moved further from the mainstream of the course. A classic example is the student who sits in the first row of class and answers all the questions. I saw that same kind of dominance of the conversation on line."

Rogers will offer Social and Emotional Development in Children again this summer, this time as a hybrid of traditional and distance-learning methods, with some meetings on campus and elements of the course on line.

The Cybercore course is just one of a number of technology-related teaching and learning initiatives under way in the College of Human Resources and Education. They include centralized college-wide technology resources, a new state-of-the-art classroom, and an office of innovation to encourage cross-discipline collaboration and use of new technologies.

The College of Human Resources and Education has an advantage in integrating new technology into the classroom, with faculty expertise in instructional technology, multimedia curriculum design, and learning theory. The Education Technology Lab, housed in War Memorial, serves as a resource for the entire college. Graduate students in Instructional Systems Design assist with the teaching technology needs of the Human Resources and Education faculty, and have also been contracted to help with projects in other colleges. John Burton, department head of Teaching and Learning and Education Technology Lab director, says the College of Human Resources and Education is moving towards a college-wide, central service for technology needs. Already in place is a unique computer help service called "Housecalls." Staffed by doctoral students in the Instruction Technology Program in the Teaching and Learning department, "Housecalls" was designed to take care of computing and technical problems as quickly as possible.

Also under way are plans to renovate a classroom in War Memorial as a distance-learning classroom. Working with Barbara Lockee, program developer for distance learning with the university's Information Systems, CHRE faculty members discussed the features they would like to see included in the classroom. Preliminary plans for the classroom include two-way video and audio systems, Internet access, flexible seating to accommodate a wide array of instructional activities, high-quality projection displays, and good lighting and acoustical controls. Renovations are scheduled for this summer.

The College of Human Resources and Education is also committed to encouraging the use of these new facilities and capabilities. Through the soon-to-be-established office of innovation, the college will invest in cross-disciplinary projects and the development of distance-learning and multimedia course materials.