using network conferences

Ricardo J Salvador rjsalvad at iastate.edu
Sun May 30 19:13:20 EST 1993


In article <1993May28.144653.12185 at gserv1.dl.ac.uk> ajt at rri.sari.ac.uk writes:
>Tom Michaels (TMICHAEL at CA.UOGUELPH.CROP) wrote:
>: Have any of you used network conferences such as this one in
>: undergraduate courses?

>I think this is great, Tom.
>One snag is that it takes a while for messages to propagate and the
>time differences between geographically distant sites make it difficult
>to imagine a 'class' situation, but I can see the virtue in putting out
>assertions/questions one day and reviewing the responses after a few
>days.

I would say that this in fact is _the reason_ to use the Internet 
for "class situations" involving "geographically distant sites." Barring
mechanical problems, article propagation on the net would rarely take
more than 24 h.  Often the greatest barriers to interactivity among
students and instructors under these circumstances involve the differences
in time zones and the limited amount of time available during structured
"broadcasts," which must contain a good balance of information delivery,
instruction, and reaction/discussion from students. The Internet removes
these barriers by allowing people to take the time to articulate their
questions or comments at their own convenience, and allowing the instructor
the same flexibility to respond to a variety of comments in a shared
"communal" environment. I think the "newsgroup format" would be
desirable even when the new T5 Internet backbone, and the associated
developments in network protocols and software, allow real-time video
and audio communication through the net. There is only a certain amount
of information that can be handled within the orthdox "class period" in
a structured manner, and there will still be a need for additional,
"asynchronous" discussion and follow-up, more or less in a fashion
analogous to what lecturers' "office hours" are currently intended to
provide.  In addition, the "newsgroup format" allows many to follow and
benefit from any one person's comments, and also provides for a documented
trail of questions/feedback that I've found useful as either new lecture
material or as an indicator of current material that is poorly delivered
or unnecessary.

>I suggest a good dose of Dave and Una's FAQ's as printed handouts
>before letting them loose on bionet though ;-)

Yes, this is true, or at least access to good support for learners is
essential.  FAQs, archived files at FTP sites, and in some cases even
"online help," presuppose a fair level of competence in network communications,
and, at least among agriculture students, this is the single biggest
bottleneck and current barrier toward more effective use of electronic
resources for enhancement of the educational experience, IMHO (perhaps
additional disclaimers necessary to avoid unnecessary rebuttal are that:
this is my experience with students of agriculture, 1) at the undergraduate
level, 2) at Iowa State University, 3) a place with fairly decent
campus facilities for network communications and staff support for the same).

-Ricardo



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