Development and Evaluation of a Web-based Classroom.
In this dynamic technological age, instructors are using computers at increasing rates and in novel ways to enhance the teaching of psychology. Examples of such methods involve classroom use of visual displays for lecture-based courses (Seaman, 1998), the development of multimedia computer-assisted learning (MCAL) (Barker, 1989), and the ability to provide students with access to a wealth of information through the World Wide Web, including interactive learning Web sites (Sherman, 1998). Researchers have examined the effectiveness and benefits of these methods on specific aspects of student learning, including relevance to information-processing capabilities (Seaman, 1998), motivation and involvement (Sherman, 1998), and academic performance (Erwin & Rieppi, 1999). These methods are believed to enhance learning and create a more active role for students in the learning environment, providing an opportunity for students to experience and manipulate new information directly (Sherman, 1998). One specific technique, the use of visual displays of text, outlines, or graphics to accompany lectures, is believed to reduce the demand upon students for detailed note-taking and, therefore, facilitate enhanced learning and processing of lecture material (Seaman, 1998).
A Case Study
A number of these approaches were incorporated into the methods of an undergraduate level Applied Psychology course taught by Dr. Leonard Jason at DePaul University. Undergraduate students enroll in this course as part of an internship series, which consists of two applied psychology courses taken during the junior year (of which this was the first), and a nine-month fieldwork experience in an internship setting during the senior year. The first Applied Psychology course is designed to convey a basic overview of behavioral community psychology, and it focuses on (a) teaching behavioral strategies aimed at modifying individual behavior and changing environments and (b) analyzing the effect of systems-level forces on organizations and communities. Required readings were selected to accompany in-class lectures (Glenwick & Jason, 1993). The readings served to identify the unique contributions of behavioral approaches and community psychology in more effectively treating disorders and improving mental health delivery systems. The undergraduates become acquainted with the systematic application of behavioral principles to clinical and community problems, and receive training to implement a personal self-control project as well as a community-oriented intervention. Throughout the course, attempts are made to integrate theoretical issues with concrete applications, and students are exposed to a variety of behavioral strategies for bringing about change in environments and individuals (Jason, 1984).
For this winter quarter (2000) course, the first author decided to use completely Web-based materials with the exception of the primary text. He created a course home page (http://www.depaul.edu/~ljason/applied), that contained all important material and links. Specifically included were the course syllabus, the weekly course schedule, instructions for how to access electronic reserve readings, Web links to important topics and student resources in psychology, and a link to his professional home page. Through the weekly course schedule, students could access very specific information such as the lesson plan for each class period, links to Powerpoint lectures, specific study questions pertaining to course lectures and discussions, and links to Web-based activities, exercises, and information relevant to daily topics of discussion. Visual displays of the class lectures were available to students at their convenience for review and exam preparation. Study questions that were used as exam questions were also provided within lecture presentations as well as within class notes in the course schedule, thus increasing the students' exposure to and processing of course content. In addition, various interactive Web-linked exercises were provided within course materials for students to access, including self-instructional exercises and forums to which students could pose questions and experience real-world online interaction in behavioral science.
Through these preparations, virtually everything students needed to know to prepare for class, to access readings or exercises, and to review for examinations was at their fingertips at anytime during the course. Important readings to accompany weekly lectures and discussions were available through the University electronic reserves, which was linked through the course home page. The use of the University electronic reserves was beneficial to students, as they could access the readings at any time without the cost of photocopying or the inconvenience of needing to go to the library to retrieve them. In addition, using the electronic weekly course schedule, students were prompted to visit various Web links that provided information about community psychology, student and professional development, graduate school preparation, and other resources for students. Availability of numerous links and resources required extensive forethought on the part of the first author, as it was necessary to account for the details of every class period much in advance of the course beginning, but his planning proved fruitful and the course proceeded according to schedule.
Examples of the Web exercises that were part of the weekly schedule materials on the course Website included the following: Embedded within the course schedule for Week 1 was a "Getting to Know Each Other" exercise. This exercise requested that students submit electronically what their favorite film, book, and music were, as well as why they wanted to study psychology, one thing they learned last week, and one thing that annoyed them last week. The responses were then compiled and posted as part of the weekly materials in Week 2, for students to get to know their classmates. During another week, when lecture and readings centered on operant designs and behavioral assessment techniques, students were encouraged to click on the link to a self-instructional exercise for the behavioral analysis concept of positive reinforcement (Athabasca University, http://server.bmod.athabascau.ca/html/ prtut/reinpair.htm.). Once at this site, students were able to read case examples and non-examples of the use of positive reinforcement and then complete practice exercises to test their learning of the concept. When lectures and discussion centered on an understanding of mental health and the theoretical domains, this was extended to a discussion of formal schools of therapy, and students were encouraged to click on the link to a self-instructional exercise of psychological therapies (Athabasca University, http://server.bmod.athabascau.ca/html/ Psych435/Tutorial/exer10.shtml). Here again, students were given theoretical explanations of Psychoanalysis, Behavior Therapy, Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, Client-Centered Therapy, and Interpersonal Therapy, and were given case examples and non-examples of each. Students were then encouraged to take a self-test to assess their understanding of the theories. During discussion of drug and tobacco prevention, students were prompted to click on the link to access a Website that reports the number of first-time substance users in actual time (National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, http://www.health.org/ dynatable.ndu.asp). Here students saw the number of first-time users of marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, hallucinogen, inhalant or cigarettes increase in real time. And during a discussion of the effects of relaxation and imagery, three scripts were posted on the course schedule. Students could read and/or download a relaxation script, healing imagery script, and pleasant imagery script.
As a further examination of some of the possibilities, as well as the limitations and potential ethical constraints of technology-based counseling interventions, a Web-based exercise demonstrating artificial intelligence in a therapeutic situation was included in weekly schedule materials. Students could pose questions and engage in a mock-therapeutic dialogue with "Eliza", the artificial therapist (Department of Intelligent Systems, http://www-ai.ijs.si/eliza/eliza.html). This exercise led to a rich class discussion of the appropriateness and efficacy of artificial intelligence in therapy. A link was also provided for students to access the Behavioral Medicine and Primary Care forum (Behavior Online, http://forums.behavior.net/ forums/jnjbbs.cgi?config=behmed&uid=nC1M8.user&new=9999). These resources allowed for access to current information related to behavioral medicine, and students were encouraged to pose questions to behavioral health care experts. Two other interesting Web-exercises were (1) a link to "A Daily Calendar of Events in the History of Psychology" (American Psychological Association, http://www.cwu.edu/~warren/ calendar/datepick.html), and (2) a link to an instructional website on how to toilet train your cat (Long, http://www.karawynn .net/ mishacat/toilet.shtml). The first of these links provided a collection of dates and brief descriptions of over 3100 events in the history of psychology. Students could pick any day of the year and learn several historical events in psychology that occurred on that day, thereby reinforcing knowledge and learning in the area of history and systems. During many of these weeks, the first author posted a cartoon or humorous character at the opening of the week's schedule to promote class morale.
Because this was the first time the first author implemented these particular teaching methods, it was unclear how students would respond to this method of learning, and whether they would find it to be facilitative or prohibitive. Only approximately 10% of DePaul undergraduates live on campus, so there was some concern as to whether the largely commuter population might find it difficult or inconvenient to have all materials provided through computer media. Additionally, we were concerned that the learning or performance might also be diminished for those who had more barriers to computer access. However, we administered a course evaluation specific to the Web-based instructional method, and we found that most students had very favorable impressions of this method. Results of the course evaluation are presented below. One adaptation to the curriculum was necessary due to vision problems of one student. He was unable to read the type on a computer screen, and all materials were therefore printed out for him to receive prior to each class. Since he also could not read the type on the projected Powerpoint presentations, the Powerpoint slides were printed out for him to follow along during lectures.
Students were asked to rate their opinions regarding use of this technology on a 1 (low) to 7 (high) scale. Results of the course evaluation indicated that students on average felt very positively about the Web-based course. Contrary to our initial apprehension that Web-based dissemination might be prohibitive, students rated ease of access to course material positively, with an average score of 6.47. When asked to rate helpfulness of the Web-based materials in learning course material and studying for examinations, the average of student ratings was 6.58. When asked how well they liked having all course materials available to them on the Web, the average of student ratings was 6.74. Post-hoc analysis of response frequency for this item indicated that 84.2% of students gave this item a rating of "7". We targeted reactions to lectures accompanied by Powerpoint slides specifically, and the average rating of students for degree to which they liked this was 6.47. Post-hoc analysis revealed that 77.0% of students gave this item a rating of "7".
It was important to temper these findings with evidence of the degree to which students actually made use of the materials provided. Students were asked to rate the frequency with which they accessed the different Web-based course components, with 1 indicating "More Than Once Weekly" and 7 indicating "Never". On average, students reported that they looked at the coming week's reading assignments weekly, reviewed Powerpoint lecture presentations and study questions embedded in weekly materials every other week, pulled up or printed out electronic reserves every other week, and explored links and related Websites three times during the term. Eighty-two percent of students accessed the coming week's assignments at least weekly, with 35.3% of students looking at these materials more than once a week.
Students were also asked to provide qualitative feedback, and this was generally very positive as well. One student, in response to the question assessing ease of accessibility wrote, "It's much easier with information posted on the Web because it's available 24 hours a day without having to contact the instructor." In response to how well students liked having class lectures accompanied by Powerpoint slides, one student wrote, "It's less stressful. You don't have to pay as much attention to writing. You can listen and understand the material a lot easier and better." Similar kinds of responses were provided on most of the surveys. One piece of negative feedback highlights a potential danger in relying too heavily on computer-based information distribution. In response to the question regarding how well students liked having all course materials available to them on the web, one student wrote, "I felt like you went over things very quickly and didn't focus [on] certain issues as much as I would have liked because things were on the Web." While this was the only student who provided feedback of this nature, it is important to address this perception and to use caution when implementing this teaching method so as not to create this perception among many students.
The results of our evaluation of the web-based classroom are encouraging. It is clear that students are open to and welcome the use of innovative computer classroom techniques, most finding them to be beneficial in facilitating learning and the accessibility of information. Students' favorable responses to technological advancement are crucial, as innovation and advancement are inevitable where technology is concerned, and students of the present and future by necessity will need to adapt to such change. Even on a campus consisting mainly of commuter students, reliance on Web-based course material and visual displays to accompany lectures was not perceived as an inconvenience, nor did students feel there were barriers to their access to such material.
Researchers who have examined the use of mutimedia, computer, or Web-based components in the classroom have noted that such technology can transform learning and the educational environment in positive ways, provided that important classroom changes occur to support these new models of teaching. These include refocusing activities from teacher-centered to student-centered, from structured learning to exploratory or open-ended learning, and from classroom interaction to global interaction (Mann, 1998; Shields, 1995). Technological expansion within the educational curriculum has been reported to be advantageous to students, by enlarging their educational resources and expanding their involvement with a new medium (Jakobi, 1999). Many researchers and practitioners have augmented the use of computers in teaching to include paperless classes (Lackie, 1998) and on-line courses (Ross, 1998; Teeter, 1997), finding that students learning in these modalities perform as well on examinations as students in traditional classrooms (Stocks & Freddolino, 1998; Teeter, 1997). Additional advantages observed in students of Internet courses include increased motivation, improved quality of discussion and written assignments, and exposure to extended resources (Teeter, 1997). Students have also found the flexibility of Internet-based courses to be an advantage, but have reported that the lack of face-to-face interaction is a drawback (Stocks & Freddolino, 1998). Results of the present study indicate that students feel very positively about the introduction of Web-based course materials and visual displays accompanying lectures and feel as though access to such resources is not impeded.
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Leonard A. Jason, Ph.D., Cara L. Kennedy and Renee R. Taylor, Department of Psychology, DePaul University.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Leonard A. Jason, Department of Psychology, DePaul University, 2219 N. Kenmore Ave., Chicago, 60614.
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|Author:||Taylor, Renee R.|
|Publication:||Journal of Instructional Psychology|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2001|
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