I have the same questions as Doug about FirstClass, and once we get
it straightened out so that I can have a look at it, I'll report
It may be worth explaining here what those of us working on this
here at St. Thomas would want such a program to do (and why we
finally decided we didn't want to be a beta test site for CONNECT).
Making the description as short as possible, here's what we're
doing now with our kludge of various pieces of software:
(1) personal email -- one-to-one; among individual students,
student - teacher, teacher - teacher (Pegasus Mail).
(2) mail -- one-to-many; teacher or student to whole class
via distribution list on PMail or list server (MAISER, running as part
of Pmail); teacher or student to subgroup (for instance, smaller
working groups) via distribution list or list server.
(3) discussion group -- one-to-many; postings -- archived,
stranded, re-readable (we've been doing this with a program called
BrainStorm which runs on the NOVELL network, but we're not happy with
it). A usenet-style newslist structure might work as well, but none
of them let undergraduates see the structure of the conversation and
where they are in it as well as I'd like.
(4) common read/write directory -- we establish a common
directory on the network which is only accessible to members of a
given class. It's accessible to all of them; any file saved in that
directory (or subdirectories of it) can be edited by anyone else with
access. This is readable by the system word processor, which, in
the case of our system, is WordPerfect (worse luck).
(5) common read-only directory -- we also establish a directory
where notices, class handouts, and other material which needn't
(shouldn't) be edited can be read using WordPerfect.
(6) common faculty directory -- this term, since three of us were
collaboratively teaching one section, we set up a directory which
only we had access to, and which we used for jointly editing class
handouts, storing spreadsheet data, etc.
The problem we saw with CONNECT was that it was fairly rigidly
teacher-centered, and, indeed, fairly rigid generally. For instance,
it seemed difficult to set up "nonce groups," which might exist only
for a week or two while accomplishing one task. It also didn't
provide for multilateral editing in the way that the NOVELL directory
structure does; and it was tied to Norton Textra, which is not
necessarily a bad thing, except that the St. Thomas computer network
is so solidly built on WordPerfect that it seemed counterproductive
to have students have to learn yet a _fourth_ editing system (the
bulletin board program and Pegasus Mail both use different sets of
CONNECT has been revised quite a lot since I first looked at it, and
so has Norton Textra, but my sense is that it would be more useful
if you were organizing a fairly centralized assignment-and-response
based system with some peer editing built in. In our case we work
much more with student-initiated activity than with assignments.
Hope this makes things a bit clearer. I'd be interested to hear what
other people are using for things like this, and what kinds of
written language situations other people are setting up.
Russell A. Hunt __|~_)_ __)_|~_ Learning and Teaching
Department of English )_ __)_|_)__ __) Development Office
St. Thomas University | )____) | EMAIL:[log in to unmask]
Fredericton, New Brunswick___|____|____|____/ FAX: (506) 450-9615
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