I have also put a great deal of my writing course into an on-line
environment. In fact, the students do not really have to go to the lectures
because I have put all the lecture material into an interactive web site. I
think too that the web site is actually better than the lectures. There are
all sorts of self-tests and simply because of the nature of the web
environment I had to make clear connections between ideas that I sometimes
leave unstated in lecture format.
In fact, one version of this writing course exists in a totally on-line
environment as a Distance Education course. Everything except the course
reader is on-line. We have a discussion group, peer editing groups,
submission and evaluation of drafts on-line etc. It was a lot of work
putting it together. The most successful part of the course is probably the
integegration of the media (from web site to discussion group to email
editing groups to the course reader) and the discussion group. The most
problematic part of the course is the amount of time that it takes to run
properly. The university wants DE courses to be cheap to run and capable of
taking in vast numbers of students. I have a feeling that I will meet some
opposition once it becomes clear that the course requires ongoing quality
interaction with the students taking it.
So far we have had two trial runs with the course with small groups of
students. We have received good reviews from the students and I am now
having the course revewied by "outside" experts, mostly people in technical
communication who might be able to help me with some design issues.
In the process of doing this, I learned a lot about the development of
on-line courses and software requirements--especially about annotation
software for providing commentary on drafts. Like the time our annotation
program crashed the university's server. Ouch!
Catherine F. Schryer
Dept. of English
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
(519) 885-1211 (ext 3318)