10.0730 online teaching

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Thu, 20 Feb 1997 22:23:08 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 730.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Geoffrey Rockwell <grockwel@mcmaster.ca> (32)
Subject: Re: 10.0720 online teaching

Dear Willard,

The problem you describe regarding professor Z is well put - we have
probably all witnessed projects like that. There are, however, solutions
other than building only reference materials. Here are some measures we
have taken:

1. In most of the courseware projects we have undertaken at McMaster we
have only built software if it could be used by more than one person. The
Russian Alive software was written in a way that allowed us to create
comparable products for Italian, French, Zulu, ESL, Spanish, German and so
on. My point is that with a little guidance one can ensure that substantial
programming resources are only given to projects where there is a larger
audience, and the programming is done with a view to reuse.

2. A second approach which we are experimenting with, is to keep the
content and software form distinct by designing a markup language for
common elements and then building tools that interpret the markup language.
It is our experience that good language instruction drill content does not
age as fast as its implementation in software, so we are trying to find a
way to encode the content so that we can pour it into different interfaces
as the need arises. I am not sure this approach will work, but I am
convinced it is worth trying. Those interested in our humble attempts at a
markup language can go to:

I should also add that the model you propose of a collection of primary
resources that can be assembled by the instructor would also suffer from
the problem you raise. Putting a coherent course pack together out of
different materials might cost more than building the pack yourself,
depending on the complexity of the modules to be assembled, and be just as
dated two years later. Lego works well when all the pieces work together,
but my son's Lego collection has been infested by MegaBlocks that are
subtly different and tend to undermine his attempts to build complex


Geoffrey Rockwell