Sept 01, 2000
The UMUC-Bell Atlantic Virtual Resource Site for Teaching with Technology, an online resource developed and maintained by the University of Maryland University College, helps faculty use technology to enhance their teaching. The site is divided into two modules: Module One provides information about the selection and use of Web-based media; Module Two, slated to open in Fall 2000, will discuss online course delivery strategies.
Module One conveniently offers two routes for navigating its material. Users who follow the teaching/learning activities route are asked "What do you want to use technology for?" and invited to access any of ten activities, including conceptual learning, authentic inquiry, and virtual labs and field trips. Users who follow the technologies route are led to a handy guide that provides a basic description of—and difficulty rating for—the technologies commonly used in Web-enabled teaching and learning.
Faculty unsure of which route to follow can choose to access the systems approach page, which outlines a seven-step process for designing online learning activities. This page could use some links to the selected examples; even without them, however, it is a good description of the design process.
Both of the main navigation routes feature examples of how faculty at American, Canadian, and British institutions of higher education use technology to enhance discipline-specific learning activities. Site visitors might choose to read about Larry Husch, for example. A math professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Husch uses applets and animations to help his students learn calculus. The UMUC-Bell Atlantic site not only offers a description of Husch's technology-enabled lessons but also gives users direct access to them. The same goes for the other examples (39 in all), which are the core of the site.
Readers searching for a complete list of the examples will be frustrated. The only index to be found is located on the acknowledgements page, and the links on this page point directly to the external resources—not to the useful introductions on the main site.
The UMUC-Bell Atlantic site clearly is intended for faculty new to technology tools. At no point are visitors intimidated by a long list of categories or resources. Moreover, the linked examples, though not numerous, are archetypal instances of the use of online technologies to enable specific learning activities. Rather than produce numerous instances of the same application, the site selects one example of each.
The site itself offers a good example of learning design. It offers users choices (but not too many) based upon their own objectives; no matter what path they take, visitors are led to an appropriate set of resources. Navigation is intuitive, the descriptions are clear, and the graphic design supports simple use and function. Faculty interested in taking that first tentative step toward Web course design would do well to start here.