Johns Hopkins Gazette: June 26, 1995

On Teaching:
Provost's Awards Help Bring Technology to Classroom

Mike Field
Staff Writer

     Three university projects that will apply new technology to
the art of pedagogy have received funding from the Provost's

     The grants, totaling $85,000, represent the first Provost's
Educational Technology Awards, meant to encourage innovation and
leadership in the techniques of teaching.

     "As we move into the information age, one dimension of our
efforts concerns the infrastructure," said Provost Joseph Cooper.
"Obviously, we need a comprehensive network with high bandwidth
to provide a first class platform from which to operate."

     Much of the effort and discussion about technology in the
past five years has concerned these hardware-related issues. "But
there is another dimension and that is applications," Cooper
said. "It is not sufficient to have just the technology; the use
and application of that technology is no less important. I
believe these new technologies will profoundly affect how we
teach and do research across the university. That's why I think
it is necessary for us to assume a leadership role in developing
appropriate applications. We don't want to let this lie dormant."

     The three awards were made from a number of proposals
submitted after the Provost's Office sent out a letter to the
deans asking for possible projects to fund in the coming year.

     "We're really at the front end of this whole process," said
vice provost for academic planning and budget Stephen McClain.
"There are so many faculty doing interesting things with the new
technology that we set only two boundary conditions on these
awards. First, we want to spread them out among the divisions and
not localize the money. Second, we were looking for proposals
that are in some way prototypical, that will have potential
applications beyond the immediate project."

     One such venture is an effort under way at the School of
Public Health to redesign three of the school's most popular
courses to enable them to be taught in a distance learning

     "We have a very successful part-time program centered in the
Baltimore-D.C. corridor, but we would like to reach out beyond
that," said professor of biostatistics and senior associate dean
for academic affairs Scott Zeger. "Because most of our
Washington-based courses are taught by our full-time faculty,
these courses have come to involve a lot of travel. At some point
it becomes impractical to expand further without some sort of
distance learning component."

     The term distance learning often suggests two-way television
interaction between an instructor and students. In fact, there is
a range of possible technologies that can be employed, Zeger
said, and finding the right combination is the key. 

     "Research shows that distance learning must be more
interactive to be effective," he said. "We want to entirely
redesign these classes so we don't end up with a talking head on
TV. We will be considering videotape, interactive audio and video
as well as interactive computer technology. If you just sit a
student down in front of a TV they are going to lose interest."

     The school initially plans to redesign its Introduction to
Biostatistics, Biological Basis of Public Health and Epidemiology
courses to encompass the new teaching technologies. 

     "We will be using the new two-way audio and video connection
between the Columbia Center and the new Maryland Distance
Education Classroom now under construction at 2024 East Monument
St.," Zeger said. "Our plans are to have faculty at Columbia and
some students here in East Baltimore, although some classes may
be taught from both locations."  

     The provost's award will cover part of the projected
$119,000 cost of the project. The remainder will be raised
through the private sector and foundations, Zeger said.

     A second award was made to the Department of History of
Science, Medicine and Technology to mount a new undergraduate
course, The City, which will employ a multidisciplinary team
approach utilizing faculty from Arts and Sciences, Engineering,
Public Health and Medicine. 

     "This course is not an effort to replicate print resources
in electronic form, but to develop resources based upon the
strengths of the new technology," said Todd Kelley, librarian for
information technology initiatives at the Eisenhower Library. 

     Kelley has been tapped by Robert Kargon, the Willis K.
Shepard Professor of the History of Science and course designer
of The City, to do software development and production of a
special home page on the World Wide Web. Kelley was selected
because of his prior work with the prototype for the course Evil
from Greek Tragedies to Gothic Tales, offered through the School
of Continuing Studies.

     "We want this course to be a real-world experience with
technology," said Kelley of the course, which will be aimed
primarily at freshmen. "We want to encourage the students to
immerse themselves in it so they'll learn early on how to use
these tools. This is how they'll be working in the future."

     A final award was made to the Information Systems
Coordinating Council Subcommittee on Electronic and Distance
Education. The money will be used to fund a special pool
established to give mini-grants ranging from $5,000 up to $15,000
to faculty who want to implement on-line instruction as part of
their regular course program. "Our general idea is to foster
small, innovative electronic educational projects with start-up
money to get them up and running," said Candice Dalrymple,
associate dean for external programs at the School of
Engineering. As chair of the ISCC subcommittee on electronic and
distance learning, Dalrymple stressed that the mini-grants are to
be made available on a merit basis to faculty in any division.

     "From the pilot project initiated at the School for
Continuing Studies earlier this year we have discovered that the
activity to create a World Wide Web site for a class is very
labor-intensive," she said. "Documents don't just hop on line
themselves and to do this properly requires sitting down with the
instructor and carefully designing a home page that is useful and
appropriate. We see these efforts as a preliminary step in
developing the electronic education center called for in the C-21
report issued last year."

     "These awards are a welcome initiative," said Benjamin
Caballero, associate professor of international health at the
School of Public Health. Caballero chairs Public Health's
committee on information technology, which is charged with
strategic planning for the school's information infrastructure.
"How do you take a course that is taught the normal way and make
it appropriate for these new technologies? That's what this money
will help do," he said.

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