The Syllaweb in the On-line Composition Classroom
Sheila Bauer-Gatsos  
My interest in this project began two years ago, when my father, a computer systems analyst (with an English major and a continued interest in literature) stumbled across two separate syllawebs--one from a teacher in Virginia whose class was working on critical readings through an introduction to literature and another from a teacher in California whose class was studying Dante's Inferno in hypertext. After exploring their course syllawebs, he contacted both teachers and was invited to join in the class discussions of the works via e-mail whenever he had time. I found this idea both exciting and terrifying. I am intrigued by the idea of expanding my class beyond the traditional classroom, but I am also very uncertain about what effects that would have on my students or my own teaching. What happens when people outside the class group participate? What happens when people outside the university participate? What happens when people begin to participate, but then, like my father, find that other commitments keep them from participating regularly? I am not entirely sure that I am willing to surrender the limited control that comes with having just 20-25 Lehigh students sitting in my classroom.
Definitions Starner and Leight's Cyberspace Course
Claims  Jack Lule's On-line Journalism
How it works Bauer-Gatsos' English
Uses of Syllawebs and On-line Education Syllawebs, On-line Education, and Lehigh's Program 
On-Line Education: Tales from Those who Tried It Conclusion 
Michael Orth's Great Books Course Works Cited 
The Syllaweb in the On-line Composition Classroom

When we chose topics for our projects in Composition with Computers, I found the perfect opportunity to explore the potential and the consequences of courses on the Internet. When I began researching this project, I quickly discovered that there are many different ways to use courses on the Internet. The two ways that I am going to talk about--syllawebs and on-line education--are certainly linked (syllawebs are one component of on-line education), but it is important to remember that syllawebs can work independent from on-line education and can even be used in the most traditional classrooms. (1)

This paper will present some definitions of terms associated with syllawebs and some of the background information about how syllawebs and on-line courses work. I will briefly discuss some of the different ways that syllawebs and on-line courses can be used and consider the different claims made about them. Then I will review some of the experiential literature from teachers who have tried these new pedagogical tools, including my own experiences of creating and using a syllaweb in my English 8 class this semester. Finally, at the end of this paper, I will consider the application of these tools within Lehigh University's English Department, in an effort to reach conclusions about whether or not these tools can help us fulfill our mission in the First-Year Writing Program.


When we begin talking about syllawebs, several unfamiliar terms generally raise some questions. I'll try to begin with the basics--the things we think we all understand--and then move to a few more complicated terms. First, then, is what is the Internet? The Internet is a collection of networks, which provide a number of services including the World Wide Web (otherwise known as WWW or just Web). The World Wide Web is "a global information retrieval system organized as hypertext documents with links to files (other hypertext documents) as well as other types of resources all over the Internet" (Reese glossary).(2)

The Web works when a client (a program called a browser, like Netscape or Internet Explorer) requests information from a file server (a program that manages a collection of documents). The browser reads the documents from the server and allows computer users (the people sitting in front of the computer) to read them. This process is used to store and access a syllaweb.

That leads us to the second question: what is a syllaweb? A syllaweb is a means of storing course information that would normally be contained in a syllabus and/or course description on the WWW. Once a syllaweb is created, its files are stored within a file server, where they can be accessed by a Web browser, such as Netscape or Internet Explorer. Generally, the first document that the browser will access will be called a home page. From the home page, the user can link to other parts of the document using a process called hypertext. Hypertext refers to "a method of organizing textual information (on a computer) that goes beyond the flat, linear organization that is possible with paper documents" (Reese glossary). In a syllaweb, what this means is that teachers can store different parts of their course information in different documents, and students can reach them through different paths. A syllaweb can be as simple or as complex as the teacher chooses; some syllawebs are simply one document stored on the web for easy access, but most contain several documents layered on top of one another, connected by links. In addition to the usual course calendar, objectives, and procedures, many syllawebs contain links to texts for the course, cultural or critical background, and student published papers or projects. Most also include links to on-line support sites (sites that function as on-line handbooks). There are several places to look for some examples. You can start with my English 8-28 syllaweb to see a pretty basic example (see Appendix One in paper document). Or you might try Janet Wright Starner and Dave Leight's Communications in Cyberspace to see a more complex and innovative example. There are also sites designed to compile syllawebs from courses around the country; I suggest the Voice of the Shuttle or Epiphany's Teacher Resources.

All of these documents must be created in a special computer language called HTML (HyperText Markup Language). HTML is a "special sequence of characters, known as "tags", [which] are used to indicate what purpose various elements within the document serve (such as paragraphs, lists, headings, and so on), and how they should be displayed" (Reese glossary). It is not absolutely necessary to learn this language.(3)

It can be very time-consuming, and many word-processing software packages have begun to include a template that will automatically create (and even convert other files to) HTML. For those who are interested in learning how it works, however, a brief introduction will be provided later. For now, I'd like to explain a little bit about the ways syllawebs can be used and then introduce some of the claims that are made about them.

What are the different ways a syllaweb can be used?

As there are many ways to teach composition, there are many different ways to use syllawebs in courses. I will only try to address a few. One popular usage of them is in distance education. A syllaweb would allow a teacher to have constant communication with his or her students even if they were not going to physically meet in a classroom.

For our purposes in the English Department at Lehigh, it is more realistic to expect that we would use a syllaweb in conjunction with our classroom meetings. In that sense, a syllaweb could be used in a very traditional way, merely as storage space for documents we would otherwise pass out to the class on paper. It could also be used as a closed system, accessible only to the people at Lehigh or even the people within the class. If a teacher chose to open his or her syllaweb, however, the idea is that collaboration would be easier and the collaborating group would expand.

Perhaps the most innovative way of using syllawebs at this point is for on-line education. This differs from distance education in that the students could physically meet in a classroom with the instructor, but instead the instructor chooses to teach only through computer mediation. Journalism 366 was taught that way here at Lehigh during the Spring 1997 semester. I will return to this concept of on-line education later in the paper to try to evaluate its value within an English Department. For now, I will turn to some of the claims about computer-mediated communication in general and about syllawebs in particular and begin to consider whether or not they fit the goals of Lehigh University's First-Year Writing Program.

Claims behind the syllaweb or, Why should we try this?

Claim One:

If we begin by discussing syllawebs in particular (as just one part of on-line education), we can begin with one of the less troubling (?) claims. In her article "Teaching with Computers," Ann Woodlief claims that the syllaweb will help reach more students in the class. Students who are not actively involved in helping the teacher develop ideas (and usually this is most of the class) are unlikely to hear or remember most of what is taught. "Listening is a little developed skill," she explains; "it has been estimated that students process little more than thirty percent of what they hear" (1). The syllaweb can help provide information for those students who do not hear (or listen to) what we say in the classroom. Materials on computers outside the classroom allow students to "review at their own pace" (Woodlief 2). In addition, there are advantages in not printing up multiple copies of syllabi, handouts, or assignments to be glanced at, lost, or thrown away . On a syllaweb, students can read documents at any time and can print out copies to look at if they so choose. This allows students to access important course information at any time--without contacting the teacher with redundant questions.

This claim seems reasonable to me. While some students prefer getting course documents on paper in class, most students will appreciate the accessibility of the syllaweb. This reason alone, though, does not seem to validate the time and effort required to make a syllaweb. After all, students should be responsible for the materials we pass out in class. If they are not, there is no guarantee that they will accept the responsibility once the materials are available on-line. This claim gains strength, though, when it is considered with some of the other possibilities that syllawebs and on-line education provide.

Claim Two:

In "Computer-Mediated Communication and the Online Classroom: Overview and Perspectives," Zane Berge and Mauri Collins argue that computer-mediated communication (CMC) "can be used effectively to facilitate collaboration among students as peers, teachers as learners and facilitators, and guests or experts from outside the classroom" (Berge and Collins 3). Collaboration is an important component of Lehigh's First-Year Writing Program; we ask our students to collaborate at most stages of the writing process. Collaboration can also sometimes work to involve students more effectively in their own education. Berge and Collins suggest that through CMC, students move from being passive learners (learners who attempt to "mimic what they see and hear from the expert teacher") to "participants, collaborators in the creation of knowledge and meaning" (4). Ann Woodlief even claims that not only do students interact and collaborate more, but that they "learn to think better (and think to learn) by writing and responding critically to the materials and to each other's written responses" (2). For this, she says, the computer is an unequaled tool .

It is important to realize, however, that CMC seems to be changing the parameters of that collaboration. As students work on group projects, how will we grade their contributions? As students pull more and more material off the Internet, how will we control plagiarism? These are important questions that it seems we need to address to be responsible teachers. Unfortunately, though, it seems that these issues (especially problems with plagiarism) will arise whether or not we invite the computer into our classrooms.

One exciting part of this claim, though, is the potential for more collaboration with other teachers. Since this kind of teaching is so new, many teachers are working together to try to figure out if and how we should use it. For me, this chance to collaborate is important to my ability as a teacher. My teaching is strongest when I work with others to develop ideas and pedagogies. Through computer-mediated communication, I can meet and exchange ideas with hundreds of teachers I never would have met. Some of the ideas I gain from those teachers will not be useful to me in my courses, or in this program, or at this school. Many of them, however, may be.

Claim Three:

Most social contructivists today believe that knowledge is created in social environments. Proponents of CMC claim that on-line aspects of composition courses are extremely useful in creating those social environments. In their study on pedagogical applications of on-line courses, which will be discussed in greater detail in the next section, Leslie D. Harris and Cynthia A. Wambeam remind us that "Patricia Bizzell saw the 'writing problem as a thinking problem' (p. 215). We cannot just assume that students come to us with ideas for which we can teach them expressional modes; we must also teach them how to think and reason through the models of academic discourse that they will be studying and practicing" (354). Communication via computers can be a good way to let them practice and develop their thinking and reasoning skills since computers allow all student voices to be heard at some time, and hopefully, more disparate opinions will be voiced.

Again, I think we have to be realistic. In my opinion, more disagreements will occur in computer discussions than in verbal discussions, but the minority voices can still be silenced if they are met with fierce opposition. I don't know if there is any perfect way to solve this dilemma. Responses over the computer can be more thoughtful and better developed. In addition, students will have the opportunity to more seriously consider the ideas of their classmates once they are available in written form as a file on a syllaweb. I don't know that they definitely will consider those ideas more seriously; most teachers report mixed experiences. If we can encourage them to first consider the ideas of others, though, students may be more likely to push themselves to think of new ideas to contribute to the discussion. Thus, the social construction of knowledge will become more productive. I truly believe that written discussions on-line (synchronous or asynchronous) can be more productive than oral discussions. I realize that there are dangers associated with CMC, but I believe that if we set and enforce guidelines, students will learn to use this new technology productively.

Claim Four:

Many claim that computer-mediated communication makes students more aware of audience. In Harris and Wambeam's study, they worked from the belief that dialogue between groups of people (and especially disparate groups) "allows students to consider and perhaps accept others' viewpoints" (355). Often, an awareness of other viewpoints provides the level of complexity a paper needs. In traditional classrooms, especially at homogenous universities like Lehigh, those opposing viewpoints can sometimes be stifled or forgotten. Opening up the classroom through technology can provide a wider group for discussion so that different cultural, social, and historical perspectives will be available to our students. In addition, the larger group could provide a wider, more heterogeneous audience for the thinking and the writing, and "allowing students to situate themselves within and become a part of a discourse community can lead to their realizing the relevance of writing to participation in this community" (Harris and Wambeam 357).

In my own classroom, I found that when students realized that some of their work might be published on the Web, they were suddenly very conscious of the new, previously unimagined audience. Overall, I think this created a positive change in their writing, but I think it can have advantages and disadvantages. I want students to be aware of audience at some point in the writing process (and I think that the appropriate time is different for different students and for different assignments), but some of my students seem to find the idea of a large, on-line audience too overwhelming, and I certainly don't want that. A further problem was that in discussions about on-line publishing, some students were concerned that their work wasn't saying anything "new" or "interesting" and thus shouldn't take up space. We used that concern as a way to emphasize the need to think critically and work beyond what was said in class, but I still think the concern is valid.

Claim Five:

One of the more frightening assertions behind both computer-mediated communication and the syllaweb is that it changes instructional methods. This claim can be both exciting and frightening. It probably is changing methods--the real question is whether we want those methods to be changed.

Berge and Collins claim that CMC changes methods by "(a) generating improved technological tools that allow classes to use a fuller range of interactive methodologies, and (b) encouraging teachers and administrators to pay more attention to the instructional design of courses" (1). The latter part of the claim seems reasonable; teachers and administrators should pay attention to the instructional design (and hopefully they are already). Any shift in pedagogy will require a teacher to rethink his or her goals for the course and to question whether or not the new pedagogical tool is a valid means of reaching that goal. In that sense, considering computer-mediated learning techniques can only help our overall goal of continuing to improve the quality of our teaching, as long as we are willing to reject those pedagogical tools (including CMC) if they will not help us achieve our goals. The former part of Berge and Collins' claim is more difficult to assess. Have the technological tools improved? Do they allow the class to use a fuller range of interactive methodologies? Do we want them to interact more?

Claim Six:

Berge and Collins proceed by pointing to the "greatest benefit" of CMC, which is "its ability to liberate instruction from the constraints of time and distance" (2). This claim, too, has positive and negative potential. Once we are freed from those constraints, what will the course look like? How much time do teachers and students invest in the course? How do we assign credits? How do we evaluate students' grades?

Lehigh University does not yet have a clear stance on on-line learning. While the university is invested in distance education, the committee responsible for creating educational policies currently has a (not-yet-approved or -rejected) proposal prohibiting any form of on-line education. Some teachers and administrators worry about the value of a course where the instructor does not physically meet with the students. Can such a course still offer a quality education? Berge and Collins claim that

[t]he convenience of access from home, school, or office permits many students and instructors to better meet travel, job, and family responsibilities. Educators and trainers, especially those involved in distance learning, have been searching for the "Holy Grail" of instruction for a long time--to be able to teach and have students learn anything, anytime, anywhere. To a large degree, CMC now can fulfill two-thirds of this desire.(4)  (2)

This claim leads to several interesting issues. First, how does the computer allow students to learn "anything?" Berge and Collins suggest that it is because "CMC promotes self-discipline and requires students to take more responsibility for their own learning" (2). In some ways, that seems very empowering. If students are allowed to motivate themselves by finding what they want to learn about, perhaps they will actually learn more. Unfortunately, that is also very ideal. While it may work for some industrious and dedicated students, many students may get lost and end up learning nothing.(5)

Furthermore, do we really want students to learn "anything" or do we really want them to learn something in particular? I think most teachers have definite ideas about what their students should learn through their course. If we give up that agenda and allow for independent learning, we have to be willing to sacrifice some of our ideas. It is unrealistic to imagine that all students will end up where we wanted them to end up. Unless our goal is independent learning, moving towards on-line education will change our goals.

The second issue the quote raises is whether we want students to be able to learn "anytime." Again, in some ways, it seems wonderful, and in some ways, it is already what happens. Students do sit in our classes, but much of their learning occurs at other times--when they review notes, read assignments, study for tests, or write papers. That learning happens with us and without us, because of us or in spite of us. But time in CMC becomes more complicated because of some of the questions raised earlier: How much time do we invest? How much do they invest? How do we judge? When I first began reading articles about the ways that on-line education changed the boundaries of the classroom, so that students could "go to class" at any time of day or night, I remember feeling panic--I don't want to be available twenty-four hours a day! When those boundaries are erased, how do we judge the time needed to spend in class (or on-line)?

The final issue, then, is whether students really can learn anywhere. Can their learning take place successfully if they never meet as a physical group? What do we gain from those face-to-face meetings? How much of what we gain can be recreated in on-line classes? What new benefits will we receive? This issue can be diffused if we use syllawebs or CMC as I did this semester--as a supplement to the work we do inside the classroom. But even then, it seems we need to ask questions about what changes occur when we begin to teach on-line.

Claim Seven:

One of the most troubling claims (at least for me) is that "CMC promotes an equalization of users" (Berge and Collins 3).(6)

Many supporters believe that CMC can eliminate all the inequalities of the classroom. These inequalities certainly do exist--some students feel more comfortable talking in front of a large group, some are unsure of their abilities, some personalities dominate group discussions, and many other cultural, social, and racial issues also come into play. Supporters of CMC claim that because it is
primarily text-only, the consequent reduction in social cues leads to a protective ignorance surrounding a person's social roles, rank, and status. Further, it is impossible to know if another person took several hours to draft a one screen response, or several minutes. Responses are judged by the ideas and thoughts conveyed, more so than by who is doing the writing. As a result, the lack of social cues and the asynchronous nature of the medium affords those with physical limitations or personal reticence the possibility of participating fully and equally in communicative activities within a mainstream environment. (Berge and Collins 3)

While CMC can help reduce some inequalities based on physical stereotypes, some still exist, and in addition, it will (and already has begun to) create new ones. For instance, those students who lack confidence in their ideas will still be reluctant to offer contributions over the computer. In fact, their anxiety can even be increased because the instant reaction of the teacher and other classmates is not available. Also, some students will feel less comfortable typing, "talking to a computer," rather than to another classmate. And words do carry values. Students will quickly learn to recognize different styles of writing, and some will be more respected than others. Dialects, word choice, even correct punctuation and spelling have all already become signs of a person's status in the culture. Different groups have different values, but it is unlikely that CMC will allow us to achieve total equality. Moreover, even the authors point out that one of the disadvantages of the elimination of social cues is that sometimes the social rules of common courtesy go with them. Individuals who think they won't have to face the object of their rudeness can be unbelievably cruel. Aggression in CMC can quickly shut down most of the other participants.

Claim Eight:

Anne Woodlief's greatest claim is the one that it seems we are really all after. She believes that the student writing that comes out of classes using computers is better than the writing coming out of her non-computer classrooms. She writes:

Teaching literature in a computer mediated environment is risky and challenging, even after three semesters of doing it almost full time. But it is never boring; unexpected frustrations, discoveries, and rewards are the norm. The best result is that I am hearing strong interpretive voices from all of my students, not distorted echoes of my own, and that's exactly why I have changed my teaching paradigm so drastically. (3)

This is really the goal towards which we strive as teachers, and if Woodlief's experience proves true for us, I'm sure we will all incorporate computers into our classrooms more and more. Other teachers are also beginning to find evidence of greater learning in on-line education as well, and some studies are being conducted to try to provide a more substantial body of concrete evidence. For example, a California State University professor found that "students learning in a virtual classroom tested 20 percent better across the board than their counterparts who learned in a traditional classroom" (Black 2). It may be, however, that individual teachers will have varying results--especially since their experience will depend largely on their own comfort level with the technology.

I'm not completely sure yet if the claim that technology improves students writing proves to be true for me. Last semester (Fall 1996), I felt that the computer definitely improved my students' critical thinking skills as well as their writing skills, and they were aware of the improvement as well. This semester, the students seemed to think their writing improved because of the computer, but I was not entirely convinced.(7)

I am convinced enough, though, to continue using the technology to help me teach.

Now that we have considered some of the general claims about syllawebs, CMC, and on-line education, let's return to the background about how it works.

How does it work?

As mentioned in the definitions, Web documents must be created using the markup language HTML. A markup language means that in addition to the text that we want to display, a document must be "marked-up" to indicate how it should be displayed. This is done with tags--"a sequence of characters to indicate how [text] should be displayed" (Reese Day 2). The tags begin with a "less-than sign" (<) and end with a "greater-than sign" (>). In between those signs are the codes (usually abbreviations) that HTML needs to read a document. Most of the time, the codes appear in pairs, with the same code, except the closing one has a slash (/) before the code. An HTML document is "nothing more than a plain ASCII text file that contains tags. The file extension '.HTML' is used as part of the file's name to let the server know that a particular document is an HTML document and not just ordinary text" (Reese Day 2). An example of an HTML template can be found in Appendix Two of the paper document.

The other important part of authoring Web pages is understanding hypertext. Hypertext allows documents to be layered so that users can reach them through hyperlinks, links that work to move the user to a different place in the document. Hyperlinks change the reading process:

the reader is taken directly to a different set of information than he would have seen if he had simply proceeded to the next paragraph.  Sometimes this is just additional information (such as the definition of a term), and the reader will then return to the original flow of the document. At other times, this can be used by the author of the document to create different flow paths for readers with different needs. In effect, a single set of documents (with one physical organization) can have a multitude of logical organizations corresponding to different audiences, all at the same time. (WWW Authoring, Glossary)

With hypertext, then, we can embed information within the primary document. Readers have choices about what links to explore and what links to skip, and their understanding of the document presumably changes according to the path they follow. The HTML coding for a link includes the necessary tag commands and the specific Uniform Resource Locator (URL), the address where the supplementary information or document would be found.

This introduction is admittedly basic--it provides the theory behind how it works more than the actual "how-to" information authors would need to make it work. There are several guides available, however, that will explain the details. For more information on HTML authoring, I would suggest starting with "A Beginner's Guide to HTML" by the National Center for Super-Computing Application, which can be found on-line.

How difficult is it to make it work?

HTML authoring should not really be that difficult to learn. There are several basic tags to remember for formatting, and tags can easily be revealed from examining the "Source" information of other documents.(8)

In addition, a template can be created and saved so that authors can simply fill it in for most documents. This cuts down on the amount of time needed to repeatedly type in those tag commands.

That said, when I was creating my own syllaweb for English 8-28, I found the process of actually writing HTML to be extremely tedious. I had a hard time remembering the tags or the logic behind them, so that even when I had documents completed, some part was generally unreadable. I was easily frustrated by the process of inserting the tags into previously created documents as well. If writing my own HTML documents had been my only option, my web page would probably still not be finished.

Luckily for me, though, there are other options.  I was able to use Microsoft Word's HTML editor to convert my teaching documents from WordPerfect files by just opening those files into HTML.  Then, I was able to create any new documents using the HTML editor from the start.  The editor automatically inserts tags and names the document with the "HTML" extension.  It also makes inserting hyperlinks incredibly easy. When I select the text that I want "linked" and click the hyperlink button on the formatting bar, the editor requests the address for the linked document and creates the link for me. I found this editor invaluable in the creation of my syllaweb.(9)
In addition to the HTML editors, there are also software packages available that will design syllawebs for teachers. The one that I researched is a relatively new product called "Web-CT," which allows "educators [who] lack technical background to create sophisticated WWW-based courses. . . . Web-CT allows the course-author to create a course and then to add a wide variety of tools and features to his course" (Goldberg et al).(10)

Web-CT provides an impressive set of course tools: a Navigation tool that shows a linear path through the course material, a glossary to provide definitions for important terms, an external reference tool that will take students outside the course material, an index generating tool that allows instructors to index the content of their course, a course bulletin board that works like our conference board, and a chat facility for group discussions, a timed quiz-taking tool for monitoring student progress, and student self-evaluation tools. Furthermore, Web-CT makes the environment for creating courses and including those tools easy to use. Software such as this would need to be purchased by the university, department, or individual teacher, however.

Tales from Those who Have Tried It:

There are many stories of teachers' experiments with syllawebs, either as supplements to the traditional classroom or as non-traditional on-line education. I will review a few examples of each kind of experience to offer an idea of the variety of pedagogical applications. I have tried to choose examples that reveal mixed results--from pure success to moderated success to utter failure. All of the teachers whose experiences I outline, however, would try using syllawebs and/or on-line education again in the future.

Part One--Teachers' experiences with on-line education

In this section, I will begin with Harris and Wambeam's First-Year Composition Course, which seems to be the most successful attempt at on-line education--what I consider the "ideal" application. Then, I will discuss Michael Orth's unsuccessful experience teaching "Great Books" on-line. Finally, I will consider the first on-line course taught at Lehigh, Jack Lule's On-Line Journalism.

Harris and Wambeam's First-Year Composition Course--

Leslie D. Harris and Cynthia A. Wambeam planned a pedagogical experiment to be conducted in the Spring of 1994 to explore Internet-based pedagogy's effectiveness in composition classrooms (357). The teachers linked two sections of first-year composition from their respective universities (one in Pennsylvania, one in Wyoming) via the Internet. Both classes met in traditional classroom environments each week and shared similar syllabi and assignments. Then, in addition to the traditional class meetings, the students utilized a common conference board where they shared reactions to and questions about the readings and discussions, and the two classes (which met at the same time) met in regularly scheduled MOO meetings at Diversity University to discuss in small groups. Furthermore, the teachers occasionally invited people outside the two classes to join their MOO discussions--like people from Multi-Cultural Affairs when they discussed African-American families or people from the Sexual Diversity Awareness Coalition when they discussed homosexual families. These guests logged on from different sites and used anonymous guest names to protect their identity. In addition to the experimental courses, Wambeam also taught a traditional course, using the same syllabus and principles without the help of computers, which functioned as a control group.

The results were clearly positive. Through questionnaires and pre-semester/post-semester writing samples, the teachers found that the experimental group participated more through writing, enjoyed writing more, found more value in the course activities, and improved significantly in their test scores.(11)

The authors stress that their experiment was limited, and that more research needs to be conducted, but their first attempt shows positive potential for Web-linked courses.

Michael Orth's Great Books Course

Unfortunately, not all teachers experience the same positive results as Harris and Wambeam. Michael Orth taught two sections of English 251, Great Books of the Ancient World. The experimental course was offered only on the Web; the class never met physically until the final exam. The control section "studied the same materials and used the same interactive procedures as the experimental section, but met physically each period in an ordinary classroom" (1). Thus, the experiment parallels the previous example, but Orth reports "[t]he experiment was not a success" (2).

He explains that there were three major problems: first, the students had a difficult time understanding assignments and following the calendar; second, students found communicating with other students to be difficult; and finally, students did not learn much at all about the subject matter (barely meeting minimum requirements) (Orth 2). Orth offers several ideas about what caused the problems. It will be helpful to consider those now.

First, Orth feels that his own inefficiency with the computer systems hurt the students because he did not know enough about the programs to manage the class. He believes that if he had a greater knowledge of the software, his students would have had a more positive experience.

Second, Orth believes that the students had a hard time "knowing what to do and when to do it" (3). The materials were there, but the students did not always know how to access them, or what was expected of them at different points in the term. Again, better communication and more clear instruction would have helped.

Third, some students were very resistant to any group work or group discussion. While some students conscientiously contacted group members to try to complete assignments, almost all of the groups found that at least one student would be unresponsive. Furthermore, while a handful of students posted to the group discussion with regularity, most students found it easier not to contribute. By the sixth week of the term, the conscientious students actually asked Orth to stop expecting group work or postings from them. The rest of the term was spent trying to cover all the necessary ground that had not been covered for the first part of the term.

The most interesting problem (and probably the one that would be hardest to resolve) was that students felt much more insecure and anxious about the work they did. Orth explains, "Despite the flood of electronic messages, loneliness seems to be the enemy" (7). Even though the instructions, readings, and assignments were exactly the same for both courses, the students who were able to physically meet with the professor in class were more comfortable and confident about their work. This suggests that the purely electronic environment is not enough interaction for teachers and students.

Orth describes three possible variations he would make. The first is that he would consider only offering the course for students who selected to take it as an Internet based course. If students self-selected, they would be more invested in the type of independent work a course like this requires and their resistance would be minimized. The other option that he considers is making it a pass/fail course that students could enroll and re-enroll in over the course of a year, so that they could take their time completing the course-work for credit. Orth believes this is important because "flexibility is one of the key opportunities in on-line instruction" (8). The final significant modification he would make is that he would begin the term with physical (voluntary) meetings. These meetings would be used for introduction to other students and software, and might be followed by weekly question sessions (though he would still keep most interaction computer based) (7). Thus, Orth seems to advocate on-line instruction only when it can be complemented by physical interaction.(12)

Professor Jack Lule's On-line Journalism

Here at Lehigh, one professor has already started what I am just beginning to research. In the Spring of 1997, Jack Lule taught On-line Journalism--a class in which his students only once met face to face. On the first day of classes, the students reported to the assigned classroom, only to find that Professor Lule was not there. Instead, he had left instructions for them to find their syllaweb, and they were free to go. After that, students were to check the web-site frequently, to post at least twice to a course conference board, and to electronically submit weekly written assignments. The class never met again throughout the semester.(13)  

Professor Lule claims that he gained many things from the experience. The first, of course, is the flexibility in terms of time and location. Students could (and often did) complete their course work at any time of day or night, and they could be anywhere to do it. This flexibility will become even more important in his summer on-line course, International Communication, when some students enrolled in the course will not physically be on campus.

In addition to the flexibility the on-line course provides, Lule appreciated the thoughtfulness of the participation. The on-line course allowed all students--including the more quiet ones--to participate. Even more than that, though, the on-line nature of the course actually encouraged thoughtful, developed responses. The group set a high level of expectation through the quality of their posts. Furthermore, because students were not sitting in the classroom, there was no pressure to just say something, which can sometimes make students say anything even if it doesn't really contribute to the current discussion. The inane comments that usually surface during oral class discussions were eliminated because students could think about their responses and answer when they knew they had something to say.

For the teacher, on-line education does become even more demanding, Lule says. He created the course web-page, and then responded to almost every post every day. He claims that the benefit of that close interaction is that professors will get to know their students far better than they would in the traditional classroom. Thus, while the dynamic is certainly different, it actually becomes more beneficial rather than less. Another thing that might change the course dynamic is the participation of people outside the class. Lule, however, was pleased that Lehigh students not registered in the class and even other professors from Lehigh or people outside Lehigh's community would sometimes respond to a post or an assignment.

There is still, of course, more to learn. For instance, in the summer course, Professor Lule will face a new challenge. In On-line Journalism, the students were all senior journalism majors who knew him and one another. This summer, Lule will teach International Communication to twenty students he's never met. The theory, however, is still the same. If on-line education provides more interaction, he should still be able to get to know his students better than he would in a traditional classroom. And in case the students don't know one another, Lule plans to incorporate group projects early in the semester that will require them to work together on-line to build those relationships.

Overall, Professor Lule's experience was successful for him and the students. He does recognize some potential problems. For instance, he believes that the courses he's developed may need to be capped at twenty students because of the intense reading/responding demands placed on the teacher. Also, he thinks that as we use this technology with younger students, we will need to set parameters to remind them that this is a seminar and not a chat room. Finally, he believes that it would be detrimental to move too far into on-line education. While almost any class could be taught on-line, not all classes should be taught on-line. Lule believes that the personal interaction that comes from meeting in a classroom and getting to know teachers and other students in that way is equally important. Thus, teachers and administrators need to decide which classes will benefit most from on-line education and which classes work best in their traditional form. If we can make those choices wisely, we can improve education overall, by continuing to provide the quality classes we've always offered and beginning to provide a new way for students to learn.(14)

Part Two--Three teachers' experiences with syllawebs

In this section, I will first discuss Janet Wright Starner and Dave Leight's course offered this semester entitled "Communications in Cyberspace," in which they used a syllaweb to supplement their traditional class meetings. Then, I will turn to my own experience with creating and using a syllaweb for English 8-28.

Janet Wright Starner and Dave Leight's Communications in Cyberspace

Janet Wright Starner and Dave Leight taught one of the English Department's Special Topics courses this semester. The course was clearly described as a course about computers, and students were able to select the course if it was one of their particular interests. Janet and Dave worked together to create their course syllaweb; many parts of it are shared by all the students in both classes, but some parts are unique to each individual class. Janet and Dave found that it worked well for them to share the syllaweb; it was housed in Janet's account (so she had primary responsibility), and she only altered it when she and Dave discovered that a change was necessary.(15)

Both teachers felt that keeping everything in one place (the syllaweb, course information, and conference board) worked very well for them and the students. Students found the idea of a syllaweb exciting and appealing, and the ability to access information outside of class was also very useful. One important aspect of their syllaweb was that they wanted to make the technology as invisible as possible. Their syllaweb was complex to create so that it would be simple for students to use.

One area of their "Communications in Cyberspace" that was not particularly successful was hypertext. Students did not like reading hypertext because they found it too confusing and time-consuming. Students felt there was never a conclusive end to the assignment and that they frequently got lost and missed the point of the assignment. To adjust to this, Dave Leight tried to change the way he'd assign things. Instead of asking students to "read" a site, he'd ask them to "surf" the site. That way, students could spend some time looking over the material without feeling that they had to take every single path or check every single link. The discussions would then be about the topic in general and students would be informed enough to participate.

Although Janet and Dave worked to create a syllabus together, they admit that their in-class teaching styles were probably very different. Their separate conference boards allowed the students of each class to discuss the issues that became most important for them. The teachers both allowed interaction with the other conference board, but most students did not take advantage of that freedom. Both teachers found that accessing the conference board from the web was very helpful for students.

The one time when there was actual interaction between the groups through the conference board and out-of-class activities was for the final projects for the course. Janet and Dave assigned final projects that required students to work in groups to create web-pages for a group of their choice. For this activity, the teachers tried to encourage some crossover, but, again, most students chose to work with students in their own class.

Both teachers found that the technology helped their classroom become more interactive. The technology led to many discussions about their experiences with computers and electronic spaces. Furthermore, the technology acted as a catalyst for important discussions about linear texts, freshman essays, and plagiarism. Both teachers were pleasantly surprised by how naturally such discussions developed. Their course materials, syllaweb, and conference boards can still be found on-line.

English 8-28: My plan

When I embarked on this project this semester, I had several goals in mind. I wanted to use a syllaweb to hold my traditional class together; to use conference boards, Daedalus Interchange (a synchronous discussion program used in our computer labs), and web research as teaching tools; to collaborate with other teachers via the Internet; and to have my class complete the semester with a web-authored project. I will try to explain the theories behind those choices.

My main project was the syllaweb. I had to decide how I wanted to use it. I knew that in the context of Lehigh's First-Year Writing Program, I could not use it to replace traditional class meetings even if I wanted to, so the first part was easy. I would use a networked computer classroom for our traditional meetings, and the class would be expected to use the syllaweb to access assignments and extra readings both inside and outside the classroom. Thus, on a day when we were reading a new work or encountering an unfamiliar author, we could access contextual, cultural, critical, or biographical information by clicking established links on the syllaweb. In this way, students would easily be able to contextualize the works we covered in class. In addition, students could access the conference board to discuss a paper or idea posted there or simply get the day's class activities off the syllaweb. The students would have my instruction inside the classroom as always, but by using the syllaweb, they would also be able to access my course material outside the classroom.

The use of the syllaweb, I thought, would allow me to accomplish several things. First, I liked the fact that background information for the works in the course would be more easily available. In previous semesters I had found that some classes were very resistant to reading literature because they felt that it was too foreign to them, too unconnected to their world. I thought that by providing some cultural context to the works and the authors who created them, I would help them understand the literature and become engaged in the reading process. I also liked the fact that using websites in class as part of our mutual discovery and analysis allowed me to focus on the critical reading required when encountering a text of any kind--including (especially?) websites. We would be able to critique each site and to find discrepancies between sites that provided interpretation of works of fiction. Finally, I liked the fact that through a syllaweb I could point them to a site that I selected first, and then let them explore from there. In previous semesters, I had sometimes just asked students to search the web for a particular subject, but I found that was usually time-consuming and useless. This way, my syllaweb would suggest a starting place that I felt had value for the context of the course. I hoped that would lead to more productive research and discussion.

In addition to the syllaweb for web research, though, I wanted to use it as a means of saving (and allowing students to access) their conference board and their Daedalus Interchange discussions. My theory behind the conference board has been greatly informed by Ed Gallagher's discussions of his experiences with it--I wanted students to use the board as a way to carry on the conversation outside of class. I believed that the Web would provide easier access to that conference board, thus motivating students to utilize it more frequently. In conjunction with the conference board, I had also been using the Interchange software for many semesters, and I found that was very useful for creating a different kind of class interaction (with a saved record). The only problem I had, though, was that I seemed to be the only one who ever went back and read through those exchanges. Whether I posted them to the conference board or photocopied them to pass out to the class, there was never any indication that students were going back to those documents. I thought that by linking them into our syllaweb, students would be more invested in looking at them and using them to further their thoughts about issues raised in class.

Finally, I wanted the syllaweb to be used as a place to keep all course documents. I know students frequently lose or throw out the materials I pass out in class. I find that of the students who do keep the materials, many rarely read the material immediately after it is passed out, but rather wait until the last minute before trying to figure out what is expected of them. And even if I read over materials in class and stress their importance, it seems that much of the time, students do not really hear what I say. Having the syllaweb, then, would solve some of those problems. Students would always be able to access the course information from any computer. They could find out information easily and they could read it at their own pace on their own terms. I would no longer have to worry about absent students missing assignments because they could simply access them from home. Students could now decide for themselves whether or not they needed something printed out.

Beyond the reasons for the syllaweb itself, I had the goal of collaboration with other teachers. I had seen lists of composition teachers looking for collaborators from around the country and wanted to try to contact one of those teachers. The idea was that I would work with someone who was teaching similar works, and we would collaborate about pedagogy, while our classes collaborated in a conference board or MOO environment. I believed that this would widen the audience for my students' work and would allow them to hear perspectives different from their own. I hoped that by expanding the boundaries of the classroom and incorporating additional diversity, the social construction of knowledge would become more interesting and more challenging.

Finally, I had the goal of leading my students toward a web-authored project. My class was reading three primary novels (Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea, and Beloved) and would be examining the websites created by English classes for both the first and third novels. I thought that my class could create a website providing similar information (biographical, cultural, critical, historical) about Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea.

English 8-28: The reality

In reality, very little worked out as I had planned. The first problem was my own lack of preparation. It took me most of the semester to create and activate my syllaweb. I was not aware at the beginning of the semester that it would take me so long to figure out HTML and get the documents together. That misjudgment on my part changed the entire plan rather significantly.

Obviously, once I realized that I could not even create my own document, I had to forego the class' web-authored project. Even now that I am more familiar with HTML and the editors that make it easy to work, I am not sure that I would be able to put together a class project of that nature. I imagine it would take many courses in web-authoring and lots of experience playing with the techniques before I would feel comfortable sponsoring such an activity for my class.

The collaboration did not go exactly as planned, either. For some time, I have collaborated with Jennifer Bailey and Anne Dickson. This semester, Anne and I had decided to work together on our course, but once we had chosen our very specific topic, it was impossible to find another teacher who wanted to collaborate on the same works or topics via the Internet. In addition, most teachers who do want to collaborate via the Internet make those arrangements prior to the start of the semester.(16)

My collaboration with Anne continued, but we did not focus much on computer collaboration. (17)
I did utilize all the other components of the course--web research, conference boards, Interchange, and, eventually, the syllaweb. The results of my attempt were mixed. I will try to explain them in the following section.

Overall, I would unfortunately have to say that the course as I imagined it did not work. I think there are several reasons for that. The first reason, of course, was the late introduction of the syllaweb. I had hoped to have students using the Web page by the second week of the semester, but, in reality, it did not happen until much later than that. Obviously, once I lost the link that held the class' computer components together, I was not going to be able to achieve my goals in the way I had hoped.

Presumably, though, the other components would have still worked independently, even if they weren't quite as "user-friendly" as I had envisioned. Unfortunately, they didn't.(18)

Looking back, I believe it was a matter of too many new ideas all at once--more for me than for them. I was teaching a new course with texts that I had never taught before, and I was trying to integrate computers into my course more thoroughly and consistently. I don't think that I completely thought through the goals of the course and the ways to meet those goals. The result was that for the first few weeks, neither the students nor I had a clear idea of what the primary goal of the course was or how we were going to achieve it.

In the classroom, the problem surfaced as student resistance. They had a hard time maneuvering through the Interchange program and clearly thought that discussing through written means was a waste of time when they were all sitting in the same room. There was quite a bit of "squirreling" (students talking about subjects other than the assigned work), but I generally don't mind that reaction. What became more problematic was that many students just shut down--refused to participate even though they were being graded on it. While that happened in traditional oral discussions as well, it happened more often to more students in the Interchange discussions.

The other form of student resistance was to the conference board. I asked students to post reactions to their readings and/or their discussions about their readings by the night before each class. In addition to their own ideas, though, I wanted them to respond to their peers. I decided that to make the reading load more realistic, I would break them into "Reading Groups." There were four groups, each with five or six people, and I hoped that the students in these groups would become comfortable working together, so that their discussions would be productive to their reading and writing experience. People were very resistant to posting to the board, however, and almost none of the students responded to others. They found the conference board to be a chore and could not see how it connected to their learning how to think and write.

When I realized that the Interchange and conference board were not working, I decided to make some choices (what Ed Gallagher calls "battlefield decisions") to try to save the class. I decided I had to back off from the technology. With the conference boards, I merely decided to rearrange the time they had to respond. The students were beginning to feel that once they had posted their ideas to the board, they didn't want to talk about them anymore, or at least not until I had responded to all of their posts.(19)

We discussed our options as a class and decided that it would be more useful for them if they could post after each class and use the posting as an attempt to carry on the discussion that had been started that day. They also asked to be released from their reading groups, which they found constrictive, so that they could just post to a topic that interested them. For the rest of the semester, the conference board worked much better. The students were more interested in posting, and their posts became more interesting. They also responded to one another more and began to develop ideas in the ways that I hoped they would (by taking what one student said and trying to add to the discussion from there).

Interchange was harder to save. After two unsuccessful attempts, I was ready to quit, and so were they. In past semesters, students would ask to do Interchange every day; this class was thrilled that I didn't ask them to do it again. I am still not entirely sure why they were so resistant to the Interchange. Backing off from that did not lead to brilliant oral discussions in the classroom. It may be that they just didn't like Interchange because it was harder to hide quietly there, since the teacher always walked away with a printed transcript. Or, their resistance could have been to the subject matter of the course rather than to the technology itself.(20)

I did return to Interchange once late in the semester. On a day when we were discussing the ending of Beloved, eight students were absent (leaving me with 13). I had set up an Interchange discussion for several small groups, but decided instead to let the thirteen students who were there work in one large group. The discussion was active and productive. When students were finished, I linked the discussion into the (finally active) syllaweb and many students went back to read through the discussion and even quoted from it in their unit papers. The final attempt at Interchange, then, was a definite improvement.

There were two components that did work fairly well from the start. The first was Web research. While I did not have a syllaweb for them to use, I did type up the addresses that I wanted them to explore, and they found those exercises to be useful and informative. The activity wasted more class time than it should have with the syllaweb, but, overall, I found that providing the students with literary background in that way--combining teacher directives (my providing the initial addresses) with student research (their beginning at my points and then exploring different links)--was very successful.

The other successful component was the use of the computers for brainstorming. Students wrote much longer, more complex freewrites when we were in the computer room than when we were in the traditional classroom. In addition, using the Daedalus Invent program was a completely new way to think about starting a paper for most of the students. They all reacted positively to those activities.

I think that my syllawebbed course could have worked much better if I had been more realistic. For instance, I would suggest that teachers only use a syllaweb if they are able to create it prior to the start of the semester. It was unrealistic to think that I could set it up as I went along. Once I did have it up and running, though, students thought that it was wonderful. A few students remarked that they hate computers and would rather just have the papers handed out in class, but the majority claimed that they hate carrying around the papers, rarely read them, or often lose them, so that the syllaweb would solve many of their problems by allowing them to access the information easily on their own. I also think that I should have completely worked through my goals in relation to the pedagogical tools I wanted to use, and then I should have clearly communicated those goals to my students. If we all had a clearer picture of where we were going and how we were going to get there, the project might have been more successful. I do still have hope for this technology. I plan to try it again in the fall semester, because I believe that the principles behind it fit nicely into our program's goals. I will explain why in the next section.

Syllawebs, On-line Education, and Lehigh's First-Year Writing Program

At this point, it seems unlikely that First-Year Composition classes here at Lehigh would be taught on-line. I do believe that those courses could be taught successfully because of the intense focus on writing and interaction through language. For now, however, it seems more productive to make a case for the use of the syllaweb and on-line components in First-Year Composition. To make that case, we must consider the goals of Lehigh's program, for as Harris and Wambeam point out in their essay, instructors need to consider carefully not only how to take advantage of the new possibilities that technology offers but also how to incorporate technology into their courses so that it supports their pedagogical objectives (370).

So what are our pedagogical objectives? Lehigh's First-Year Writing Program is shaped by six informing assumptions. It is only through considering these assumptions in specific relation to the syllaweb and some on-line components that we will reach any answers.

1. First-year writing courses should prepare students to use writing as a tool for learning, inquiry, and critical thinking.

In pointing to critical thinking, Lehigh emphasizes the need for students to "probe beyond what 'everybody says' about a topic." The use of computer mediated communication (CMC) allows students to consider more carefully what everybody else says and to figure out how to develop thoughts beyond that. The increased interaction among students and between students and teachers encourages students to continue thinking about the issues we teach and to continue developing their ideas outside of the classroom. In addition, discussions could become written discussions, thus providing more practical experience in using writing as a tool for learning. Finally, the more open access to a syllaweb will allow people outside the class to join in the teaching and learning experience.

2. A writing course should make students aware of the ways in which qualities of expression (including standard conventions of written texts) can either foster exchange of ideas or interfere with readability and reception. 

What better way to increase awareness of the importance of clear, correct, and engaging writing than to ask students to try to communicate that way, either through writing in networked classrooms or through a conference board or MOO environment or by putting some of their written work on the Web? By seeing their writing do real communicative work, students can begin to understand the importance of the skills we teach. The real application of written communication (especially with someone beyond the teacher) can be an excellent teaching tool.

3. Since the most valuable forms of learning are those in which students are fully engaged, the first-year writing courses should strive to involve students in the issues and ideas presented .

Involving and engaging students is often one of the more interesting challenges we face as teachers. Again, however, it seems that the on-line world has great potential in terms of the possible ways to involve our students. We would, of course, have to be thoughtful about the ways we would use it (Web research, interaction with other classes, invitations to "experts" to join us), because while there is more potential for good, there is also (I think) more potential for garbage. Overall, however, I believe we would stand a better chance of engaging more students through using the advantages technology can offer us.

4. Because reading is a basic mode of inquiry in the first-year writing class, students should be asked to read, responsively and reflectively, as part of most of their projects and assignments.

Computer mediated communication can supplement the readings that we assign in the class or can simply provide the forum for responses and reflection. By occasionally asking students to post public responses to readings or to respond to reactions of their peers, we can combine the reading, thinking, and writing tasks more consistently and conveniently.

5. Since writing is by its nature a rhetorically and socially interactive process, students should learn to write within an on-going social exchange.

CMC provides the social structure needed for developing writers. It can provide a space beyond the classroom where students can share and develop their work. In addition, it can be a good place to discuss the different expectations and standards of different discourse communities so that students begin to recognize the need to adapt their style and their approach to suit different tasks and different audiences.

6. Students should learn to work at all stages of the writing process, in particular at the invention and revision stages.

With on-line components to our composition classrooms, students can become more comfortable reading and responding to others' work. Furthermore, the ability to get rapid responses to written work will help students incorporate more frequent revisions into their writing style. If the process is constant, students can learn to see revision not as a chore done between drafts to satisfy a teacher, but as an ongoing part of the writing process.

A Brief Conclusion

Overall, then, it seems that the syllaweb and on-line components can fit into Lehigh's pedagogical objectives. As a teacher in the program, I do support the incorporation of computers into the composition classroom. It's not that I feel "It's coming, we have to deal with it" (although that may also be true), but I feel that technology offers us many ways to teach better--differently, yes, but also better.

I still have many concerns--and I think that keeping those questions constantly in mind is one of the most important parts of incorporating technology into our courses. I don't think we can believe that this will solve all our problems; in fact, it may only create new ones to add to the challenges we already face. I think we have a responsibility as teachers to ask ourselves what we realistically can do with technology (so that we don't take on more than we can successfully accomplish) and then whether or not we think it will help us teach better (because in some cases, just being able to do something doesn't mean that it is a good idea). The answers will not be the same for everyone, but it does seem the questions should be asked.


1.  I am making a foggy distinction here. I am considering the overall issues of Computer Mediated Communication (CMC), and then considering syllawebs as one part of CMC. Syllawebs, however, do not only have to be a part of on-line education. Instead, they can work in conjunction with a very traditional physical classroom.

2.  Many of these definitions come from Doug Reese's Lehigh seminar on WWW Authoring. They can be found in their entirety, with other definitions that need not be considered for the context of this paper on the seminar web page. All addresses for websites will be available on the works cited page.

3. The language is important, of course, for understanding how the system works. It is not essential, though, because of the existence of programs that will write HTML on their own. I would recommend that people who want to use HTML or syllawebs extensively learn the language; on the other hand, I wouldn't want to people to refrain from using syllawebs just because they are intimidated by the language.

4. Two notes--first, like many readers, I do worry a bit about people who call CMC the "Holy Grail" of instruction. I will try to address this issue throughout the paper. Second, I find it interesting that the authors do not clarify which third of the "anything, anytime, anywhere" they think is not being met.

5.  I suppose I must reluctantly admit that this can happen in any classroom, computer-mediated or otherwise!

6. Berge and Collins are specifically referring to people with disabilities such as physical impairment, disfigurement, or speech impediments. Certainly these disabilities are diminished with CMC. I still take issue with the underlying premise, however, that CMC can make all users appear equal. Words are still charged with meanings and values.

7.  Part of the problem here is that I just didn't see that much improvement at all in my students' writing. There were, of course, exceptions, but overall, I felt the class was very unwilling to work on improving their writing. The problem was probably with the class more than with the technology.

8. In Netscape, this is accomplished by pulling down the menu under "View" and then clicking on "Document Source." I assume there are similar features on other web-browsers.

9.  This seems like an appropriate time to thank the people who did help me learn WWW authoring; Janet Wright Starner and Dave Leight taught me the principles behind the HTML language and provided me with a template (and my inability to make it work reflects only on me), and John Woznicki saved the project by helping me learn Word's HTML editor and FrontPage.

10. One problem with Web-CT, though, is that it is not an HTML editor, so an author would need an editor in addition to Web-CT or would need to know how to use HTML on their own. Other products (such as FrontPage) will set up pages and write the HTML, but they are not specifically designed for educators.

11.  The essays were graded by uninvolved teachers who were not aware of the purposes of the experiment, and who went through grade-norming activities prior to the actual grading. Frighteningly, the control group's writing actually got worse! There is little or no explanation for why this occurred.

12.  Orth actually has one other caveat. He would also require a serious final examination. He tried to minimize the final in his first attempt (low percentage of the final grade for lower threat). He now believes that he needs to make the final worth a high percentage of the course grade (and thus high threat, I suppose). He sees this as a good way to provide motivation for working through all the course material.

13. Professor Lule suggested that any correspondence with him should be conducted over e-mail. Students report that he was willing to meet with them, though, whenever they felt it was truly necessary.

14.  I would like to sincerely thank Professor Lule and Kim Haas, a student in On-Line Journalism, for their willingness to talk to me about this course and for teaching me more about on-line education.

15.  Both Janet and Dave suggest that it is best not to change the syllaweb more often than necessary. In a previous semester, Janet tried to update the syllaweb as often as possible so that students would be aware of modifications in the plan, but it drove students crazy to find that it was constantly different. I guess that indicates that schedule changes and slight assignment changes are best made in class, although that will often drive students crazy as well!

16.  Duh!

17.  I realize now that I should have worked with Anne more in the computer aspects of the course in addition to the content of the course. At the time, however, I was stuck in thinking that I wanted to collaborate with someone outside the university community. While that would be very exciting and beneficial, it seems to be a little unrealistic unless it is someone you already know.

18.  I should point out that I have used all of these computer technologies in the past, and they have worked quite successfully. I don't really think that they are a lost cause.

19.  I did respond to most of their posts (usually privately and briefly), but I rarely did it before the class period when we were going to be discussing them. That was largely because most of them posted after 10:00 p.m. for the next day's 7:55 a.m. class. I barely had time to read them, much less respond.

20. The subject matter asked students to constantly examine where they were positioned in relation to texts and characters and to ask themselves why and how they came to be positioned there. They found it very unsettling.  

Works Cited

Bauer-Gatsos, Sheila. "English 8: Themes in Literature." 1997. (24 April 1997).

Black, Jane. "Online students fare better." The Net January 17, 1997. (20 January 1997).

Berge, Zane and Mauri Collins. "Computer-Mediated Communication and the Online Classroom: Overview and Perspectives." Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine 2 (1995) (24 April 1997).

Goldberg, Murray W. "Student Participation and Progress Tracking for Web- Based Courses Using WebCT." Proceedings of the Second International N.A. WEB Conference. 1996. (27 January 1997).

Goldberg, Murray W., Sasan Salari, and Paul Swoboda. "World Wide Web Course Tool: An Environment for Building WWW-Based Courses."

Computer Networks and ISDN Systems. 1996. (27 January 1997).

Harris, Leslie D. and Cynthia A. Wambeam. "The Internet-Based Composition Classroom: A Study in Pedagogy." Computers and Composition 13 (1996) 353-371.

Lehigh University. "Informing Assumptions and Policy Guidelines, First-Year Writing Program."

Lehigh University. "Lehigh Plan." 1994.

Lule, John. "Journalism 366: On-Line Journalism." 1997. (7 May 1997).

-----. "Journalism 246: International Communication." 1997. (6 June 1997).

National Center for Supercomputing Applications. "A Beginner's Guide to HTML." 1997. (13 April 1997)

Orth, Michael. "Great Books Course -- Case Study." 1994. (21 January 1997).

Reese, Doug. "WWW Authoring." 1995. (4 May 1997).

Schregel, Kevin. "On-line course held." Brown and White April 25, 1997.

Starner, Janet Wright and Dave Leight. "English 10:Communication in Cyberspace." 1997. (14 May 1997).

Watkins, Steve. "World Wide Web Authoring in the Portfolio-Assessed, (Inter)Networked Composition Course." Computers and Composition. 13 (1996) 219-230.

Woodlief, Ann. "Teaching with Computers." 1996. (13 April 1997).  

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