Integrating Hypermedia Instruction into an
Advertising Communications Graphics Classroom
Stacy James, Associate Professor
University of Nebraska Lincoln
College of Journalism and Mass Communications
49 Avery Hall
Lincoln, NE 68588-0130
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Students and faculty of advertising and mass communications programs
are wanting to learn more about the mechanics, and teaching and learning
opportunities offered by the World Wide Web. This paper explores some of
the pedagogical and theoretical issues with the content and delivery of
hypermedia instruction in an advertising communications graphics
elective laboratory course, and examines some of the benefits of and
problems with integrating hypermedia instruction into the class-from the
perspectives of the students and the instructor.
For presentation in the Advertising Division Teaching Standards at the
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
August 5-8, 1998
Integrating Hypermedia Instruction into an Advertising Graphics Classroom
-Rethinking instructional design and delivery with hypermedia
Some of the most popular topics in higher education today are the World Wide
Web, the Internet's graphical interface, and its integration with college-level
instruction. As we move from the classroom to teaching off campus or on-line,
distance learning and traditional teaching require distinctive considerations,
methods and institutional mechanisms. "With virtuality now staring us in the
face, we can no longer postpone making educational changes without risking
disturbing consequences" (Bensusan, 1996). The Web may hold the key to better
cooperative development and distance delivery of college-level instruction in
quantitative fields such as critical thinking (Mesher, 1996).
The Web's universally available system of linked hypertext messages and images
have become valuable resources within many university classrooms, not the least
of which are those classes called the "new media" or "multimedia" now emerging
in many university journalism and mass communications programs. Although on-line
classes are not new to college classrooms, it appears that many are moving
beyond simple posting of class information to a Web site and into the next level
of hypermedia curriculum design. Bazillion and Braun (1998) suggest that within
constructivist learning theory there are several areas in which Web-based
instruction promises effective results: active learning by exploring and
navigating through the Web's virtual resources; individualization of different
learning styles; cooperative learning through peer motivation, involvement and
approval; critical thinking inasmuch as the Web can invite students to examine
ideas or issues critically; contextual learning by exploring the many sites
which relate to certain topics; and increasing basic Web and electronic learning
Students of advertising and public relations will benefit, especially, because
the Web environment is a growth medium within the industry. Internet advertising
is increasing at an explosive rate - from about $40 million in 1995, to about
$300 million last
year, or nearly 700% higher. While it is still only a tiny fraction of the total
amount spent on advertising in all media, the Internet is the fastest-growing
segment of the world' s advertising industry. A solid understanding of the
environment and opportunities of the Web will be prerequisites for graduates of
journalism and mass communications programs seeking employment in the
marketplace of the new millennium (Levins, 1997). On-line instruction can
benefit students of advertising and mass communications and can also serve as an
incentive to faculty of all disciplines to re-think class content, delivery and
The technical and pedagogical challenges to Web-based instruction are
considerable, but the solutions to what some are calling the new learning
paradigm are out there. This paper explores some of the issues with on-line
instruction within an advertising communications graphics laboratory course. It
examines some of the current issues of teaching with hypermedia, and provides
some preliminary student and faculty feedback to the class' Web-based content,
design and methods.
-The origins of hypertext and hypermedia communication
The terms hypertext (non-linear text) and hypermedia are mostly synonymous and
used interchangeably. Hypertext is a text-only base, and hypermedia includes
other media such as graphics, sound and animation. Hypertext or hypermedia
communication was originally developed for the scientific community, but is now
easily developed for universal distribution and access on the Web. In the late
1980's a number of groups around the world saw the need for the development of
open hypermedia systems and link services which are now being widely recognized
by the user community as well. This growth of the Web now presents a set of
communication protocols that enable the integration of all types of information
processing tools (Hall, Davis and Hutchings, 1996). Both terms are credited
to Ted Nelson of Brown University in the early 1960's in his vision of a
universal hypermedia system he called Xanadu. The hypermedia systems are most
fully envisioned in his 1981 book "Literary Machines." Nelson suggested that it
would be possible to electronically store anything that anybody has ever written
or photographed or filmed and to produce a system that can connect any piece of
information to any other piece of information. As Nelson proposes in Literary
Machines, "There are no intellectual subjects. For someone used to learning, to
grabbing vocabulary and ideas, the elements of a new subject can come quickly.
The more diagrams you have seen, the more words you know, the more theories you
have heard, the more easily you can grasp the next one and assimilate it to the
snowball of ideas already rolling around in your head." (Nelson, 1981).
For the sake of clarity in this paper's discussion of new computer-generated
media instruction, terms such as hypertext, hypermedia, multimedia, on-line,
Internet and the World Wide Web will be used interchangeably, even though their
individual definitions may vary. They all express the basic process of the
electronic and non-linear delivery of information in a universally distributed
hypertextual environment such as the Internet and World Wide Web.
-The pedagogical debate between traditional and the digital delivery methods
In order to better understand how or why to re-think course content, design and
delivery, especially when it may involve a radical technology shift and new
teaching and learning curves, it is important to look at some of the issues
framing the instructional debate. Much has been written about the impact
technology is having within the classroom, and about how it should evolve. Some
believe the digital information and delivery revolution is so pervasive and
profound that educational equity and access to knowledge it represents is much
like the invention of the printing press (Davis, 1993). Even though
hypermedia instruction at the university level is not new, administrators and
faculty are still uncertain about its classroom integration. Administrators are
concerned about adequate funding for technology and how to encourage faculty
adoption. Should faculty receive development time, or additional promotion and
tenure incentives, or both? Some "more traditional" faculty eschew technology,
and others are regular attendees at the institution's new media center's
workshops and seminars. Faculty media adoption involves, "independent use," and
is still the most basic level, and the level at which early adopters have
operated for quite some time (Gilbert, 1995). As James Garner Ptaszynski (1997)
states, "I think that we in the academy must be open to new instructional
methods and pedagogies." The academy, Ptaszynski suggests, must accept that
changes are inevitable, and while educators shouldn't roll over, they should
become vigorously engaged in the changing paradigm of education. How, why and
who should lead this teaching and learning shift are recurring questions.
Because of the mass communications content of the advertising curriculum,
advertising educators may have no choice but to integrate components of new
media into their courses, exploring new media as systems of delivery and design
as well as investigating the underlying processes of hypermedia communications.
Those who are studying new media instruction believe that faculty need to be in
the forefront of the technological change in the classroom. Both the early
adopters and mainstream faculty can learn from each other and find value in
technologies that improve teaching if teachers and not the technologists lead
the way (Gilbert, 1995). As early adopting faculty and instructional technology
divisions within universities are eager to develop their technology classrooms,
perhaps another, and possibly more fundamental issue should be explored. It may
be more important than ever before for faculty and student to enter into
collaborative effort to develop the hypermedia approaches that will
pass the pedagogy as well as the hypermedia tests. Educators are increasingly
rejecting the existing models and searching for ways to involve students
actively in the design of course materials. Maturing computer technology and
emerging standards in educational hypermedia offer revolutionary opportunities
for students to participate in producing lessons, designing topic reviews, and
developing a course's knowledge base (Sedbrook, 1996).
-Serendipity, flow and self-efficacy of the non-linear user
Much of the current instructional hypermedia design in is being overseen by
instructional technology personnel within university computer services units.
These technology specialists, often very young Web-savvy programmers, work
hand-in-hand with faculty to adapt current course information into hypertext Web
environments. However, as more research and consideration is given to the issue
of content and design for on-line delivery, it may be important to re-think the
whole process. Course content and design in the hypermedia classroom can no
longer be considered without knowing more about the way in which the primary
users interact with hypermedia, such as the Web. As everyone becomes more adept
at using the Web for a variety of information gathering or instructional
purposes, it is important to take into account the increasing sophistication of
user activity and site design. Today, the 50.6 million users of the Internet in
this country are involved with this medium for a variety of reasons. According
to the Georgia Institute of Technology's recent WWW User Survey, in 1997 the
most common Web activities were: to gather information (86.03%), followed by
searching (63.01), browsing (61.29%), work (54.05%), education (52.21%),
communication (47.02%), and entertainment (45.48%). In 1996, a story in U.S.
News and World Reports said, "Cruising the Internet is like browsing through a
used bookstore, where the rewards are serendipitous. A lot of junk on
the net? Sure, and plenty of gems. When you turn up one, you can mark it. Over
time you will develop a custom table of Web contents." The chief result of
browsing is serendipity, which is defined as "an apparent aptitude for making
fortunate discoveries accidentally." To maximize the opportunities with the
non-linear structure of the Web, it will be necessary to understand the
relationship the user has with it. Web and course content should foster
serendipity (Fredin, 1997).
Mass communications programs have for many years evaluated the impact of the
audience on the communicator (Bauer, 1962). If we consider students as the
primary audience or user, a more focused picture of pedagogically sound
hypermedia approaches will develop. Eric Fredin's recent monograph on
hypterstory prototypes and user models suggests, "A new model of the audience
member is also needed because in hypermedia, more than any other medium, the
user must be actively engaged, fundamentally because the user must make choices
to keep the story moving. The user constructs his or her own story through
making choices" (Fredin). Anyone who's surfed the Web will often describe this
experience in terms of "losing track of time," and being "intensely focused on
finding something." Fredin further described this user activity within several
psychological and behavioral perspectives. He cites Chicago psychologist Mihaly
Czikszentmihalyi's study of the way people become immersed in their own state of
play, which he called "flow." This state of flow describes how people can get so
involved in something they forget themselves and pay undivided attention to the
task. Czikszentmihaly found that people in all areas seek to achieve and
maintain this pleasurable state of "often intense concentration and the
experience not of being in control like driving, but of exercising control in a
complex difficult activity." Satisfaction for someone in a state of flow comes
from mastery of something, such as navigating through a series of links on the
Web. In the context of pleasurable, immersed complex activity such as
Czikszentmihaly's flow, it appears there
are some exciting opportunities applicable to hypermedia, such as taking
advantage of the attributes of an interactivity process such as Web surfing to
encourage the self-sustaining actions found in curiosity and flow. Much like
Huzuinga, Schramm and Szasz's concepts of pleasure and play, mass communications
researcher William Stephenson's believed one of the key roles of mass
communications is to provide the audience with communication pleasure, or
subjective play (Stephenson, 1967).
When considering user proficiency and technological confidence, important to
the adoption of new technology use, Bandura and Schunk's (1981) theory of
self-efficacy says that "people's judgments of their capabilities to organize
and execute courses of action required to attain designed types of performances
refer to beliefs in one's capabilities to mobilize the motivation, cognitive
resources and courses of action needed to meet situational demands." More simply
put, self-efficacy is how a person perceives he or she can perform a certain
task. Fredin suggests that the higher the person's self-efficacy, the more the
user might be motivated to continue to search through the hypermedia links.
Should the user's sense of self-efficacy be supported and developed when
designing the instructional hypermedia materials?
The serendipity of flow and self-efficacy constitute some of the basic concepts
in Fredin's user model. He concluded that the way in which hypermediated
information is designed must take into account the way in which the user is
involved. While these terms are drawn largely from psychology, the basic ideas
refer to activities and states of being that one can readily experience in daily
life. They describe a more active and dynamic audience member than is generally
presumed with other news media. When considering the way in which the user
interacts with the Web, a central consideration may be to let the user decide
how much challenge he or she wants. As computer games manufacturers have
discovered, the ability of a player to vary the level of challenge is a central
aspect of what
makes the games continually interesting. Therefore, in the classroom, maybe the
rule of "first a little, then a lot," is one way to maintain user interest.
Control over the level of challenges is also central to maintaining flow, which
is characterized by intense concentration, because it can also minimize the
distraction of extraneous or intrusive material.
Ultimately, effective hypermedia classroom instruction (like any good
educational pedagogy) will keep the user in an active and self-reflective state
of mind. Although there is a tendency to think that people are motivated by
whatever is easiest, most convenient, or most sensational, varied streams of
research indicate that for many people and in many situations, what is
motivating is a level of challenge that matches their skills (Fredin 1997). For
educators, the non-linearity of the hypermedia environment and the increasing
sophistication of the user are perhaps the medium's greatest potential in the
classroom. The challenge, of course, is to learn how to design and produce
materials that will maximize their potential for instructor and student alike.
The Advertising Communications Graphics Classroom
-Computing facilities and classrooms
This paper involves the integration of a very basic hypermedia Web site for an
advertising communications graphics course. In the mid-90's, the graphics and
typography classroom was equipped with digital scanning equipment, laser
printers and the wiring necessary to establish an AppleShare network. The
college added a dedicated server in 1995, and the university established an
ethernet network that connected classroom computers with each other across
campus. This ethernet connection supported the Telnet software for student
e-mails and Netscape browser software for immediate access to the Internet and
World Wide Web.
By the spring of 1996, the college had launched its own Web site and some
faculty voluntarily integrated Web site information into their classes. In the
fall of 1996 the elective
advertising communications graphics course researched, developed, wrote and
designed the advertising department's first Web pages. Today, this same course
continues to focus much of its time on electronic technology and design, but the
responsibility for the actual advertising Web site content and design has
shifted to a newly hired a technology specialist who is responsible for
equipment maintenance and Web site development.
-Combining the ephemeral with the digital
This elective communications graphics course, which explores the design of
print and electronically delivered information, is now taught using both
traditional and hypermediated instructional methods. The course has been taught
by the same instructor since it was introduced, and Macintosh-based equipment is
ethernetworked to the Internet. Students are required to have e-mail accounts,
and have various proficiencies in Web surfing and html programming.
In their prerequisite communications graphics course students are exposed
preliminarily to Web-based concepts, terminology, some html programming, and
class lectures and discussions about the integration of this new multimedia
technology into the culture, commerce and the advertising industry. For the past
two years, much of the course information for both the introductory and advanced
communications graphics courses have been available in both paper and
hypermediated form. Each class has its own Web site, and student are encouraged,
but not required, to access much of their classroom information on-line. The
mechanics of the both classes' site production, such as the html and java
scripting programming, incorporation of graphic images, are worth noting. The
instructor was responsible for the content development of the site and an
undergraduate senior-level student, working on an independent study with the
instructor, was responsible for the actual screen design and the programming of
Although the class is not delivered as an exclusively on-line course, such as
some of the distance education classes, students are still expected to integrate
much of what is available on-line into their weekly class activities. For
example, they are encouraged to access specific Web sites for information about
certain kinds of design projects, such as the virtual design library of
Communications Arts Magazine, http://www.commarts.com. They are encouraged to
utilize many of the graphics ideas now available in on-line image libraries,
such as artville.com, or adobestudios.com, or non-copyrighted gif or jpeg
graphic images available within many Web sites. A brief overview of each of the
class' Web components is discussed below:
Current assignments and projects are posted, in their entirety, on the Web
site. Students are given this information on paper, as well, but are encouraged
to use the Web site versions to refer to specific portions quickly, or when they
want to review everything on-screen simultaneously.
Archived projects from previous semesters are part of the current Web site.
Students are encouraged to visit previous assignments for their own
informational purposes such as learning more about the instructor's style,
expectations and grading policies. Prospective students are encouraged to surf
the entire site, but also to explore the kinds of assignments and projects that
have been offered over the past several years to determine if they want to take
this elective course.
On-line readings are an integral part of this Web site. The readings were
selected because of their relevance to the course content, and to supplement the
textbook and other required textbook materials, such as the Design or
Advertising Annuals of
Communications Arts magazine. These were assigned as required reading materials.
It is interesting to note that Communication Arts Magazine now has an electronic
equivalent so that students may refer to a paper copy as well as an electronic
on-line version of this well-known graphic design resource.
A complete course syllabus, including lecture and laboratory dates, class
overview and expectations, instructor's name, address, e-mail and office hours,
is available on-line.
-Individual and group e-mail
Each student's individual e-mail address is linked to the site, along with a
group e-mail address. Students are encouraged to e-mail each other or the entire
class, and the instructor uses individual or the group address to send
information to the students or the class at any time of the day or night.
-Student "Home Pages"
Each semester, as students complete this class, they may choose to create their
own Web home page. This class Web site "serves" as a home site for these
electronic student creations. Past, present and future students are encouraged
to view the html design efforts of their classmates. Students have hands-on
opportunities to become a part of cyberspace.
-On-line instruction via tutorials
This semester, student-written and designed tutorials of Adobe PageMill, File
and Website Hierarchy, Gif Animation with Freehand 3.1, and Animated Gif
Creation were added to the course Web site. Students are able to access and work
through assignments with this tutorial instruction-at their convenience. As with
any of the class Web site information, hard copies of any of these materials can
be printed at the student's discretion and expense.
-On-line conversation via the Web discussion board
This semester, the 15 students in this advanced communications graphics class
were introduced to what is called a Web discussion board. Building on the
concept of the chat room, the Web discussion board enables students to conduct
conversations with each other and the instructor about a variety of
class-related issues. Because only a few (20%) of the students had had
experience with these on-line discussions other than e-mail, almost a full lab
was devoted to practicing posting and answering questions to the Web discussion
board. Then as outside-of-class assignments, students were required to read two
of the on-line readings each week. The readings were selected and posted to the
Web site based upon the relevance they had to issues, topics and trends in both
print and electronic communications graphics. Students could navigate to these
page. Once on the front page of the class readings section, another frame on the
right side of the page outlined the following assignment:
"For each reading you will use the following question stems to formulate a
question for one of your classmates to answer. When you are finished writing
your question, answer one posed by a classmate. Post questions and answers to
the Web discussion board under the thread corresponding to the title of the
reading. Do not duplicate questions or answer a question to which someone has
already posted a response. If answering your question requires background
information, be sure to post the URL. You are free to incorporate information
presented, not only in the reading itself, but from lectures, other readings or
Web sites, and from other courses had by you and your classmates. These may
include Mass Media and Society, History of Mass Media, and Communications Law.
Check the board frequently and be prepared to defend your answers or elaborate
upon your questions."
-Examples of Web discussion board question stems
Although students could formulate their own questions, these question "stems"
were supplied to help guide them in this new form of electronic communication.
What is a new example of________? How would you use ______ to ______?
What would happen if______? What are the strengths and weaknesses of ______?
What do we already know about ______? How does ______ tie in with what we
before? Explain why ______. Explain how ______. How does ______ affect______?
Once they had read the on-line readings and determined what question and
answers they wanted to pose, they navigated to the Web discussion board button
on the class Web site. This took them into the actual Web discussion board on
which they could post their questions, and provide follow up answers to the
questions they selected.
As the semester has evolved, the Web discussion board conversation has grown.
The instructor has the sole control over the removal of messages from the board.
-Student feedback to hypermedia and the graphics classroom Web site
Student questionnaires about the Web site and its contents were given the tenth
week of the semester. The purpose of the questionnaire was to collect feedback
on the usefulness and effectiveness of the Web-related components of the course,
and to provide the instructor with sufficient data to continue to refine the Web
site and its contents. Unfortunately the sample is very small with just 15
students in this laboratory class (16 is the maximum allowed) responding.
However, it will serve as a baseline for future inquiry with subsequent classes.
The following provides response numbers or ranks to the 15 students' responses.
(Because the sample was small, simple tallies, rather than percentages are used
in most cases):
1. Is this the first course in which you've had access to on-line course
information, like the syllabus and readings?
2. Is this the first course in which you've been required to do on-line
assignments like the Web discussion board?, or had access to course information
3. What do you like most about being able to access class information on-line?
(Listed in order of most liked)
1-Access to current class projects and assignments with deadlines
2-Access to current syllabus and student e-mails
3-Access to on-line readings
4-Access to web discussion opportunities like the Web discussion board
5-Access to previous class projects/assignments
4. What do you like least about having to access class information on-line?
(Listed in order of least liked)
1-Lack of time
3-Don't like reading on-line
4-Still learning about the technology
5. How do you prefer getting course information, such as the projects, readings
on paper-3 on-line-0 both-12
6. Where do you do most of your on-line classwork, such as the readings or the
Web discussion board?
home-6 office-1 school-8
7. Assuming you had unlimited access to a computer, on-line classwork,
assignments and readings would be more convenient.
0 Strongly Disagree
8. I like to "surf the Web."
9. Right now, I use the Internet for (give approx. percentages of time to equal
Term papers, research, general information (24.96%)
Specific classes I'm taking (13%)
10. The design of the ADVT 498 Website was easy to navigate.
11. I liked the content of the ADVT 498 Website.
12. Learning how to use the Internet for a class will help me learn how to use
it more effectively on the job.
13. I liked having access to class readings via the ADVT 498 Website.
14. I can save money with on-line readings rather than buying a course packet.
15. I comprehend information from the screen just as well as I do from paper.
16. I feel more comfortable discussing certain issues with my classmates
on-line, rather than in a large classroom.
17. This kind of on-line "interaction" sharpens my critical thinking skills.
18. This kind of on-line interaction with my classmates improves my
comprehension of the information.
19. The on-line readings and my activity with the Web discussion board made me
want to explore subjects further.
20. I would have read the assigned readings on my own even if I didn't have to
post questions to the Web discussion board.
21. Web discussion groups like the Web discussion board are useful to aid in
learning about certain subjects.
22. Would it make a difference in your attention and comprehension to the
readings if you had been tested over them, rather than just having to post
questions to the Web discussion board?
23. The Web discussion board would be best used to: (responses below ranked in
order of preference)
1-Supplement traditional classroom methods
2-Give students additional ways in which to access reading information
3-Give students better ways to interact or demonstrate level of interest with
4-Give students ways to build upon their existing on-line library
5-Give students the opportunity to talk to each other on-line, rather than in
24. The next generation of college students will probably get most of their
class information on the Internet.
25. One of the reasons I like the Internet is because it's more like play than
26. When I use the Internet, I can forget time.
27. When I use the Internet, I feel in control.
28. When I use the Internet, I am rarely bored.
When asked about suggestions they would have to make the class Web site better,
students responded with these comments, "It will only be better once everyone
has a computer and that just takes time because it is frustrating when I don't
have a computer at home and others in class do." Two students responded, "Allow
more in-class time for working with the Web discussion group and other on-line
projects," and "Allow more class time." Another said, "I find the setup we have
now to be very usable and understandable. It's possible the information may
stick more if we discussed it in class also." Another student commented that
"editing and constant updates" to the Web discussion group would be helpful.
Another student commented that she would like to be able to "hand in creative
assignments on-line," as is a file transfer or a graphic file transfer
application such as Adobe Acrobat.
-Faculty feedback to hypermedia and the graphics classroom Web site
Even though this feedback comes from "a faculty of one," there is enough data
to report on some of the instructor's experiences in this course. This
instructor has taught it
over a continuum of time, and has been teaching the communications graphics
courses for 10 years within this department.
1) The visual richness of the Web environment. Anyone who has taught a graphics
course within an advertising curriculum understands the importance of the
availability of a variety of visual information. The graphical nature of the Web
gives communications graphics students a virtual library of visual material, and
another method by which to develop and incorporate visual design elements into
their assignments and projects. It's a
natural medium for a graphics class to study. Students were eager to learn more
about the many opportunities for visual communication they could incorporate
into their creative assignments, and feel more confident about their own Web
2) Student assessment. With the on-line discussion groups or assignments, there
is a different kind of student interaction. The instructor could access and
store this discussion information easily on-line, at any time of the day or
night. If necessary, the student interaction with the Web discussion board could
also be printed for paper files. Student assessment is facilitated within a Web
environment because the information is available on-line. As students became
more comfortable with interactive class assignments and on-line discussions,
their proficiencies were assessed in several areas such as: a.) communication
skills, especially writing; b.) attention to and completion of assignments
and on deadline; c.) understanding of the assigned materials; d.) individual
competence as compared to the whole; 5.) general interest and awareness of
particular topics 6.) willingness to go beyond the basic expectations; 7.)
willingness to explore new areas of learning, such as technology.
3) Collaboration with faculty and students. The instructor maintained
responsibility over course content, but developed strategic alliances with
interested students more proficient in Web programming. Students were eager to
be involved and felt empowered
over their own educational processes. This relationship-building between faculty
and student strengthened student confidence of the whole class when they
realized they too were actively involved in the development of course material
and class processes.
4) Faculty convenience with on-line information. By publishing routine
information such as the course syllabus, schedule changes, advising hours,
classroom policies, lab hours, and frequently asked questions to a class Web
site, faculty can direct more time toward professional development. By
maintaining an active file of immediately available
information, the instructor was able to minimize needlessly repetitive
interaction, lost syllabi, assignments, or other details that become
particularly challenging with skills courses. Faculty and student use of e-mails
has become popular within the past several years, and it continues to be a
primary benefit to everyone. This Web site's individual and group e-mails, for
students and instructor, were available on-line as part of the Web site, which
meant that these addresses could be accessed from anywhere there was a computer
connected to the Internet. Otherwise, most student and faculty e-mail accounts
are available only through the networked Telnet software which may or may not be
available off campus. By shifting e-mails to a Web's browser, e-mail access to
these addresses is possible for anyone, not just faculty and students.
5) Teaching computer skills and proficiencies through on-line tutorials. By
making beginning and advanced, easy-to-follow tutorials available on the class
Web site, there was more time for instruction beyond the time-consuming process
of teaching computer skills to beginning or intermediate users. It's more
important for students to learn about other things besides skills (Sydney Brown,
1997). Through the use of tutorials, students could learn at their own speed,
after scheduled class times, or wherever they had access to a computer and the
Web. Therefore class time could be used to develop the conceptual and critical
thinking skills important for communications designers. Once these tutorials go
line, they become part of the virtual library of instructional material and an
on-going method for students to continue to develop their skills at their time
and convenience even after they've completed the course.
6) Archiving and retrieval of on-line materials. The class Web site included
archived materials, such as previous course information, assignments, students,
student home pages, and on-line research results. Students could directly build
upon the knowledge gained by previous classes. Since this communications
graphics class is an elective, the
instructor uses the Web site to inform prospective students about its scope and
content. Casual surfers can navigate to the class URL and non-majors can also
explore some of the departmental offerings. One of the interesting benefits for
on-line class information such as this is that it serves as an instant
"electronic brochure," for recruiting and information purposes. Students who are
interested in transferring from one campus to another, or from one major to
another are given the URL in other college literature and can retrieve as much
information as they want. This class Web site also gives anyone else an
opportunity to look into the course's offerings. Parents, administrators,
legislators, prospective students, and colleagues, can easily explore just about
any facet of the instruction. Some faculty may find
this intimidating, but most will be delighted to be able to share class
information in ways never before possible.
7) More customized instruction. These varying degrees of competency are
especially evident in advertising skills lab courses such as layout, design and
copywriting, where some students are entering with computer proficiencies beyond
those of the instructor. The Web's secondary and tertiary resources provided the
students with additional areas of study with which they might not have been
previously familiar, and for which they might have exceptional aptitude. Some
educators are now calling this synchronous and asynchronous
education. Both approaches are worthwhile; and to have an environment in which
these can take place was advantageous.
8) Utilizing more natural bio-rhythms. In making as much of a course available
24-hours a day, seven days a week, students and the instructor had the chance to
consume information when they were most likely to efficiently process and retain
it. By using interactive tools such as an e-mail list or the Web discussion
board, questions could be posed at the discretion of the user. The instructor
uses on-line communication at home,
which meant that e-mails or discussion threads could be edited in the office or
This study is not intended to provide any "big news" finding, but to begin to
take a few new technological steps into some different teaching methodologies
and opportunities. It will be important to continue to query students and
instructors about computer attitudes, behaviors, access, likes and dislikes vis
a vis classroom instruction. Most likely these attitudes will change as quickly
as the technology. As further research is developed and as individual
instructional experiences are shared, no doubt Web-based classroom instruction
will grow. A number of commercially produced Web-based instructional software
are now available, although it will be up to individual faculty to determine
whether to create their own version of Web-based materials, or to opt for
commercial products. From the experience in this communications graphics class,
there are many fertile areas for discussion and further inquiry:
1) Is Web-based instruction best used by itself or in conjunction with
traditional classroom methods? It appears from this class' comments that
students prefer a
combination of traditional paper along with on-line delivery. Even though these
students are more Web-savvy and computer proficient than most, and it would be
counter-intuitive to think they would not give high scores to this classroom
technology, they're still not certain about how on-line instruction fits into
their particular learning preferences. The fact is that student and instructor
are both learning how to best adapt course information on the Web. There are
areas in which on-line interaction, such as the Web discussion group pose
exciting new student interaction and communication opportunities, but there are
also some downsides. For example, access to the Web discussion board in this
class was not password protected, so anyone who knew the URL could post
information to the board. There was no evidence of student abuse, but
considering the potential for others to post
information to the board without permission, or to have students use other's
work, there are possible concerns. However, it is relatively easy to build in
these user safeguards.
For certain kinds of instruction, such as an advertising graphics course like
that in this study, Web based instruction is more of a natural outgrowth of the
computer technology students have been having to learn for some time. So, we may
see a proliferation of hypermedia activity in these "pre-disposed" courses. The
real test will be to see how on-line technologies are introduced into more
"low-tech" or traditional content courses.
Ultimately, it will be the responsibility of student and instructor to work
together to continue to build materials that maximize student interest and
instructional pedagogy. The opportunities to build truly different relationships
between faculty and students have never been so rich as they are today and will
be as the technology evolves.
2) Does Web-based instruction work for some classes, and not for others? In the
case of this communications graphics class, the richness of the Web's visual,
textual and information resources make it a natural for further development in
advertising and public relations courses. As more classes "go on-line," building
a body of data will help us better understand the kinds of courses that work
best for Web-based instruction. However, there may be courses in which
traditional methods of delivery or classroom instruction are not only adequate,
but better than in a hypermedia format. Faculty who want to learn about
hypermedia instruction will be challenged to explore new and innovative ways to
and even those whose subject matter doesn't lend itself to an on-line method may
still feel compelled to develop on-line courses. In this context, both
instructor and student will benefit.
3) How do we find the time to develop more Web-based courses? Most of the
faculty reluctance to new technology has to do with a lack of time, not a
resistance to become more
computer proficient or to integrate new technologies into their classroom. Basic
computer skills are necessary for faculty to understand the processes of
hypertext information and design and how to get it from paper to computer
screen. As Web sites become more
advanced, interactive and graphically sophisticated students will require more
effective and innovative design. Just where is this development going to take
place? Should faculty be given additional incentives or leave time to develop
the wherewithal to develop Web-based materials for their classes? One relatively
simple and immediate answer will be to develop partnerships between faculty and
web savvy students. Many campuses are gearing up their instructional technology
personnel and high tech classrooms for this very purpose. Collaboration among
faculty, students and technology specialists should enhance campus-wide
interaction and serve as a common denominator for discussion about teaching,
distance education, and new technologies.
4) Who has access to computer classrooms and servers? Web-based instruction can
take place only if the classroom is equipped with the proper facilities, and if
there is adequate access to servers where information can be loaded. In this
study, and in most university advertising programs, classrooms linked to new
technology and mass have been standard classroom equipment for several years.
But in other, less high tech or skills based programs, faculty and students
will need to have access to lab computers if they do not have the equipment at
home. Some of the students in this survey expressed the concern about computer
access, and until computers are more universally available, computer access will
be an impediment to the hypermedia classroom. Some universities, such as the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are "committed to preparing our
students to live and work successfully in the knowledge-based economy of the
21st century," UNC Chancellor Michael Hooker announced in a February 12 news
release. Freshmen entering
the UNC in 2000 will be required to have laptop computers. The requirement is
part of an ongoing effort to enhance the academic curriculum through the use of
Internet, the World Wide Web, e-mail, CD-ROM and other technologies. Nationwide,
several public and private campuses are introducing computer requirements as
part of a trend that has picked up steam in recently. Georgia Institute of
Technology made laptops mandatory for freshmen in the fall of 1997. So have
private campuses such as Wake Forest and Carnegie-Mellon universities. In the
summer of 1998, the University of Florida will begin requiring all students to
at least have access to a computer. In the fall of 1998, Virginia Tech
University will become the first large public campus to require all students to
own a computer and Western Carolina University will make computers mandatory for
5) How do we develop more effective user and communicator models. Considering
the audience, psychological and learning perspectives outlined earlier, perhaps
the greatest opportunities for Web-based curriculum and instruction are with the
development of more innovative course content and hypermedia design models.
Students in this study liked many things about the interactive Web-based course
content and design. They liked much of the convenience, the opportunity to save
money with on-line readings, the unlimited access to the information at their
convenience. The students in this study believed they would benefit from
learning more about hypermedia interaction, the comprehension of information,
and the opportunity to enhance the learning experience. As we learn more about
the interactive, non-linear nature of the Web, we'll learn more about how to put
together material to maximize the student's serendipitous involvement with the
In the context of the flow and serendipity of student Web users, additional
research will shed light on whether hypermedia truly adds to the classroom
pedagogy, with answers to questions like "Is the student really learning
something?", or "Is 'flow' just an extended
time waster as students jump around, or try to learn a technology they don't
like or understand?"
6) Continuing student assessment. Although this study's sample was very small,
and it is difficult to make any major generalizations from it, there appeared to
be some ambivalence on the part of even computer proficient students about this
technology in the classroom. From this data, it's impossible to say why. We may
discover that students are less eager about this instructional method than we
may presume. The attitude that all young people are embracing the Web may not be
valid, at least not at this point in time. An on-going analysis of past and
present student attitudes concerning their assessment of flow, self-efficacy and
involvement with the Web will help us better define an appropriate user model,
and ultimately help us design Web-based instruction that will enhance classroom
The data in this study is insufficient to correlate some important criteria,
such as grades with specific attitudes about the Web-based materials, such as
those who were more satisfied with the on-line syllabus and page design got more
A's, or those who used the Web Discussion Board developed more critical thinking
skills. Further study can help us determine whether, according to Bazillion and
Braun, critical thinking skills are affected, enhanced, reduced or whatever.
7) Finding faculty "comfort zones." Faculty need to find their own level of
familiarity with classroom technology and develop an approach, if at all, that
works best for them. On most university campuses, it appears that a smaller
percentage of faculty are actively engaged in this kind of instruction, while
still a majority are not. As some have described the new catch phrases of
certain teaching approaches, it is "the sage on the stage," who embraces
traditional instruction, and the "guide on the side," who is eager to integrate
the new media into the classroom. The forces and advantages of technology are
strong, and don't appear to be subsiding. Since instruction in a hypermedia
environment can accommodate so many different perspectives-virtually anyone can
access it unless it's
unlinked or password protected-it will become an incentive for colleges and
departments to start to re-think and improve the content and design of many of
their courses. Computers and hypermedia instruction can add to the learning that
takes place in the classroom. This form of instruction can also take learning to
the dorms, the student union, the library-wherever students can log onto a
computer. All of this should greatly enhance the quality of education, in
delivery, content, design and ultimately learning.
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