The conversation often ends there; by the
time the grade or comment is received, the course and student
are off on new topics.
Now, however, electronic mail, computer
conferencing, and the World Wide Web increase opportunities for
students and faculty to converse and exchange work much more
speedily than before, and more thoughtfully and "safely"
than when confronting each other in a classroom or faculty office.
Total communication increases and, for many students, the result
seems more intimate, protected, and convenient than the more
intimidating demands of face-to-face communication with faculty.
Professor Norman Coombs reports that, after
twelve years of teaching black history at the Rochester Institute
of Technology, the first time he used email was the first time
a student asked what he, a white man, was doing teaching black
history. The literature is full of stories of students from different
cultures opening up in and out of class when email became available.
Communication also is eased when student or instructor (or both)
is not a native speaker of English; each party can take a bit
more time to interpret what has been said and compose a response.
With the new media, participation and contribution from diverse
students become more equitable and widespread.
2. Good Practice Develops Reciprocity
and Cooperation Among Students
Learning is enhanced when it is more like
a team effort than a solo race. Good learning, like good work,
is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Working
with others often increases involvement in learning. Sharing
one's ideas and responding to others' improves thinking and deepens
The increased opportunities for interaction
with faculty noted above apply equally to communication with
fellow students. Study groups, collaborative learning, group
problem solving, and discussion of assignments can all be dramatically
strengthened through communication tools that facilitate such
The extent to which computer-based tools
encourage spontaneous student collaboration was one of the earliest
surprises about computers. A clear advantage of email for today's
busy commuting students is that it opens up communication among
classmates even when they are not physically together.
For example: One of us, attempting to learn
to navigate the Web, took a course taught entirely by a combination
of televised class sessions (seen live or taped) and by work
on a course Web page. The hundred students in the course included
persons in Germany and the Washington, DC, area.
Learning teams helped themselves "learn
the plumbing" and solve problems.
These team members never met face-to-face.
But they completed and exchanged Myers-Briggs Type Inventories,
surveys of their prior experience and level of computer expertise,
and brief personal introductions. This material helped teammates
size one another up initially; team interactions then built working
relationships and encouraged acquaintanceship. This kind of "collaborative
learning" would be all but impossible without the presence
of the media we were learning about and with.
3. Good Practice Uses Active Learning
Learning is not a spectator sport. Students
do not learn much just sitting in classes listening to teachers,
memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers.
They must talk about what they are learning, write reflectively
about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their
daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.
The range of technologies that encourage
active learning is staggering. Many fall into one of three categories:
tools and resources for learning by doing, time-delayed exchange,
and real-time conversation. Today, all three usually can be supported
with "worldware," i.e., software (such as word processors)
originally developed for other purposes but now used for instruction,
We've already discussed communication tools,
so here we will focus on learning by doing. Apprentice-like learning
has been supported by many traditional technologies: research
libraries, laboratories, art and architectural studios, athletic
fields. Newer technologies now can enrich and expand these opportunities.
4. Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback
Knowing what you know and don't know focuses
your learning. In getting started, students need help in assessing
their existing knowledge and competence. Then, in classes, students
need frequent opportunities to perform and receive feedback on
their performance. At various points during college, and at its
end, students need chances to reflect on what they have learned,
what they still need to know, and how they might assess themselves.
The ways in which new technologies can
provide feedback are many - sometimes obvious, sometimes more
subtle. We already have talked about the use of email for supporting
person-to-person feedback, for example, and the feedback inherent
in simulations. Computers also have a growing role in recording
and analyzing personal and professional performances. Teachers
can use technology to provide critical observations for an apprentice;
for example, video to help a novice teacher, actor, or athlete
critique his or her own performance. Faculty (or other students)
can react to a writer's draft using the "hidden text"
option available in word processors: Turned on, the "hidden"
comments spring up; turned off, the comments recede and the writer's
prized work is again free of "red ink."
As we move toward portfolio evaluation
strategies, computers can provide rich storage and easy access
to student products and performances. Computers can keep track
of early efforts, so instructors and students can see the extent
to which later efforts demonstrate gains in knowledge, competence,
or other valued outcomes. Performances that are time-consuming
and expensive to record and evaluate - such as leadership skills,
group process management, or multicultural interactions - can
be elicited and stored, not only for ongoing critique but also
as a record of growing capacity.
5. Good Practice Emphasizes Time on
Time plus energy equals learning. Learning
to use one's time well is critical for students and professionals
alike. Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective learning
for students and effective teaching for faculty.
New technologies can dramatically improve
time on task for students and faculty members. Some years ago
a faculty member told one of us that he used technology to "steal
students' beer time," attracting them to work on course
projects instead of goofing off. Technology also can increase
time on task by making studying more efficient. Teaching strategies
that help students learn at home or work can save hours otherwise
spent commuting to and from campus, finding parking places, and
so on. Time efficiency also increases when interactions between
teacher and students, and among students, fit busy work and home
schedules. And students and faculty alike make better use of
time when they can get access to important resources for learning
without trudging to the library, flipping through card files,
scanning microfilm and microfiche, and scrounging the reference
For faculty members interested in classroom
research, computers can record student participation and interaction
and help document student time on task, especially as related
to student performance.
6. Good Practice Communicates High Expectations
Expect more and you will get it. High expectations
are important for everyone - for the poorly prepared, for those
unwilling to exert themselves, and for the bright and well motivated.
Expecting students to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling
prophecy. New technologies can communicate high expectations
explicitly and efficiently. Significant real-life problems, conflicting
perspectives, or paradoxical data sets can set powerful learning
challenges that drive students to not only acquire information
but sharpen their cognitive skills of analysis, synthesis, application,
Many faculty report that students feel
stimulated by knowing their finished work will be "published"
on the World Wide Web.With technology, criteria for evaluating
products and performances can be more clearly articulated by
the teacher, or generated collaboratively with stu- dents. General
criteria can be illustrated with samples of excellent, average,
mediocre, and faulty performance. These samples can be shared
and modified easily. They provide a basis for peer evaluation,
so learning teams can help everyone succeed.
7. Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents
and Ways of Learning
Many roads lead to learning. Different
students bring different talents and styles to college. Brilliant
students in a seminar might be all thumbs in a lab or studio;
students rich in hands-on experience may not do so well with
theory. Students need opportunities to show their talents and
learn in ways that work for them. Then they can be pushed to
learn in new ways that do not come so easily.
Technological resources can ask for different
methods of learning through powerful visuals and well-organized
print; through direct, vicarious, and virtual experiences; and
through tasks requiring analysis, synthesis, and evaluation,
with applications to real-life situations. They can encourage
self-reflection and self-evaluation. They can drive collaboration
and group problem solving. Technologies can help students learn
in ways they find most effective and broaden their repertoires
for learning. They can supply structure for students who need
it and leave assignments more open-ended for students who don't.
Fast, bright students can move quickly through materials they
master easily and go on to more difficult tasks; slower students
can take more time and get more feedback and direct help from
teachers and fellow students. Aided by technologies, students
with similar motives and talents can work in cohort study groups
without constraints of time and place.
Evaluation and the Seven Principles
How are we to know whether given technologies
are as useful in promoting the Seven Principles and learning
as this article claims? One approach is to look and see, which
is the aim of the "Flashlight Project," a three-year
effort of the Annenberg/CPB Project to develop and share evaluation
procedures. The Flash-light Project is developing a suite of
evaluation tools that any campus can use to monitor the usefulness
of technology in implementing the Seven Principles and the impacts
of such changes on learning outcomes (e.g., the student's ability
to apply what was learned in the academic program) and on access
(e.g., whether hoped-for gains in time on task and retention
are saving money for the institution and its funders).
Technology Is Not Enough
The Seven Principles cannot be implemented
by technophiles alone, or even by faculty alone. Students need
to become familiar with the Principles and be more assertive
with respect to their own learning. When confronted with teaching
strategies and course requirements that use technologies in ways
contrary to the Principles, students should, if possible, move
to alternatives that serve them better. If teaching focuses simply
on memorizing and regurgitating prepackaged information, whether
delivered by a faculty lecture or computer, students should reach
for a different course, search out additional resources or complementary
experiences, establish their own study groups, or go to the professor
for more substantial activities and feedback.
Faculty members who already work with students
in ways consistent with the Principles need to be tough-minded
about the software- and technology-assisted interactions they
create and buy into. They need to eschew materials that are simply
didactic, and search instead for those that are interactive,
problem oriented, relevant to real-world issues, and that evoke
Institutional policies concerning learning
resources and technology support need to give high priority to
user-friendly hardware, software, and communication vehicles
that help faculty and students use technologies efficiently and
effectively. Investments in professional development for faculty
members, plus training and computer lab assistance for students,
will be necessary if learning potentials are to be realized.
Finally, it is appropriate for legislators
and other benefactors to ask whether institutions are striving
to improve educational practice consistent with the Seven Principles.
Much depends on the answer.
from "A Technical
Guide to Teleconferencing and Distance Learning," 3rd edition