Supporting Web Teaching in an Institutional Scale: A City University of Hong Kong Experience

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Nov 5, 2013 (3 years and 9 months ago)

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1


Supporting Web Teaching in an Institutional Scale
:

A City University of Hong Kong Experience



S. K. Crusher Wong

Web Teaching Support Services

City University of Hong Kong

Hong Kong SAR, China

Tel: +852 2784 4763, Fax: +852 2788 7713, E
-
mail:
crusher.wong@cityu.edu.hk


Maria P. M. Chin

Web Teaching Support Services

City University of Hong Kong

Hong Kong SAR, China

Tel: +852 2788 8256, Fax: +852 2788 7713, E
-
mail:
maria.chin@cityu.edu.hk


Hok Ling Cheung

Web Teaching Support Services

City University of Hong Kong

Hong Kong SAR, China

Tel: +852 2194 2654, Fax: +852 2788 7713, E
-
mail:
wtchl@cityu.edu.hk





Abstract:
Educa
tors in the information technology era are facing the major
challenge of adopting the Internet as a medium of teaching and learning. In
the academic year of 1998
-
1999, a small project titled “
Distributed Teaching
and Learning via the web


A Supplement to
Traditional Teaching”
introduced WebCT, a web
-
based instruction platform, to teaching staff at
City University of Hong Kong.
Besides increasing awareness of web
teaching among colleagues, we discovered that limitation of resources is one
of the major obst
acles to starting internet
-
assisted teaching. Such a
conclusion led to the establishment of Web Teaching Support Services Unit
(WTSS) at CityUHK. The mission of WTSS is to promote and endorse web
teaching by organizing activities including: WebCT training,

internet
-
assisted course demonstrations, courseware construction, web technology
introduction, experience sharing and more. After ten months in operation,
around 130 courses are web enabled through direct support of WTSS and
the total number of CityUHK co
urses on the Internet approaches 260. Most
of the teaching staff found services from WTSS essential for their
continuation of web teaching exploration. Students also expressed their
interest in this new learning environment via an online questionnaire.








2

1.

Introduction


To explore the genuine interest of teachers and students in Web
-
Based Instruction
(WBI) tools, Cheng and Wong (1999) conducted a pilot project supporting
minimum
level
web teaching,
, using WebCT at City University of
Hong Kong during the 1999
-
2000 academic year. The demands were overwhelming: over 100 courses created, 82
teaching staff from 26 department/divisions participated.

A
wareness in web teaching among colleagues was successfully induced. Individual
instr
uctor
s

created a large amount of online teaching materials with assistan
ce

provided by this project. The students

beg
an

to get accustomed to internet
-
assisted
teaching and online resource searching.



Nevertheless, data analysis of the project revealed a message behind all these
successes.
Of the

102 courses on WebCT, the web
-
based instruction platform
deployed, only 46 were active. Over half of the
courses were not in operation or never
accessed. According
to
the feedback from our survey, teaching staff w
ere

uncertain
about web teaching and had no time to prepare online courseware on their
ow
n. The
solution was to support web teaching
o
n an inst
itutional scale. Consequently, the
Vice
-
Presidents of information service and education at CityUHK jointly extended the
project to a service unit, Web Teaching Support Services (WTSS), to maintain our
competitiveness as an educational institute in the epoc
h of information technology.



2.

Web Teaching Support Services


The responsibilities of WTSS are promoting web teaching, providing workshop and
consultation on web course design, and supplying student helpers for technical work
.


Promotional seminars are or
ganized frequently with topics
ranging
from introduction
to

the web to

new Internet technology
;

demonstration of showcase courses to
intellectual property rights on the Internet. Many participants are attracted by the
flexibility and possible impact on l
earning. Consequently, more teaching staff
acquired web teaching with new ideas to inspire others. We hope this set off a chain
reaction elevating the teaching and lea
r
ning spirit at CityU.


Since our vision of web teaching and learning is dynamic and inte
ractive, Internet
tools training sessions are conducted to ensure instructors
ar
e able to
be actively
involve
d
. Most colleagues are very willing to learn

and they attend our training
sessions before asking for WTSS services. To
respond to

the strong demand among
web teachers, we
have
beg
u
n offering advanced training to enhance their
comprehension of Internet technology, which may trigger invention of new teaching
format
s
.


A web site defining our functions and objectives is indispensable
. Our homepage at
http://www.cityu.edu.hk/wtss/

consists of four major areas: Teacher Corner, Student
Corner, WTSS and Web Teaching. Instructors can experience demo courses, request

3

service
s or

find a solutio
n to their technical problem. Students may apply for jobs to
show their talent in online production. Our background, objective and publications are
all listed under WTSS. The Web Teaching pages supply hyperlinks to web teaching
related projects, companies
and government bodies.



3.

Course Production and Post
-
production Services


Before the actual production of Internet
-
based courseware, consultation and training
are essential. WTSS helps CityU colleagues to investigate new approach in internet
-
assisted teachi
ng by providing professional suggestions and feasibility estimation.


The first step is to understand the course
---

subject matter, enrollment, number of
teaching staff, time lag between daytime and evening classes, etc. All these concerns
will influence
the
operation of web course
s
. For example
, discussions on the online
bulletin board may be a constructive way of learning for a class of 60 students but

chao
tic

for a class of 600 students. Separating hundreds of students into different
for
ums

monito
red by teaching assistan
ts

will retain the benefit and control of web
discussion. We have discovered the power of computer
-
generated animations in
help
ing

students
to
visualiz
e

concepts in physical science.
S
ocial science and
busi
ness subjects may be benefited by video
-
on
-
demand or virtual role
-
playing for
case studies. We try to identify the best combination of features for every course.


Once the configuration of a web course is recognized, student helpers are deployed to
build t
he structure and content.
The

helpers employed are diligent and reliable with
good experience in web page design. Nevertheless, a great web course cannot be
produced without supervision from subject experts. Ensuring the correctness of
content is st
ill
the

responsibility of the course instructors.


During

the gap between semesters, web course renewal and backup are unavoidable.
Courses change term
-
by
-
term from course code to syllabus. Even if all
the
conditions
remain the same, cours
e instructor
s

may want a total make over to increase student
interest. Preservation of web courses is a sustainable development receiving no less
attention then course creation in WTSS. Besides planning ahead, archiving previous
efforts is a common and sen
sible practice in the information era.



4.

Problems and Difficulties


Some colleagues struggle with obsolete PCs preparing internet
-
based course content.
Others are unable to execute interactive exercises because of the
un
availability of
teaching studios

eq
uipped with PCs
,
as
suggested by Wilson (1994), Leung et al
(1996) and Stokes et al (1998)
. The computing power of individuals around campus
and off
-
campus needs to
be able to
cope with the development of web teaching.


We have to declin
e demands requiring heavy Internet programming, SQL server and
database (Unix and NT) integration. Besides the fact that WTSS currently lacking

4

staff and student helpers with the appropriate expertise, support on customized
Internet applications cannot be
guaranteed after the responsible helpers graduate.


There have been difficulties in finding students with software skills such as 3D Studio
MAX, Flash, Javascript, Java Applet, CGI and ASP due to very limited application of
such software in the university

curriculum. With our slim budget, inviting
professionals to give lectures is almost impossible. It is not surprising that peer
interaction helps
---

allowing

student helpers with special talent to lead others.


As one would see, our operation is heavi
ly depende
nt

up
on student helpers
;

thus their
contribution and limitation need to be addressed. On one hand, instructors and WTSS
staff are gratified with the performance and reliability of helpers. On the other hand,
most student helpers are unable to re
act immediately in case of emergenc
y
. WTSS has
handled over 100 course development projects over 2 semesters of operation. The
intense pressure jeopardizes the flow of creativity among staff and student helpers.
O
ur target, enhancing the quality

of learning, is still fairly remote
given

our limited
resources.



5.

Feedback from Teachers and Students


In the first semester (99/00 Semester A) of WTSS operation, 140 courses utilized our
WBI as a supplement to lectures at CityU. More than 80 teachi
ng staff obtained
different level
s

of assistan
ce

from WTSS; over 10,000 students

learnt through
WebCT. To identify staff

and student

needs and expectations in internet
-
assisted
teaching and learning,
their
evaluation of effectiveness of web
-
based
instruction
is

essential for our development.


During the two
-
month period of online student survey, 1,659 responses were
registered. The majority accesse
d

courses on online at home/office and/or at the
university. 66% of th
ose

surveyed had

a decent remote access speed of 56kbps or
above and less than 3% did not have any remote access capability. Around 48 %
thought they could manage using a computer and surfing the Internet and 30% rated
themselves expert or competent in the field. Learning

to use WebCT took an hour or
less for almost 80% of th
ose

surveyed and more than 54% spent only 30 minutes or
less. In other words, accessing web courses is not an intrinsic problem among
students.


The most important issue to educators is the effectiven
ess of learning enhanc
e
ment.
The students’ replies are mostly neutral and the mean (3.70

0.06, in a 1 to 7 scale
where 1 being strongly agree, 4 being neutral and 7 begin strongly disagree) is neutral
with a bias to slightly agree. The distribution of res
ponses is illustrated in Figure 1.
Positive correlation is obtained between improving learning and the appropriateness
of the remote access facility. Apparently, online learning cannot be achieved without
adequate hardware. Learning improvement also positi
vely correlates to how many
courses on the Internet they prefer in the next semester.



5

Only person
-
to
-
computer interaction in web teaching cannot completely satisfy our
students. They agree (2.17

0.05)
that
a good online course require
s

active
participati
on from the course instructors; see Figure 2. We predict the demand of
quality internet
-
assisted courses with multifaceted person
-
to
-
person interaction will
increase rapidly in the near future.


Better Learning
39
239
355
727
134
107
37
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
Strongly agree
Agree
Slightly agree
No comment
Slightly disagree
Disagree
Strongly disagree

Figure 1: Students responses to the statement “I learn bett
er when I am studying in
courses using WebCT.”




Active Participation
411
764
273
152
22
2
7
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
900
Strongly agree
Agree
Slightly agree
No comment
Slightly disagree
Disagree
Strongly disagree

Figure 2: Students responses to the statement “I think a good web
-
assisted course in
WebCT requires active participation/response from the course lecturer/tutor.”



6


According to the essay type questions,
we summarize the opinions of th
ose

surveyed.
Convenience in accessing course materials is most welcome by the students, followed
by interactive learning. They complain mainly
about

the current data transfer rate on
the Internet and the lack of guidance
in using online course materials. The request
for

more reference materials (past paper, additional notes, hyperlink, etc.) and online
features (online lecture, newsgroup, Video
-
On
-
Demand, etc) are tremendous. For a
good and useful internet
-
assisted cours
e, the majority considers easy access and
teacher participation are the most important elements of web teaching.


Among the teaching staff obtain
ing

different level of assistan
ce

from WTSS during
the first semester of WTSS operation, 31 were successfull
y interviewed
in

the first
two months of 2000. Others were interviewed
by

phone
;

some were
unavailable. The
result
ant

summary is established from classifying responses and statistical analysis is
not applicable.


Most of th
ose

surveyed

consider WBI
to
be

a convenient way to distribute course
materials, communicate with students and induce peer interactions. Bulletin Board
revolutionizes the way discussions are
conducted
. Online quizzes provide new way
s

to probe students’ difficul
ties in learning. Most of them believe the quality of
education is improved. Others expect to witness the achievement within a decade.
Nevertheless, insufficient hardware power and time constraints remain as the major
barrier in implementing web teaching.


Minimizing technical effort from teaching staff in the process of web
-
enabling
courses is one of WTSS
’s

initiative
s
. From the responses, WTSS are regarded as
being comprehensive, prompt and essential. Colleagues appreciate the consultation
from our staff
and direct assistan
ce

from student helpers. Some of them even
confessed that they would not attempt web teaching without WTSS.


Most instructors spent more time preparing internet
-
based courseware and some of
them are confident that less effort is require
d to update materials year after year. They
like to leave the technical advancement to WTSS and concentrate on the pedagogy of
web teaching.



6.

Future Development


The Internet is full of teaching resources created by educators around the world. Most
of the
se materials are ready to share
. The World Lecture Hall
[
http://www.utexas.edu/world/lecture/
] administrated by the University of Taxes at
Austin serves as a good example o
f
a
portal of teaching materials from Accounting to
Zoology. To demonstrat
e

our educational effort to the world, we urge the universities
in Hong Kong
to
join

forces to establish a website of courseware. In a
ddition
, we will
build a virtu
al library for the
next

generation.



7

Technologically, IMS Global Learning Consortium [
http://www.imsproject.com/
]
announced two online learning standards: the IMS Content Packaging Specification
and the IMS

Question and Test Interoperability Specification. Internet
-
based
courseware will no longer suffer from incompatibility from one WBI to another.
Searching through
a
sea of courses will also be

eas
ier

utilizing the systemic
classification of IMS Meta
-
Data .


Putting lecture notes online may be the initial step in web teaching but hardly the
final. We are in search of new teaching methods made possible by the Internet to
enhance learning. Some teaching staff at CityU
use

online quizzes with sta
tistical
analysis to monitor conceptual problems among students. Furthermore, conducting
classes in
a
teaching studio can facilitate and compile these data
instantaneously
.
Nonetheless, evaluation of the effectiveness of using WWW in learning is
still a
n
ongoing

endeavor and observable results may
take

a time frame of a decade instead of
a year.



7.

Conclusions


The first step
in the

institutional adoption of the Internet as a medium of instruction
has begun at City University of

Hong Kong as a result of high profile promotion and
support by WTSS. Confrontation of technical problems to teaching staff is minimized
allowing them to focus on pedagogical issues. Although the feedback from students
and teachers
is

mostly positive, i
t only reflects their subjective attitude toward web
teaching. Finding ways to measure the genuine impact of utilizing the Internet on
learning and teaching will be a continuous effort among experts in education.




Acknowledgements


The Web Teaching
Support Services is supported by the Teaching Development
Grants from City University of Hong Kong. We would like to thank all the teaching
staff who are pioneers in web teaching as well as our student helpers working or
worked for their wonderful effort a
nd we could not be in operation without their
support.



References


Cheng, A.Y.S. and Wong, S.K.C (1999)

“An Experience of Implementing Web
-
based Instruction Project at City University of Hong Kong”.

Proceedings of the
Conference on Integrating IT &
Teaching Development at Lingnan College.
Hong
Kong, May 1999.



8

Leung, C. M., Stokes, M. and Bradbeer, R. (1996)

“An Integrated Teaching Studio at
the City University of Hong Kong”.

Proceedings of the 2nd IEEE International
Conference on Multimedia Engin
eering and Education.

Melbourne, Australia, 1996.


Stokes, M., Leung C. M. and Cheung, A. (1998)

“Integrated Studio Teaching at City
University”

Proceedings of the 3rd IEEE International Conference on Multimedia
Engineering and Education.

City Uni
versity, Hong Kong 1998.


Wilson, J. M. (1994)

“The CUPLE Physics Studio”.

The Physics Teacher
, 32, pp.
518
-
523.



























Reprinted with permission from the first author.







TEHE
Ref.: R123


Wong, C.S.K., Chin, M. P. M. & Cheung, H
.L. (2000)
Supporting web teaching in an institutional
scale: A City University of Hong Kong experience
.
Paper presented at the 6th Hong Kong Web
Symposium, City University of Hong Kong.