Languages and Literature
University of Utah
Salt Lake City, UT 84112 USA
v: (801) 581-4058
f: (801) 533-0279
Education, continuing or distance
Innovative or improved ways of doing things; Creation of new ideas, products, or services; Local commitment to network-based activities
Prof. Gianni Degli Antoni of the Computer Science Department of the University of Milan in collaboration with the University of Utah have experimented an on-line course. The course, entitled “Risorse in rete per discipline umanistiche e scientifiche” (Network Resources for the Humanities and the Sciences) is taught by Maurizio Oliva who connects from a remote machine at the University of Utah.
A total of 39 students based in Milan take part in the class plus 2 observers at the Computer Science Department of the University of Milan, one observer at the Instituto di Tecnologie Didattiche e Formative in Palermo, one observer in Bologna, and one last observer in Geneva. Fabio Palladini and Giuseppe Baschieri, with the Hypertext User Group of the University of Milan, have been responsible for the technical support to the sessions. The class has been meeting in two hour sessions for seven weeks, 6-8 PM’ (Milan time). The instructor and the class met on IRC on a dedicated channel (minet).
All participants’ work has been done in a UNIX graphic environment so that instructor and students may keep several windows opened. One window was dedicated to IRC which provides real time, interactive communication between the instructor in Utah and the students in Milan. A second window was used to execute the commands requested by the instructor. The instructor executed the commands as well so that he was able to see exactly what the students saw on their terminals. A third window could be opened by the students to paste in it whatever appeared in the first window, e.g., extracts from the lesson or from their exploration of the network. The instructor could limit access to the channel to his students, control the topic of discussion, control students’ ability to intervene, and, finally, exclude any trouble maker from the channel. These commands, and many others useful for managing instruction, were at the instructor’s disposal and are regular features of the IRC software. Communication between the instructor and the tutors took place in the form of private messages on IRC.
A second part of the classwork was done by the students as individual work in response to homework assigned by the instructor via e-mail. E- mail and Talk were also means of communication between the students and the instructor to ensure an adequate level of feedback. Finally, a mailing list of all the participants had been set up at the university of Milan in order to make it easier for people to share relevant information with the others.
In designing this class we established the following criteria:
- interactive communication in real time among the participants – acquisition of a knowledge of the resources available on Internet through direct, guided experience.
- the tools used, UNIX machines, graphic terminals, windows environment, IRC, are widespread tools, increasingly available in many of the universities all over the world. This implies that this setting can be replicated basically everywhere. The second implication is that the class does not need to be physically based at one single institution: a class taught at University of Utah can be attended to by any student who (at least) has access to a account with telnet capabilities. Not necessarily on a graphic terminal nor a UNIX environment. One of the students, successfully experienced taking part to our sessions from an alphanumeric terminal.