The World Wide Web went from obscurity to production over a just a two year period (1994-1996). Educators have called the Web everything from a Panacea to a Curse. Taking the purely empirical approach, the University of Oregon Physics department has offered a number of Web based introductory courses since 1994 with a total of about 5000 students participating in the experience. Our overriding attitude has been to just do it to see if it works and what the deficiencies are. After three years of experimentation we are now in a good position to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of this approach specifically in the context of the large lecture introductory class. While overall we find far more positive than negative outcomes, its clear that without creative and dedicated use of the medium by the instructor, the experience would be superficial and shallow for most students. It is even more clear that the passive nature of the WWW does little to alter standard pedagogy. New network technologies now exist for the creation of robust, highly interactive curriculum - yet the academic world and its professional societies are moving at a sufficiently slow pace that it almost guarantees curriculum replacement by non-professionals in the commercial sector. That is, who will teach Astronomy 101 in the future, the professional astronomer or "Microsoft" University? The choice, it seems, is ours.
American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts #191
- Pub Date:
- January 1998