June 22, 2003
June 22, 2003
June 25, 2003
8.332.1 - 8.332.10
Course Websites: Are You Giving Your Students What They Want?
Steven Braddom, Charles Campbell, Bruce Floersheim, Shad Reed Department of Civil & Mechanical Engineering United States Military Academy
A year-long study of students and faculty members in the engineering program at the United States Military Academy in the 2002 spring and fall academic terms revealed a surprising gap between what the creators of course web content perceived as most useful for students and what the students actually desired or used from various course websites. Students from eleven mechanical engineering courses were surveyed over two academic terms to obtain feedback on their actual usage of the course websites. This information was compared to survey data from faculty members who develop and maintain course web-sites in order to evaluate discrepancies. The results indicate that most students typically used the basic features from supplemental course websites for test preparation and administrative information and did not frequently use more advanced website features such as online tutorials and quizzes. Our faculty members tended to underestimate the usefulness of basic website functions such as homework solutions and syllabi.
As the internet becomes increasingly ubiquitous in society, instructors have an unprecedented ability to touch their students outside of the classroom through well designed and maintained web media. Supplemental course websites (websites intended only to supplement – not replace – conventional teaching) are rapidly becoming more the rule than the exception for undergraduate level courses. We should note that we have a student-body that is fairly tech-savvy and definitely well-connected. Each student has a computer with LAN connection to the Internet from his room, and beginning this year, entering students will have a wireless PDA and wireless laptop computer linked by campus-wide, wireless network coverage. Currently in the Department of Civil & Mechanical Engineering at the United States Military Academy, the majority of courses (57%) currently have supplemental websites. A survey of faculty in 8 major undergraduate institutions by Chen et al. found that 34% already create and manage web pages while 39% were interested in attending a workshop on how to create and manage websites.1 Due to their increasing role, supplemental course websites should be viewed as important course content and assessed accordingly. Websites should not be burdened with unused or outdated content, nor can faculty afford the time to provide and maintain the entire range of possible website features. One factor that is not an issue for the Academy, and is thus beyond the scope of this paper, is access to the Internet. There is a strong correlation between ease of access and propensity of the student body to use course websites at all.
Much of the literature on the use of the internet for undergraduate education deals with using the internet to replace traditional lecture and textbook instruction, such as the
Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education
Braddom, S., & Campbell, C., & Reed, S., & Floersheim, R. (2003, June), Course Websites: Are You Giving Your Students What They Want? Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. https://peer.asee.org/11695
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