ONLINE TEACHING - GNA C++ and Inet courses

Marcus Speh (
Wed, 13 Jul 1994 20:27:28 GMT

[this is fwd from the alt.uu.future newsgroup, thought
ppl might be interested - ms]

>>>>> "Joseph" == Joseph Wang <joe@MIT.EDU> writes:


Joseph> Some experiences from the C++ and the internet intro class.

Joseph> What both classes do is to put all the lecture material online
Joseph> via WWW. There are no "lecture sections" per se, and the MOO
Joseph> interaction consists of help and discussion sessions. The
Joseph> most important thing that seems to be necessary to get the
Joseph> classes to "work" is to maximize student-student interaction
Joseph> and develop a sense of community among the students (and for
Joseph> that matter) among the faculty. (Incidentally, the "sense of
Joseph> community" seems to be the reason why the C++ class works and
Joseph> why the Internet class and consultant's list really don't.)

Joseph> Personally, I can't see how one would conduct a lecture on a
Joseph> MOO. MOO is a good "conversational" medium, but it is really
Joseph> bad at delivering a prepared speech or lecture. The mediums
Joseph> which are good for doing those things are e-mail and
Joseph> WWW/gopher.

Joseph> Also, the C++ class seems to be "team taught" to a degree that
Joseph> isn't found in conventional universities. I don't know
Joseph> whether this is due to the medium or not.

Your observations are quite right.

Joseph> Some questions.....

Joseph> 1) I don't know how much of the C++ class experience can carry
Joseph> over into a situation in which you have people who are not
Joseph> technically adept at internet. Also I don't know if the C++
Joseph> class structure would work in a situation where you can't get
Joseph> many volunteer teaching assistants.

The drafted paper by Sandra Burke et al about the C++ course and
an ongoing survey lead by Tina Pitt (together with the answers
to two more surveys we have sent off in the beginning of the course
when we were unsure about our audience) do indicate that the 'average'
user was
o quite experienced in programming
o had NO problem accessing the WWW course material nor
dealing with he Email lists (actually the only way students
could know about the course was via the Web since it was
never announced elsewhere)
o without any experience on the MOO

As a result, we have made some effort to help ppl get started on the
MOO, but do feel that this resource is still beset with too many
problems and cannot be the only means of delivering a course - at
least not in such complicated a topic as the C++ programming language.

I hope Sandra will post her article when it's ready since she
has expended some effort on gathering target audience statistics,
and likewise for Tina.

Joseph> 2) Also I have no idea how the situation will change if you
Joseph> add money into the picture. One of the things about the C++
Joseph> class is that there isn't a clear distinction between a
Joseph> student and a teacher. If you have a situation in which some
Joseph> people are paid and some people are paying, it adds a
Joseph> distinction that may change the social interaction.

Money traffic will certainly increase the pressure on the teacher's side.
In this (social) context, I recommend an article by Daniel Peraya, at URL

on Distance Education and the WWW. Here you can find a good evaluation
of the difference learning types who may strive to learn via online

Joseph> 3) I have no idea how COPYRIGHT's will work. My suspicion is
Joseph> that basic text on the internet will be freely redistributable
Joseph> simply because it is difficult to enforce any sort of control
Joseph> on distribution, and because texts which are freely
Joseph> redistributed will likely be edited and authored more
Joseph> throughly and be better than proprietary ones.

The copyright of the HTML courseware stemming from an original ASCII
tutorial which in large parts you wont recognize anymore, is
somewhat shaky. The consultants are therefore thinking about a
thorough revision of the material and its splitting into different
modules more suitable to be taught on the net (among other things
that are being discussed, like the future of student projects etc.)

(until the course moves to the GNA Web).

Joseph> The real "intellectual property" will be the interaction you
Joseph> need to have the text make sense and on the indexes you will
Joseph> need to find what you are looking for.

Right, but 'interaction' is hard to prove, and even harder to fix.


Marcus Speh, DESY Theory Group, Notkestr. 85, D-22603 Hamburg, Germany
Phone: +49-40 8998 3753, Fax: +49-40 8998 2777, Private: +49-40 4203206
Email: <> WWW: