A demonstration project: using published online and computer based instructional materials in distance learning, blended learning, and web enhanced courses.
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Our original proposal included designing, developing and delivering one entirely new distance learning history course, 302 Modern Europe and revising and upgrading an existing distance learning history course, 301 Modern America. Building these two courses would have resulted in two comprehensive bibliographies of online instructional resources, one for use in European history courses and one for use in American history courses, whether taught in distance learning or campus formats. Our experience in building these two courses using online instructional resources and the bibliographies that resulted were, in turn, intended to be used in a series of workshops for College of Liberal Arts faculty in how to locate and use readily available online instructional materials. The Learning Innovations Grant Committee recommended to the Provost, and he concurred, that only the first phase of our proposed project, designing, developing and delivering a distance learning version of 302 Modern Europe and developing a bibliography of online instructional resources for teaching modern European history be funded. Even though the proposed project was scaled down, the general hypothesis on which the project rested remained in tact : There exists an ample supply of high quality online instructional materials that can be located and used to construct effective and engaging undergraduate distance learning and blended learning courses in the social science and humanities. Existing online instructional materials are typically produced at considerable expense and often with notable technical sophistication by museums, by text book publishers, by professional associations and foundations, by public and commercial television networks, and by major universities and government agencies and archives and they are, in most cases, free to both instructors and students. This large and growing body of online instructional material offers departments and instructors in a variety of disciplines the opportunity to develop high quality courses whether entirely online, as the case with distance learning, or partially online, as is the case in blended learning, with an investment of considerably less time, effort, and cost than if they attempted to create materials of the same length and quality locally. Within the reduced scope of the project, that is, the design, development, and delivery of 302 Modern Europe, this model for online instruction was successfully demonstrated. A complete online course was developed and delivered to 33 students in the fall of 2004 using already produced and readily available online instructional materials. Three separate evaluations indicated that the course experience was well received by students. And along with a completed version of 302 Modern Europe available for future distant delivery, there is an extensive bibliography of online materials for teaching modern European history that can be used in distance learning and blended learning courses now available a http://www.rit.edu/~lwbcad/HistBib.swf Our proposition or hypothesis that a substantial and growing number of collections of free and frequently high quality online instructional materials for teaching and enriching courses can be had with less time and effort and at lower cost than would be the case if an attempt were made to create materials of equal effectiveness and sophistication locally was born out by our experience. We suggest that this model be extended to other humanities and social science courses in the College of Liberal Arts.
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