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Introduction to the Course

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers. --Pablo Picasso

In this commentary I will cover

  1. some of my expectations for the learning community we will build this semester and
  2. explain weekly activities.

You may wish to print out a single copy for personal use of the various commentaries, etc. Please do not make copies for others without asking.


The above quotation from Picasso reminds us of what humans must contribute to the use of technology--the questions.

This semester we will explore a number of questions

The answers to these questions ultimately depend on the objectives the instructor sets for a course and the types of learners in the course. There are universal principles which can guide you in these decisions.

This semester we will be formulating and exploring the questions that need to be addressed before we can help students learn from an Internet-based course. We will raise questions that are pertinent for

It can be intimidating to venture into a new arena, but if you keep your purpose uppermost, then the courage and drive will be there for you.

If you are patient with yourself and technology, then the skills will come.

If we ask the questions carefully and thoughtfully, then answers will begin to present themselves.

No one can know all there is to know about the Internet today, but we can explore the universal principles which will be around whatever the particular technology. These are principles which can guide us for a lifetime in choosing what technologies can help us achieve our objectives.

Course Activities

Each week you will have

A complete set of commentaries are already posted for the registered student. Because the course content deals with technology, it is always a challenge to stay current. The specific facts and links in this field change rapidly.

On-line postings provide the most up-to-date information and links. I have learned that most students prefer to print them for reading, so this term I intend to make available a print copy, in several "volumes," trying to balance convenience to you with currency.

I will send you information on where you can obtain the print version when the term begins. The on-line versions are always available.

I will continue to update the on-line versions the week prior to the posted date for reading, checking that links are still "hot." You may read ahead if you choose, but assignments and links will be final on the Friday prior to the date under which they appear on the lesson page. (Check the date at the bottom of each page to see if the page is current).

I present a broad range of experiences and guide you down a central path, but it would be impossible and impractical for you to examine every link or to do every task. You should select what is useful for you within each lesson.

One of the new skills to be acquired is learning when to stop. The Internet is endless and cannot be thoroughly absorbed. Explicit objectives are life-saving because they tell you when to stop.

I actually rather like the idea that the ground is shifting under our feet as we learn. I think it narrows that artificial separation between "the real world" and academia. It reminds us all that we are lifelong learners.


The key to success in an Internet course is high levels of interactivity between the learners and between learner and instructor. Interaction for the course will take several forms, including web based asynchronous discussion, live chat, E-mail, and phone conversations. The effective Internet student is one who actively uses the new information through interaction and through assignments. To facilitate interaction the class needs you to contribute to the discussions and to post your personal contact information to the Student Information Page. (See assignments below).

Please review the rules for netiquette on page 112 of Porter. These will serve as interim rules for interaction until the class has a chance to discuss and develop their own set.


You won't ordinarily have this many separate tasks. You'll find fewer tasks on later assignments. This is just first week orientation activities.

Most of the term we will spend in a course software called "Blackboard" or "CourseInfo." In order to make these first lessons easily available to visitors, I have posted them on my personal website. Some of the following are links to my personal site. Some are linked in CourseInfo.

  1. Review page 112 in Porter and the class policies page ( This is also available under Course Information in the Blackboard site.
    1. Then, if you haven't already done so, complete and snail mail to me the information form at or under Course Information.
    2. Print out Table for Scheduling Your Work Time ( or see Course Information. Post it by your computer and keep track of your time.

  2. Get acquainted with the Blackboard/CourseInfo site if you aren't already familiar with it. Try out the various buttons. When you are ready....
    1. Open the Student Tools button then
    2. Choose Edit Your Homepage. You will get a form to fill out. Fiddle with it/experiment.
    3. Post at least the following information on your web page:
      • Academic discipline
      • The class you are thinking of teaching via the Internet
      • If you have your own Web page, you may put a link to it.
    4. To read it, go to the Communication button...Student Web Pages. (Notice that you have to read it in a different place from where you create it.

  3. Due: before completing "Overview of Internet Instruction" readings.We'll begin with a team Icebreaker (adapted from Luechauer & Shulman, 1995).
    1. Answer the following questions. There are no right or wrong answers (Don't think too long or hard about them or peek at others' responses before finishing your own) :
      • If technology were an animal, what kind would it be and why?
      • If technology were a type of food, what kind would it be and why?
      • If technology were weather, what kind would it be and why?
    2. Contact your partner as listed in the E-mail message sent by me on the first day of the term and share introductory information (name, why you are taking the course, discipline/interest, etc.).
    3. Decide if there is one theme that runs through the team's answers and tell us what that theme is. Use the discussion board in the Blackboard/CourseInfo site. (Directions will be sent to you.)
    4. The team/pair should select one answer for each question and one person should post the answers to the class discussion. To find it,
      • enter the Blackboard/CourseInfo site as per the E-mailed instructions
      • select Communication and then
      • click on Discussion Board ( If you really like both sets or metaphors, you can post all responses.
    5. The other person should report on any themes your team identified in the metaphors.

Optional Activities

Next ....Course structure and culture

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Created: January 14, 1998. Last Modified: January 8, 2001.
All contents © since 1997 by Sally Kuhlenschmidt. Copy only with permission.