The Albany-Oswego pilot project involving Eaps 760 did not exactly leap off the blocks. After five weeks the class has created a good academic rhythm and is realizing the technological advantages of combining CLI, w eb and e mail. But it was a fitful start and there are still many hills of learning and adjustment ahead.. As part of their first assignment, each student kept a journal of their perceptions of each class experience. While each journal is to be develo ped into a separate technology paper, the summary of individual comments provides an excellent profile of development in this distance learning experience. The following comments relate to the feelings students had about both their interactive classroo m and their e mail/ world wide web technology connections.
At the beginning of the Eaps 760 experience five of the ten Albany students had working email arrangement and three of the four Oswego students. By the end of the fifth class meeting all students were connected and receiving email messages from the instructor.
- 1. The first two class sessions were an organizational disappointment because:
- a) Oswego was not hooked up the first session and started more than one-half an hour late the second meeting.
- b) The Albany students were not told prior to entering 760 the first night that they were part of a "distance" experience.
- c) the instructor was very uncomfortable with taping the first session and trying to "catch up" the Oswego group in the second.
2. The third class taught from Oswego was necessary to solidify the Oswego cohort but demonstrated the negative meaning of "remote" to the Albany students.
3. The e mail hook up of all students was not complete until the fourth week and three students only have text access (lynx) to the internet.
4. Two major adjustments were made to the meaning of evaluation in the fourth week. First, the second expectation for evaluation listed in the syllabus (in depth study of individual district)was canceled. More important, it took until the fourth w eek for all students to appreciate that the web page and its links were more "resource library" than a body of information to be mastered.
5. By the end of the fifth week, student sub groupings for data driven reports were functioning well, the instructor had become comfortable with the TV as part of the Albany class participants, the students were taking responsibility for individ ual writers and there was interactive discussions between the two cohorts.
NOTE: The following are excerpts of student journal comments referenced to themes with technology use and logistical implications. Suggestions for specific improvements are in bold and listed separately at the end of the student comments.
A. They should have warned/prepared us!
Cheryl= " no connection because of some glitch. Those operating the equipment from Albany end unfamiliar and spent 45 minutes experimenting with it. Should this have happened in some pre-class?"
Laura= "I, unlike the other students, had no clue that 760 was going to be a technology experiment. I felt a bit self conscious."
April= " My only complaint is that I wish I had known earlier that this course was going to be one of the guinea pigs for the distance learning project. If I had known I might have been able to correct my computer access problems prior to the first w eek of classes."
Jeff=" Any novel endeavor needs to be organized and publicized. The newness of the distance learning should have required substantial publicity, as many will not venture into non traditional learning methods. There should have been a guarantee of a c lass size above a critical mass. Second, the technology should have been tested and ready to go weeks (at least ten days) in advance of the course. There is no excuse for not being on line for the first class...it loses potential satellite students and receives bad word of mouth publicity."
Bill= " As I walked into class I realized there would be a technology and distance learning aspect to 760 a concern immediately arose. I did not have an email address or access to the internet. Starting off any semester is challenging but not being up technologically added a discomfort level. It is critical that a sensitivity to the students varied levels of technology familiarization be part of the first night discussions."
Undrakh = " Using email and internet will be a most important aspect of the 760 class. I am concerned because I don't know my SUNY email address."
Yong= " I heard a rumor the 760 class would have an experiment but did not know it would be live, interactive classrooms. I was surprised and excited that telephone technology was in actual application."
* Daniel ( Oswego) = "arrived ready for class but it was not to be. Materials and texts handed out but confusion and disappointment prevailed. Because I implemented a new distance learning lab in my high school last summer I know about glitches and ha ve patience."
*Frank(Oswego) "I was impressed with the equipment but not impressed that nothing was running. I wonder if we will able to pick up nuances in body language, speech inflections. will it matter if we don't?"
*Pat (Oswego) " The disappointed last night, but not so much from the technology. From an academic standpoint I feel the Oswego cohort is now behind. Albany is beginning and we are not yet at the starting line."
B. Being "on Stage" is an unnerving experience
"Cheryl = " Because there was no live connection with Oswego, a video camera was set up to tape the session for them. The instructor obviously felt very awkward on camera and was unable to ignore it."
Gina= " I think being taped is probably more intrusive than having the Oswego cohort on TV. Too permanent."
Connie= "Teachers are always on stage. I wonder why the instructor, someone who is usually so laid back, is so nervous about this."
April= " The only thing that bothered me was that I could see myself on camera. I was instantly aware of every move I made. Whether I was trying to take notes, drink from my soda can I was painfully aware of the fact my actions were being recorded by the camera."
Bill= As we started class I thought, what are the implications for distance learning as it relates to the issue of academic freedom? The instructor taped our class for the Oswego group. What would be the implications if the instructor did not feel c omfortable taping a class/"
C. Feeling sorry for the students at the remote site
Connie= "I hate teleconferences and 'talking heads' so I am very thankful I am on the transmitting end of this venture. I wonder what the Oswego folks will think when they see the tape. "
Kelli= I do have some apprehension about an aspect of higher education, the notion of need for a 'warm body'. More specifically, the human relationship between the professor and student. There is some indefinable, unmeasurable quality that is brought into the classroom when a student has the opportunity to interact face-to-face with the professor."
D. Understanding the special features of interactive class instruction
Undrahk= For many years satellites have been the tool for delivery of one way distance learning. Today I found out how we are connected with the group in Oswego through telephone wires. With the help of compressed videoconferencing technology the tw o groups can interact on TV. By doing a little study this is what I found out about the videoconferencing system we use in class.
(a)To utilize video, an analog signal from video is digitized and compressed. Analog, broadcast video needs 90 Mbps to transmit. However, a digital phone line only has the bandwidth of 56 Kbps to 1.54 Mpbs. By a technology called codec the analog signal from video is digitized and compressed to 90 Mbps. Codec begins by sampling analog signal from the video camera and producing a display made up of thousands of picture elements or pixels. Once coding is complete, the information is reorganized into a mo re compact form as a series of numbers generated to represent pixel values. These numbers are divided by a mathematical coefficient to make them easier to send.
(b)Telephone companies use cables to carry simultaneous two way voice and video. Our class uses ISDN ( Integrated Services Digital Network). "
Second Class ( Albany and Oswego, partial)
A. Technology got in the way of learning tonight
Bill= "Due to a power outage in Oswego, the class got started late. Thinking of next week when we are the remote site brought back memories of an early morning show called "sunrise semester." When I was a kid I often wondered how anyone could learn over TV.
Cheryl= " sites connected thirty minutes late, instructor sat with his back to the Albany class in order to have 15 minutes more discussion with those at the Oswego site...technology got in the way of learning tonight rather than assisting it because t oo much of the class focused on solving technical problems.
* suggestion : put the TV screen in the circle with us rather than behind us and the instructor
Gina= "definitely using a cheaper technology than the one next door with the HVCC 'link' the FAX component and the smart board....sort like the early days of the telephone breakup and using a fledgling carrier like Sprint to try and save money while getting many long delays and talk overs."
Laura=" The other group cannot hear you when you pose a question. It is quite annoying to have to repeat my comment at the top of my lungs.
Connie= " Technology much more bothersome tonight. When the instructor is distracted so are we. There is frustration we are not getting the materials. Do not like having the instructor sit and talk to the Oswego group with his back to us."
April= " While the Albany group was carrying on a discussion, the Oswego group were talking among themselves. Understandably, they were at a disadvantage without textbooks but we felt we were being snubbed."
Kelli= It will be critical that Dr. Wiles develop a 'comfort' with the technology that can then be conveyed to us. The class feels disjointed and we are caught up in the professor's discomfort with technology. I am concerned that are peers in Osweg o will feel left out. "
Jeff= "a late start should happen and technology got in the way again tonight."
Yong= We waited more than fifteen minutes to be connected to the Oswego group. Some people feel uneasy before a camera. You had to repeat what you said in a raised voice. There was too many distractions for me to concentrate."
*Daniel( Oswego) "the hookup was successful and we attended our first class. The power outage was unfortunate because the continuing frustration made two of us drop out. Reviewed the tape of the first Albany class. Unfortunately the video was mediocr e and the audio barely audible"
* Frank (Oswego) It was strange seeing myself on TV, very strange. Can't really see the reactions of the Albany students and also difficult to "read " the professor. I am frustrated I cannot choose what I want to see. I would really like to have th e opportunity to meet the Albany students and discuss their feeling about the course."
* Ron(Oswego) ="I'm exhilerated and at the same time overwhelmed, nervous and awestruck. The newness of the technology intrigues me but it does'nt seem so strange to sit and view a professor especially if its not interactive. It appears the basic format is the instructor lecturing despite all the "new" technology. "
* Pat (Oswego)= I felt better hearing Dr. Wiles speak directly to us and assure us we would not be penalized for the false start. The technology will take some getting used to. I am tempted to see it as viewing television ( a passive activity); classroom participation feels like interrupting"
B. Don't send us out of the room for discussion!
Cheryl= "sent to another place to discuss Wilson, we were all unsure of what we were supposed to accomplishing.."
Gina= " didn't care much for being sent out of the room...I don't like group exercises and I don't like to be away from the TV because we are supposed to be one class.
Laura= " the class was conducted as two different classes. I don't like the 'us' and 'them' feeling."
April= " I think being sent away to prepare for a discussion was frustrating. While we understood the need for Dr. Wiles to allow the Oswego group to talk about matters we felt as though we were being pushed aside."
Kelli= "I don't think that continually being separated into two working groups by muting or having the Albany group go out of the studio is helping."
* suggestion: let Albany and Oswego individuals combine in group exercises and make students responsible for bridging the gaps
C. Nervous about sending/ doing things electronically
Connie= "I find my mind somewhat resistant to letting go of the old ways of doing things, especially handing in paper assignments and use of the phone. Reading expectations also seem to grow with easier access"
Bill= " Found that my computer does have the RAM to support AOL. Instructions in class said to send our document attachments in Word. As I use WordPerfect I was nervous until finding out about RTF ( "rich text format") but now do not know what RTF me ans."
Undrakh= I activated my email and learned what HTTP ( hypertext transfer protocol) and URL (uniform resource locator) meant. I accessed the Web and found out there are two very different browsers. The lynx is available through my student account on t he VAX but it is text access only. The other browser is Netscape that is graphic access and available on the 17 terminals in the university library(LC 15) . I pulled up Dr. Wiles and the 760 web pages and sent my first e mail messages to professor Wiles , Ted Smith and Yong Zhang. I also did my first print out. "
* suggestion: see if doctoral student VAX accounts can be changed so that they can utilize graphic access to the internet, especially doctoral students in Eastnet distance projects.
* Daniel ( Oswego) "Talked to my technology coordinator and was assured my email account is being set up. My machine is on line to the OCM BOCES on the state's TNT network. I have only used it for student schedules and records."
Third Class ( Both, Albany the remote site)
A. Bad TV imaging: Could not see facial expressions and body language
Cheryl=" harder to get instructor's attention than when he is in the actual room, and also harder to interpret questions and comments. Unable to see body language and facial expressions on the small TV screen. There was delayed echo and sound breaking up"
* suggestion: zooming in on the specific speakers instead of the wide angle shot
Laura= "I found it extremely boring to watch a monitor for three hours but, more important, it feels like you have no instructor. I could not see the Oswego facial expressions and there was no spontaneity or genuine interaction when you can only hear Oswego voices."
Connie= " I cannot see the body language and facial expressions of the Oswego group. It was difficult to enter into a discussion from our end. Treating the two groups as a whole 760 class does not appear to be an easy task"
April= " It is much easier to stay out of the discussion as the remote site. Those of us in the back row blend into the background and the Oswego group could not see us. Second, it is hard to speak up without feeling we would be interrupting something ."
Kelli= "I am not particularly comfortable with being on the receiving end of an active classroom and not having the 'warm body."
Jeff= " There is no way I could be a remote student for the entire semester. while the lecture is difficult to concentrate on, interaction is impossible. The larger size of the Albany group made individual students not participate for fear of interru pting."
Ron= "It is obvious that the remote site was less involved that the Oswego site. This was not because we were paying less attention. It is simply because the limitations of specific technology ( small video screen, poor sound) are great obstacles"
Bill= "Being the remote site was exactly what I thought. The professor called out, "Bill, are you there?" There really is a feeling of being 'distanced' from the professor. I also wondered why the course was being taped from our end. The muting of sound really increases the feeling of division between the Oswego and Albany groups."
Yong= "We were the remote group and it was not as bad as I thought it would be. Yet, the instructor ( in Oswego) could not notice who wanted to talk in the remote group (Albany) and the TV screen is not big enough to show every one clearly."
* Daniel( Oswego) " Drs. Wiles and Dembowski came out in person-greatly appreciated. I now have a feeling for the students in my high school and how they feel "remote" and disconnected when taught from another site. Despite all efforts to put us at e ase and make the transition smooth there is still figurative distance to contend with. Maybe the Albany cohort realized our situation today."
* Frank (Oswego) Dr. Wiles taught from here tonight. When I heard that the class would originate in Oswego I imagined it would be like a regular class. It wasn't. Dr. Wiles, in a sincere attempt to interact with the Albany class, paid much more atte ntion to the camera than he did to us. I wonder if the Albany students feel the same in reverse. "
*Ron( Oswego)= "Nice to have the professor on site and find his personality comes through the same as when it was beamed from Albany. I think the professor struggles with the television part of the technology more than the students, especially in presenting himself to two sites. Today, there was too much emphasis on the Albany cohort."
* Pat (Oswego) The Wiles class was taught from Oswego- I found it only minimally different from the later Levy class because our room set-up had Dr. Wiles sitting with his back to me. I primarily watched him through the TV monitor, even though he was only six feet away."
B. Need some regular breaks for all
Cheryl= "class began at 4:20(better) and went straight through without a break( not so good). We were told to just get up when we needed to, but I didn't want to miss any part of the class. "
C. Oswego logistical arrangement improved.
Gina= " big improvement in Oswego room arrangement over sitting here and there at desks. Still need microphones in Albany because repeating remarks awkward"
April= "The lapel microphone the instructor had really made a difference in that we could hear him all the time."
D. confusion over the second assignment
April= "the assignments are too vague and we have not had enough time to talk about it because of the technology concerns. "
Kelli= clarifying the assignments has helped the comfort level of the class. The concreteness of the handout has helped.
E. Using the 760 Web page and Internet Links
Gina= " I love having the stuff on the web. So convenient. the links and the syllabus are examples of good use of the internet"
Connie= " The thing that remains most troublesome is the expanded and readily available number of resources. The net is overwhelming and pressure to access and read more is there. I feel upset to not get to all the links. My fear is that I will end up knowing something about so much and nothing [in depth] about anything. The extension of my work-school day gets more apparent as I find myself at the computer. When is enough?"
April= "I am cut off from my email access to America on Line due to memory problems with my computer."
Ron= "After subscribing to AOL for this course I sent my old college roommate an email. Our first few messages simply updated our situations. But with time our messages got longer and more probing. The daily one pagers are actually more useful than t he once a month 30 page letter. We keep reflecting on ideas and share new thoughts every day. This crazy e-mail even rekindled an old friendship."
Bill= I partially succeeded in getting on line. I discovered my modem is antiquated (2400) and extremely slow. Speed is especially important when the calls to AOL in Albany are a toll call. A faster modem could mean $120 expenditure. A crucial equi ty issue is raised considering course offerings such as this.
* suggestion: since the course was not advertised as technology and is mandatory for doctoral students, basic costs should be covered. If the Eastnet project is paying $9.95 per month for students in pilot, they should also pay for costs of students in non AOL local access phone calls.
Yong= Have explored the Web extensively. The 760 homepage is very nice. It contains background and context information, writers and analysts of their works and links to other useful materials. The information can be retrieved 24 hours a day and mess ages can be left for the professor to respond at any time. Students do not have to wait for the next class to ask questions. "
* Daniel (Oswego) " received a second set of email from Dr. Wiles. they were very helpful, detailed and specific. I'm feeling much better about the parameters and expectation of the course."
* Frank (Oswego) I attempted to use some of the web links but could not get in. I really like the convenience of email whether the "live" classes work or not. I have begun to do research on the internet. Printing out information from websites will make research much easier.
Fourth Class ( Both, Oswego the remote site)
A. Frustrating to have only one microphone and too many TV screens
Cheryl= "the instructor had to keep moving the microphone so we could have a discussion of the readings that the Oswego group could hear. There are also too many TV screens, It seems to be confusing to the instructor, as he is often unsure where to look when he is talking."
Connie=" Watching the two TV monitors from Albany I found my attention went from being most attentive to "tuning out" as I sometimes do when I am watching normal television."
April= I continue to have problems identifying who is talking from Oswego. It is almost like listening to a voice from the beyond. We only get a clue if they make hand gestures.
* suggestion: some use of hand gesture during talk or have a preliminary signaling by hand to the person who can zoom in as an individual talks
Jeff= "Class is running smoothly now with technology a secondary issue and learning course content the focus. Still, we do not have the three microphones necessary to have all members of the Albany group heard. No excuse."
Bill= "The class tonight went smoothly and the only real problem revolved around microphones. constant repeating, interpreting and poor communication interfered with the flow of conversation between the two sites."
*Daniel( Oswego) "The Albany folks have only one microphone to work with and they need at least two more. whenever Dr. wiles attempts to generate classroom discussion, we can hear either him or members of the class but not both. It is very frustratin g. I am sure it is a source of anxiety for the Albany people, since it seems we are always intervening into the momentum of their discourse with cries of our inability to hear, thereby disrupting the flow of their interchange. "
* Ron (Oswego) = It appears we have adapted. We figured out if we max out the volume on the TV as well as the control module we can hear better. The four students also requires minimum camera angle so we can get close up. Our most interactive week so far."
* Frank( Oswego) "Still having a difficult time hearing the professor and Albany students. I still feel very reluctant to interject my thoughts into the discussion. Since I can't hear myself speak in Albany I can't gauge my voice. Am I speaking too loudly? Its an uncomfortable feeling"
* suggestion: need an on screen remote site sound level indicator- maybe a simple color changing bar on bottom of screen.
* Pat (Oswego) " Ron figured out how to fix the TV audio using the regular remote control but there are times when the professor leans back in his chair or looks away from the mike and words are lost. A lapel mike and two table mikes seem like the bare minimum to get a sound that works adequately. On our end, we hear ourselves with a delay that is so distracting that I made only half the comments I intended."
B.Oswego seems more engaged than Albany
Gina= " some of the Oswego students more engaged than we at Albany. A surprise given the method of delivery. So maybe the technology makes little difference after all. And one of the Oswego students actually reacted to me directly. I look at the cu rtains and lighting in our Albany room and my mind wanders a bit..it feels like a TV news conference or some weird PBS show"
Ron= "Different generations simply react differently to technology. Observing my classmates in Albany and Oswego I've noticed divergent reactions. It is oversimple to say younger students are more comfortable but those that have grown up with it disp lay less cognizance of its presence, its importance and its fascination. I do not regard this as a technology course for I've been expecting to see this kind of classroom setting"
* Ron (Oswego) "so ingrained and familar we have become with this technology it is like watching TV. We jokingly conspire among our selves as we rail against the "big brother" aspects. We whisper off camera, put the mute on."
* Pat (Oswego) "We are getting very comfortable with the technology. Ron has taken over driving the camera and sound.
C. Content emphasis improving with students participating
Laura=" several students presented authors from the textbook. It was interesting but difficult to concentrate with the continuing technical difficulties"
Kelli= The discussion had an element of coming together of the two cohorts. It seemed as though the authors from step 3 sparked an interest amongst the two groups. Discussion generated by Frank's comments on the TVA led to a discussion not impeded by the technology"
Yong= " We have adjusted to the new environment. I hear no more complaints and we are enjoying it. Using the internet with the classroom has really aroused student interest"
D. Use of the "Mute" button at either end
Connie= The mute situation creates an artificial environment. Everyone should be interacting before and after class. Muting makes us feel distanced.
* suggestion: do not mute before or at the end of the class to allow informal exchange
Fifth Class ( Both, Oswego the remote site)
A. Group exchanges still evolving
Cheryl= " everybody seems more relaxed as technology fades to the background where it belongs. The Oswego group contributes a great deal to the discussion, interjecting comments as if they were actually in the room ( except I still can't see their fac es). Oswego seems more comfortable than we are and I wonder if it is because the camera on this end is mostly focused on the instructor and they forget we are here."
April= " I feel as if I have no idea who the people in Oswego are , much less my own Albany classmates who I did not know at the beginning of the class. While I do not know for a fact, I can't believe the Oswego cohort feel too attached to the class when the Albany group does not communicate unless they have another class. Given the possibilities of distance learning I think we could develop stronger ties with Oswego."
Laura=" interaction better and cohesion growing but still technology takes away from the content and the interaction with students not physically here difficult."
Kelli= "perhaps it is my other courses, but there is an interesting question about distance learning and a professor's right to determine the scope and direction of the class. There is the potential for a clear infringement on academic freedom."
* Daniel (Oswego) Today's class went well, We are jelling as a group. Now if I can keep up the workload of reading and writing expected...and work 16 hours a day besides."
* Frank (Oswego) We, professor and students are slowly acclimating ourselves to the idiosyncrasies of the new medium. We experienced fewer sound problems tonight. I felt uncomfortable with the presentation I gave ( TVA, Lilenthal) because I couldn't hear how my voice sounded. It was similar to talking to someone while wearing walkman headphones with the volume turned up."
* Ron( Oswego) = We consider ways to circumvent the "system" if only to maintain a touch of humaness or to be able to talk among ourselves. Funny how that perspective entered my mind. What lessens the ominous nature of the threat is the fact this technology is not very intrusive, in fact pretty tame."
*Pat (Oswego) = "we are using presets to give close ups for each of us. While Jeff does a good job we still feel we cannot see everybody in their class. Albany got new mikes but the sound was of poorer quality. If appears if there is any sound in any of the mikes( theirs or ours) we get a break up in their sound."
B. The instructor and the TV image from the remote site
Cheryl= " I figured out why the instructor keeps turning around to talk to the picture of the Oswego group behind him instead of using the TV in front of him that has the same picture. The sound is coming out of the one behind him. "
* suggestion: have the sound come out of the TV with the front view.
*Pat(Oswego)= One curious thing is that both professors when addressing us in Oswego directly, turn in their chairs as though to face the camera. They are apparently unaware that the camera angle is such that they are then not looking at us; it seems funny that they look directly into the camera all during class but when they want to speak to us they actually turn away."
C. technology and E mails from the instructor
Gina= "Frederickson is a dull read because my hound dog Rudy is pestering me for attention. Frederickson assumed his l970's view of social equity to hold constant forever but today the 'new public administration' rules of the Pataki administration ha ve changed the meaning.....checked out the Mexico virtual university but my Spanish couldn't translate the 'two hot tacos in every pot for everyone' part."
April= "I am becoming increasing frustrated and intolerant of some of the expectations and problems associated with the class. While I am fortunate enough to have a home computer, have had previous email and internet access through the university and understand we are not expected to be fully on line until the middle of the semester it has been frustrating at best. Why weren't we contacted about this before class began? "
Jeff= " I'm finally on-line and attempting to figure my way around. this course has forced me to become net-literate, a benefit that would not have happened unless forced."
Ron= "As I writer these thoughts, Mahler's Second Symphony Resurrects through the speakers of my multimedia computer, and I wonder what these computers are becoming to us. Are we leaving our houses less frequently? Does communication via modem count as real socializing? Video cameras are now available which can be placed on top of home PC's. These allow anyone to have teleconferencing in the home. If I can get a few hundred bucks to buy one of these things can't I stay home from 760 class and dial in instead of sitting in that dreadful, cold, dark room? what would be lost in such an arrangement? "
Bill= "The modem installation went smoothly and I was able to send an email to the professor for the first time. The connecting call is a toll call so I have been using flash-sessions to send and retrieve mail. The web browsing went well but I will be using the SUNY library to keep costs down. Now that I am on line and involved I wondered if other students are still not connected. The professor's email had an assignment and I wondered about what I had been missing the first four weeks of the class ."
Undrakh=" I visited Mongolia web page and found two email address of friends back home. The technology experience in 760 is a very important and useful experience in my life and study. I ask myself if I did not take 760 when would I learn these thin gs and who would push me to learn? "
* Daniel (Oswego) "Tried to send a file today ( Dr. Levy research proposal) but when I pushed F 7 it crashed. I lost everything. I got a message saying "inappropriate key stroke" so I did the whole thing over. this time I carefully hit the right key but the same crash happened. My high school librarian told me the same thing has happened to her for no apparent reason.....Thirteen e mail messages today alone. Help! this was supposed to simplify my life, not inundate it."
*Frank(Oswego) "this week I was able to get in and explore the 760 web site. I like printing and reading the supplementary materials. "
* Ron ( Oswego)= "Without the internet and email the class would not be as effective. I recognize the frustration when I went to the local junior college library to research in the traditional fashion. The most effective way is not to drive 1.5 hours to the Oswego library but to hop on my computer and download links and other pertinent information."
* Pat (Oswego) = " I have become proficient in pulling Dr. Wiles links off the web page and find my class e-mail outnumbering my work e-mail.
D. Evidence of overload in students
April= " I have to say that my time is already jam packed with work for work and school and I do not have time to sit in on any online chatroom and casually discuss the readings and discussions in class. "
* Ron (Oswego)= " I've never felt like an old dog who is trying to learn new tricks but this technology is forcing me to get on board or get run over....I've had to drop Dr. Levy's course due to the amount of work required for both courses. Technology certainly has not made a hectic life any easier. I will complete this course and reexamine my priorities including continuing in the program at may pace. Being a pioneer was fun but rather than make it all the way to the promised land-California- I probably would have stopped in Iowa"
Summary of Student Suggestions for Improving 760 operations during the second half of the semester
1)some use of hand gesture during talk or have a preliminary signaling by hand to the person who can zoom in as an individual talks
2) zoom in on the specific speakers instead of the wide angle shot.
3) put the TV screen in the circle with us(Albany) rather than behind us and the instructor.
4) have the sound come out of the TV with the front view.
5) have an on screen remote site sound level indicator- maybe a simple color changing bar on bottom of screen.
6) do not mute before or at the end of the class to allow informal exchange.
7) let Albany and Oswego individuals combine in group exercises and make students responsible for bridging the gaps
Other Student Suggestions for continued operation of distance learning project
8) since the course was not advertised as technology and is mandatory for doctoral students, basic costs should be covered. If the Eastnet project is paying $9.95 per month for students in pilot, they should also pay for costs of any student in non AOL local access phone call areas.
9) see if doctoral student VAX accounts can be changed so that they can utilize graphic access to the internet, especially doctoral students in Eastnet distance projects.
Eaps 760 Student View of Technology Experience Last Part of the Fall Semester
The last part of the Eaps 760 experience represented student perceptions of the "distance" course given in two ways. First, there was a further compilation of the individual student journals covering impressions of classes during November and early D ecember. Second, a number of Albany and Oswego students did "technology" papers that used the actual class experience as their central illustration. Those papers offer indirect insights on the entire semester experience.
Groupings of Student Reactions
There seemed to be four clusters of student reaction to the entire "distance-as-technology" experience and, interestingly, being a member of the Albany or Oswego cohort did not seem to influence the pattern.
One cluster of three students felt negative and somewhat shortchanged by the 760 "distance" experience. In one case, the issue was an overloading of information and doctoral course expectations on an exceptionally busy professional ( Connie), in ano ther it was a personal confrontation with inferior technology at every turn( Daniel). The third member (Cheryl) was less personally negative but somewhat disenchanted with technology "impact" when evaluating the 760 experience against conventional standa rds of efficiency and effectiveness.
A second cluster held mixed feelings about the overall "distance" experience as a technology context for learning, but were very positive about their personal growth vis-a-vis technology during the semester. The ambivalence of these students were m ost pronounced toward the technology glitches and "impersonality" between cohorts in the first third of the class. Despite such reservation an over riding positive feeling about the 760 technology experience developed due to their personal technology ut ilization growth. In this cluster, the instructor would put Kelli, Bill, Ron, Laura and Jeff from the Albany cohort.
The third cluster could be described as very positive about the 760 technology experience "warts and all." This group would include Gina and Yong Zhang from the Albany cohort and Pat and Frank from the Oswego cohort. It could be speculated that much of the expectations and final assessments of these four were due to their previous experience with computer technology. Certainly all four work in places where technology is at an advanced state (relative to the normal educational workplace) and each ar e experienced in other technology implementation ventures.
Another cluster of students suffered a personal tragedy or became overwhelmed with "firefighting" in professional work crises during the semester and could not be evaluated. I suspect the individuals would have spread across each of the three cl usters. In this group I would put Undrakh and April from the Albany cohort and Ron from the Oswego cohort.
Illustrations of Negative Reactions
The students that left the semester experience with the most questions as to the basic credibility of the "distance" effort were, in the instructor's opinion, Connie, Daniel and to a lesser degree, Cheryl. These were all excellent student who tried e xceptionally hard throughout the semester. Each of their final negative assessments are very important to those thinking about the broader implications of the Eastnet project and implementation throughout SUNY. As the instructor, I feel their common cr iticism came from feeling an intense "information overload" and general instability due to the expanded features of technological applications in graduate study. Connie puts it succinctly; " Many of us have traditionally been very ordered thinkers. This kind of thinking requires control. With the deluge of information, ordered thinking may not be appropriate because there is less control over incoming information and the new situations it presents."
Connie Spohn(Albany) on her "information overload."
Connie's technology paper was based upon six literature sources (including Zuboff and Gates) and an e-mail survey of the 760 class about "information overload. " The sources, identified from both the 760 syllabus and a web search, were Finke and Bettle Chaotic Cognition (Lawrence Erlbaum, l996), Fogel Human Information Processing( Prentice Hall, l967), Pondy, et. al, Managing Ambiguity and Change( Wiley, 1988) a nd Shell Trouble in Paradise (CSS, Simon Fraser University).
Connie noted that, in 1967, Fogel reported that information overload can degrade decisions and when a person faces overload they compensate by omitting, substituting quantity for quality, queuing and filtering information, cutting their discriminatio n to do things less precisely and finally escaping from the task. Pondy, et al., suggests that those that manage the ambiguity of information overload successfully do so by "bending under the wind and keeping stress at a middle level," appreciating that ordered thinkers may have a great deal of difficulty with ambiguity. Connie was a bit put off by Bill Gates suggestion to use navigational aids, noting that class members regularly used search engines, bookmarks and favorite places to simplify future e fforts or "chunk" data.
The informal survey included three directed questions and two open ended ones. Connie sent it to all students in 760. the opening direction to classmates was, " My technology paper is going to focus on information overload. This is something I am s uffering from, and I suspect I am not the only one." Her last question was "Please share with me any comments, feelings reactions you have on this topic. This is a chance to vent, or to 'cope' with it."
The survey was responded to by seven of the fifteen 760 class. Six of the seven agreed they were suffering from information overload. The six attributed their suffering to "the doctoral level of the course and the additional information on the 760 homepage." Five noted it was the technological delivery of the course and notion of 24 hour a day access to library and communication networks. One student argued the technology emphasis took away from the management emphasis to prepare for the comps.
Another question asked impressions of kinds of problems information overload would have for managing organizations. Students responded to the open ended question with these comments; need clear criteria to select what is optional and what required t o know; tools for accessing and searching more important than specific bits of knowledge; technology speeds up deciding but not necessarily improve quality or mistake free deciding; overload creates uncooperative, discouraged attitude and unwillingness to do more than minimum; makes speed reading and scanning skills essential.
The final questions was a general impression or "vent" probe. Student responses were; "I am pressured by personal, home and work demands but not electronic information...I must prioritize and set a boundary on effort, then really stop." ; "The two c ourses are so different; 760 uses the net, links, web sites and we are deluged with e-mail files while 701 uses e-mail for communication on papers, period." ; " We are spread too thin with the 760 course and syllabus. The dual obligation of the course to study technology and management is not appropriate because the applied technology is such a drain. We need to simplify our lives and strip away excess." ; I sincerely hope 760 and 701 are not representative or typical of our doctoral courses. Its got t o slow down and require less papers and cover less materials. The pace forces me to hand in work that is not the quality I am capable of producing."
Daniel McMahon (Oswego) on "personal technology relationships"
Daniel was the member of the Oswego cohort whose journal reflected the most negative reaction to the technology context of the 760 experience. This is not to imply that Daniel was any more upset about the technology relationship of Oswego/Pioneer an d Albany as far as "glitches" were concerned. It also does not imply that Daniel did any less in trying to be positive and do his graduate work than the other Oswego students. In the instructors opinion, Daniel's overall negative impression of Fall l99 6 was due to his personal relationship to technology that blocked many of the more positive features of the distance course. Daniel's e-mail and graphic access to the internet remained faulty throughout the semester. He concluded his paper with the conc ession that he would be investing "big time" in up to date technology so not to be disadvantaged in the doctoral program but there was some worry that such a change would cause him to lose present strengths in emphasizing interpersonal relationships and f ace-face contacts.
Cheryl Thomas (Albany) and Criteria of Efficiency/Effectiveness
Cheryl's conclusion was direct. In practice, technology has gotten in the way of learning during the experimental 760 class this past semester. It became an end in itself rather than a tool of efficiency or excellence. Citing Kershaw (l996) Cheryl noted that those familiar with technology in higher education warn that "institutions contemplating such changes must remember that the technology is seductive. Its siren call can tempt people to focus on the means of change rather than the end, on the te chnology itself rather than the people that will use it. When that happens, little meaningful change occurs." Specific inefficiency problems with the 760 experience included the echo of the speaker and time spent trying to improve it, the use of web se arch that had waits of more than an hour to get connected (AOL) and then higher costs than other servers ( before AOL was on an unlimited time for fixed fee basis) and the inability to make instruction "tailor made" to each learner.
On the other side of the coin, Cheryl felt that the e-mail was an advantage over phone calls because there are no interruptions or fear of bothering people at a bad time, that the web does encourage curiosity and provide enhanced access to experts.
Illustration of Mixed Reaction
Ron Shaffer (Albany) about e-mail,
Prior to this semester I had never used e-mail, so it took me quite a while to get used to sending letters through this medium. I was uncomfortable putting private thoughts in my messages, or anything that I did not want thousands to see. While my fe ar was greatly exaggerated, it was not entirely without justification. Private information can easily be made public.
As wonderful as it has been to reconnect with old friends through this medium, I wouldn't want to give up personal contact and interaction. There is no substitute for a nice visit. If internet communication does lead us to less personal socialization , this is no fault of the technology.
In my case the internet has only made my life richer. Electronic letter writing has proven so much more rewarding than making phone calls or sending letters through the snail mail. The turnaround or response time can be immediate, and I think I get b etter responsessince it allows people to read and respond at their convenience, even to reread and edit their thoughts before they send it to me.
Facing so much new technology so rapidly forces some of us to take a step back and evaluate what it means to how we want to use it. For me, having the counsel of an old friend close at hand is really extraordinary and rejuvenating. This crazy e-mail has even rekindled old friendships. What more can we ask for?
Illustrations of Positive Reactions
Frank Delfavero of the Oswego Cohort
Tonight's class (November 21st) is the last that I will write for this journal. Looking back on the entire experience I feel it was successful and productive. I hope the distance learning program continues as a viable alternative to "face-face" inst ruction. On a 1 to 10 scale I would give it an 8.5. The rating could easily increase to a perfect 10 once the minor technology bugs are eliminated. There was a big difference between 760 and 701 as far as the full use of technology to make the psychol ogical distance between cohorts lessen.
In summary the benefits of distance learning far outweigh any inconveniences. Using e-mail is a fast and easy method of communication that brings students and professors closer together. There is no waiting for office hours or actual class time. As far as negatives, I never realized how dependent we are on non verbal cues to make sense. The camera set up and seating arrangements made non verbal cueing almost impossible. Further, the professor must be equipped with a remote label mike. This is whe re to focus attention for improving the experience.
Pat Richard's journal from the Oswego Cohort
(October 19th) Dr. Wiles kidded us about the use of the mute button; we do mute our mike occasionally and very briefly to make a comment. this is probably high tech rudeness, but it is also self preservation in the sense that any noise from us shuts down the sound from Albany. On a related subject Linda Shieve stopped by for the 760 class and kibitzed with us throughout. It was distracting to us and Dr. Wiles who was trying to teach. We will have to discover the boundaries of what is intrusive in the blend of technology and peopled contacts.
(October 26th)There were snafus again tonight. Mike noted the poor audio and video and suggested we try to reconnect. Dr. Wiles was uneasy about the chance of losing the hook up connection altogether. Apparently Albany has begun to broadcast on a lower band width to lower their costs. Reading the "first third" journal summaries it seems we at Oswego are most concerned about the audio/visual type of things while the Albany group is more focused on e-mail and internet.
(November 1st) I am very excited about the breakthrough last night. We began to connect personally. During the break Connie and I actually had a conversation. (November 8th) Two steps forward, one back. Tonight was the worst technology yet with Al bany only having audio with us for most of the time. It was right in the middle of a group presentation and I felt bad for the folks. (November 16th) We had the unusual experience of losing audio and having the video freeze on the Albany class several times, but the connection quickly restored itself. I don't think Albany even knew we were disconnected. Yet I wonder how much we missed and hate to think of how much time has been wasted waiting for the technology to be fixed. (November 23rd) This week we again lost the video so Albany could not see us. When Dr. Levy arrived and got the status report he said, "OK we can hear them and they can see and hear us- sounds like 75% of the system is working." Seems like we hope for most of the system to work most of the time...
I was also struck by how far our groups have come in a semester. When the Albany class comes on and we greet each other it has become much more personal- and we know each other's names and actually carry on conversations. It has become comfortable a nd not at all strange. When people remark they could never learn from "six hours of television" I defend the set up completely as just another learning environment.
(December 9th) Last class and my chance to be Marco polo by visiting the Albany site. First, the physical set up at Albany is very different from Oswego. The table is bigger and the professor is much further away from the screen showing the remote si te. Of course I also understand why Dr. Wiles turns around to look at us as the sound from Oswego comes to him from his back.
I was very conscious of not being on camera most of the time. The Albany class experience is much more anonymous to me with the camera focused on the professor 90% of the time. I was also very conscious of the amount of time Jeff spent moving the ca mera so the remote site can see the Albany students speaking. He has gotten quite facile with it but it seems imperative that one student assume such a role.
I would have to say that the class experience translated very accurately over the distance set up. I felt completely at home, and familiar with the people, teaching style and routine. I did not feel like a guest or interloper as I had feared. Havin g the Albany experience, I hope to remember what that side of the camera feels like in future distance classes.
Yong Zhang's (Albany) Critique
The "live, interactive, electronic classroom" experiment has combined three telecommunication technologies into one setting. We have experienced some wonderful things and some frustrations. Could we claim that this experiment is better than the tradit ional seminar in terms of student performance?
First, technology could bring change into educational practice. Some students have changed their attitudes toward the using of modern telecommunications in education. At the beginning of the semester there was obvious resistance from some students. Although there were many reasons for it, the feeling of not being a "techno type person" was one major concern. The case of e-mail is particularly noteworthy. Although it is convenient and efficient one student was worried that it would replace face-fa ce and physical interactions. But after practice even these students became enthusiastic. Sometimes people need an impetus to get changed.
But does the electronic classroom result in better performance than the traditional seminar? Such assessment is extremely difficult, even if student backgrounds are similar and the instructor remains the same for two different settings. The question is similar to estimating the rate of return of education. Economists build complex models to estimate but there is still no generally agreed formula. What seems clear is that there is not much negative effect on learning, except for the frustration ca used by momentary failure of the technology.
Third, the 21st century administrators and educators must hold the cutting edge of the information explosion, which the experiment leads to. The academic achievement might be difficult to assess but the skills we learned through the experiment will d efinitely benefit in the long term of career enhancement. Advanced management studies is the name and core content of this course. Decision making in the information explosion requires knowledge and "access to the tools" of information technology. In this sense the "live, interactive, electronic classroom" is far ahead of the traditional seminar.
Gina Giuliano (Albany) Critique
What was the impact of the delivery method on the experience of taking the course? At first, the televisions, the lights and the decor of the studio classroom were a bit distracting. As the semester passed, the presence of the screens and microphone s became less intrusive, except when there was a technical glitch. Each cohort solidified independently and got to know each other better, finally becoming one class. Having Albany as the remote site once helped smooth barriers between the groups. As t ime passed the electronic mail helped, especially after Connie's outreach effort.
The use of electronic mail and having materials available on the world wide web were both excellent improvements in the delivery of a course such as 760. Initially many students did not have access, and this generated much anxiety for the have nots. Once this was remedied, it seemed almost everyone benefited from these resources. There is an irony when Bill Gates writes, " it costs nearly a dollar to print and mail a letter and thats about the same for a long distance call." True, but the user nee d not pay two-thousand to own a phone or gain access to the post office.
Video conferencing has not turned out as successful as the telephone companies wished and predicted (Dybvik and Lie). The quality of the connection is everything, and the 760 experience had a low quality, especially after the remote site was changed to Phoenix. The absence of normal technical gadgets (e.g., overhead projector, fax machine on site) and those available (document cam) made an awkward situation.
For the Albany site, I have no doubt the experience was more rewarding because we had the advantages of a larger group and having the instructor present. The sound problems, despite how annoying it was for the Albany cohort to have to repeat comments and to be concerned about the physical location of the microphones, was more distressing for the Oswego students when they could not hear at all.
One exception to the rule that the remote site was more disadvantaged was when we experienced screen freezing and disintegration problems toward the end. It seemed to impact the Albany site more adversely because the Oswego/Phoenix site could still s ee Albany just fine.
I doubt I would enjoy being a student at the remote site, but if my choice was taking the distance format, traveling a great distance or having no access at all, the technological method of delivery becomes attractive. It will never be the same as th e more traditional model, but this class has illustrated that it can, and should, be simply "different" rather than "not as good as." There was a sense of energy and excitement generated by the pioneering experience. Distance technology increased access to doctoral coursework for the Oswego cohort, and gave the Albany group the opportunity to experience a technical implementation in an electronic classroom. Both exposures are critical to learning and preparing for the ever greater role information techn ology will play in our future.