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Collaboration among Faculty, Students, Information Systems, and Administration
Raymond Bucko, S.J. Associate Professor of Anthropology,
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Yuming Tung Manager of Networks and Systems
Office of Information Systems
Le Moyne College
Syracuse, New York 13241
Enrollment: 3122 total (2164 undergraduate, 296 graduate)
Liberal Arts Curriculum
In the beginning of 1997, Le Moyne College anthropology professor Ray Bucko, S.J., with the support of Office of Information Systems, started a "Virtual Classroom" project. The goals: to enhance courses through collaboration with other institutions using the Internet via web interface (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/), to enhance communication among students and professors in different institutions in the United States and Europe, to accustom students to using electronic communication, and to utilize available electronic media and resources in the learning process. An online syllabus, schedule, and links to assignments were provided the students. The project used Basic Support for Cooperative Work (BSCW) as the centerpiece software. It utilizes a web interface to provide a collaborative computing environment. The project also used a RealAudio server to deliver reading guides and suggestions for class discussions, all recorded in stream data format.
In the past two years, the students in Le Moyne College (Syracuse, NY), Fairfield University (Fairfield, Connecticut), and the University of Deusto (in Bilbao, the Basque Country of Spain) have participated in several courses offered through "Virtual Classroom." Through the cooperative efforts of information systems and of faculty (that is, those already knowledgeable of the software and teaching techniques,) the project itself has expanded and extended its applicability to subjects other than the computer-related ones like modern languages, communications, chemistry, and economics. Its utility has also extended to faculty engaged in research and provided computer-based communication and exchange with colleagues in other institutions.
Le Moyne College, like many small, private educational institutions, is rather financially strapped. Moving into the information age, therefore, has become a daunting challenge. Through an innovative collaboration among faculty, students, information systems and administration, the school has been able to make a good beginning at implementing web-based learning, collaborative and distance learning, and general computer literacy within the entirety of our institution. Beginning with an open-web policy for faculty and students, the College has encouraged self-starting faculty to use computer technology for teaching purposes. This it effectively does by providing the faculty access to the web and to necessary technical expertise. The faculty freely and independently harness personal creativity to innovate and design new teaching techniques.
As faculty needs for technology eventually increased based on actual classroom usage (rather than goals set before the faculty were technologically adept), information systems and faculty collaborated to increase school spending for hardware and software.
Beginnings of Collaborative Learning: Spring 1996
At the beginning of spring semester, 1996, Dr. Bucko received an e-mail from Dr. Aitor Esteban, a professor of Indigenous Law at the University of Deusto. Dr. Esteban had found the Dr. Bucko's "Native American History and Culture" course syllabus on the web (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/ant212/ant212_eng_syl.html). He then asked Dr. Bucko if he could take this course as a "distance learning" experience. At that time, Le Moyne was by no means, technologically equipped for such cyber-innovation. Add to this the fact that Dr. Bucko had never done anything like this before. However, because the University of Deusto is a Jesuit institution like Le Moyne, and because Dr. Esteban does teaching and research on issues similar to those affecting Native Americans, Dr. Bucko decided that the effort would be worth making. Through the cooperation of Information Systems, Dr. Esteban received an account on our VMS time-sharing host where he could read and interact with the students via the "bulletin board" on the same system. He also used e-mail to communicate with the professor, to take quizzes and exams, and to submit papers. Dr. Esteban's interest and diligence added a remarkable richness and scope to the course. He took every quiz and exam via e-mail. He successfully engaged many of the students in high-level discussions on the political and legal challenges involved in indigenous issues.
Extending the Paradigm: Fall 1996
With Dr. Bucko's appetite whetted by this experience, he continued to use computer interaction with his students through the following means: e-mail, web-based course syllabi and 'bulletin' on the VAX (for interactive discussions.) Information Systems also committed to help him develop new technologies pertinent to similar "virtual classroom" uses. Then, an important breakthrough occurred. While a system administrator in Information Systems was searching the web, he discovered that the Institute for Applied Information Technology (FIT--a research unit of Germany's national research center for information technology or GMD) was developing a piece of software called Basic Support for Cooperative Work or BSCW (http://bscw.gmd.de). This software, created primarily for collaborative scientific work, also seemed suitable for classroom use. The system administrator then passed the URL and related information to Dr.Bucko.
Dr. Bucko began informally testing FIT's software on GMD's site in Germany for classroom suitability. He discovered two advantages of the site. First, the software was "freeware". Second, there was an on-line version of the program running in Germany, with the server open for anyone to try it out. These advantages allowed the software developers to continue testing and enhancing their product. With people like Dr. Bucko testing the software and the developers improving on it, the arrangement proved mutually beneficial. Dr. Bucko wrote to the group about his desire to use this software for classroom purposes and was assured that the software on the German server would be available for the rest of the semester.
Dr. Bucko then met with two of his Social Theory classes that were still using "Bulletin" to extend classroom discussions. He asked them to help him test the suitability of the BSCW for classroom use. On the one hand, "Bulletin" was a slow system and allowed only for sequential messaging. The BSCW, on the other hand, allowed users to quote former messages and to create message threads that could be traced more easily. Before the advent of BSCW in Dr. Bucko's "experimental" classes, students would e-mail him the Internet sites relevant to course material. This was part of Dr. Bucko's classroom assignments. Dr. Bucko then had to check the URL thus emailed, copy it to the syllabus, edit the reference and describe it. He would then upload the new syllabus to the server and convince the students to look at the new reference (this last task being the most challenging). With the BSCW, however, students could simply and directly add a URL to the workspace and include their own description. The advantages of the BSCW software were vastly superior to that of "Bulletin."
Developing Our Own Site: Summer 1996 and Winter 1997
Three pieces fell into place, moving this "experiment" in new directions for extending the classroom to the computer. First, in the Summer of 1996, Dr. Esteban visited the United States and met with Dr. Bucko about the possibilities of collaborating on a course in Native American History and Culture between Le Moyne College and his own institution, the University of Deusto. The BSCW had not yet appeared as a venue for this collaboration but the prospect encouraged the professors to continue thinking of new computer techniques to link the institutions effectively. Second, Dr. Bucko was invited to the University of Deusto to give talks on computer-enhanced learning in January of 1997. Third, Dr. Bucko was offered a "visiting scholar" position for a semester at Fairfield University (another Jesuit Institution in Connecticut) in the spring of 1997.
All these were opportunities to expand this instructional model--from extending a class to the computer, to extending the classroom itself to three educational institutions. Because this would entail providing resources to the University of Deusto students who had no access to a significant amount of Native American resources, Dr. Bucko and Information Systems successfully obtained from the administration a grant for a server to run the BSCW at Le Moyne. Because Le Moyne could run the software on a machine dedicated exclusively to classroom pursuits, Dr. Bucko did not have to worry about the mid-semester termination of access to the BSCW software in Germany. The knowledge-base being created for the class would then be secure on Le Moyne's own server for semesters to come.
Finally, at the end of 1996, the Le Moyne server ran the BSCW applications. It was much more convenient for us to run the software on our own server than to access it from Germany. We didnÔŅĹt need to worry about losing our data stored in a place faraway. Although the BSCW developers in Germany were extremely helpful in trying to answer all our inquiries as promptly as they could, it was nonetheless intellectually fulfilling to solve many small problems by ourselves. We decided to use a SUN Sparc 5 server as the server hardware and to use Solaris as our UNIX operating system. Our experience confirmed that this choice provided us a very stable solution.
Collaborative Classrooms: Spring 1997
Fairfield University required Dr. Bucko to perform two main tasks as part of his visiting scholar position: one, to teach one class, and two, to work on models of collaborative distance learning. Dr. Bucko, as a matter of fact, opted to teach two courses so that he could precisely experiment with different approaches to collaborative distance learning. All resources for these courses were maintained at Le Moyne College (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/). This was crucial for purposes of continuity. The experiment proved very effective because of good working relationships Dr. Bucko had developed with Le Moyne's information systems department. People in the department had become familiar not only with the kind of work Dr. Bucko was doing but also with the project history and goals. While the information system departments at Fairfield and Deusto were helpful, they were not pertinently equipped to take on such a project.
The first course which Dr. Bucko taught using three "models" was Native American History and Culture. Dr. Bucko taught the course as a traditional lecture/discussion course at Fairfield. Dr. Esteban also taught the same course (in English) at Deusto as a lecture/discussion course. Students at Le Moyne could take this course as a tutorial. All three schools were brought together through discussions concerning issues raised in the course. The course also had three Native American consultants in South Dakota, Colorado and New York (two Lakota, one Mohawk). The consultants used the workspaces to read student conversations, state their own opinions, and answer questions. This collaboration brought a richness to the classroom which would not have been possible without the web-based enhancement and extension of the classroom.
Each student was required to write a critical essay on three movies with Native American themes. Each essay was posted onto the workspace as "locked" documents (so that only the individual student and professor could access the material.) After all the papers were uploaded and graded, they were then "unlocked" so that all the students could read each other's work. The better-written essays, properly highlighted as model essays, encouraged students to improve their critical thinking and writing styles.
An important component of this course was on-line resources. Fairfield University assigned to Dr. Bucko Ted Ervin, a graduate student who was adept at html and was very creative and innovative and a very dedicated hard- worker. He assisted in designing the look of the workspace and designed most of the graphics work (including the man in the boat sailing across some of the help page-- (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/images/bucko/boat_anim_03.gif). He built help-files for the BSCW specific to tasks required for the classes (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/help/help_index.html). Most importantly, he scanned and uploaded a vast quantity of historical drawings, paintings and photographs as well as maps to the workspace. He also recorded a large amount of Native American music in RealAudio format and linked the files to the workspace. Startup time for this endeavor was significant. Had Fairfield not provided Dr. Bucko an assistant and had it not reduced his course load, the venture would not have been as highly successful. The other significant partners were Dr. Esteban who contributed to the virtual library from his own resources at Deusto and the students themselves who were required to add to the workspace links to relevant internet sites based on the course topics and on their own interests.
The discussion area of the BSCW was crucial to the synergy among the three schools in this course. The BSCW allowed for threaded messages and for the editing of previous messages so that students could cite only the elements of previous messages to which they wished to respond. The BSCW also used different typefaces to distinguish different contributors to each consecutive message. Discussions were asynchronous. This was important because of the time difference between the Basque Country and the east coast of the United States. It also allowed students to engage in "conversation" that was more in keeping with their own schedules. Students were given deadlines upon which initial statements had to be made and by which responses to the initial statements of others had to be posted. This round of talks always occurred before the issue was covered and discussed in class in "real time", yielding higher-quality discussions during class time. Students were free to continue the discussions in the workspaces and thus enhance their grade based both on the quantity of messages and the quality of their content.
The second course taught was Museums and Social Science (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/ant305/ant305_syl.html). This course was taught at Le Moyne and Fairfield in a seminar style. The course was conducted in a separate workspace. Students in each course had password-protected access to their own section of the workspace.
In this course, students were responsible for initiating the discussions on the workspace. As with the Native American class, these virtual discussions preceded "real time" classroom engagements. The students were also responsible for uploading a summary of the actual discussion to help extend the virtual discussion taking place on the workspace. A number of visual resources were added to this workspace, including photographs of historic museums, maps of museum floor plans (enabling students to study spatial arrangements), and libraries of museum objects. RealAudio sound files were provided as "prelectures" to stimulate discussion in the seminar groups (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/ant305/lectures/). These lectures were coordinated with images once the technology was mastered. The student-assistant worked with the professor in researching, gathering and coordinating the images with each audio prelecture.
The main assignment for this course was for each student to design a "virtual museum" on any topic based on what was learned during the semester (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/museum.html). Le Moyne hired an adjunct to teach the students web publishing and Dr. Bucko fulfilled that function at Fairfield. There were also on-line help files specifically geared to the course and to Le Moyne's and, at that time, Fairfield's computer system (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/seminar/).
Students had very good success with learning basic html and creating credible museums. In addition to creating and improving their sites, students were also charged with publicizing them. They were thus required to use search engines in a unique way as well as to make professional contacts with maintainers of related sites. One student's museum dealing with medieval gargoyles was named a "Microsoft Site of the Week". Another student landed an entry-level museum job due the fact that she was very web-literate and had two on-line museums to prove it: a quilt museum done for the class, and a museum done in collaboration with a high school class on St.-Marie-among-the-Iroquois, a historical site in Syracuse, New York.
Each of the two collaborative courses had its own syllabus on-line. The syllabus for the Museum course was in English (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/ant305/ant305_syl.html) while the Native American course had a syllabus in English (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/ant212/ant212_eng_syl.html), Basque (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/ant212/ant212_bas_syl.html), and Spanish (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/ant212/ant212_esp_syl.html). Maintaining a trilingual syllabus became tedious so the official syllabus for the course was English in keeping with the official course language. In each class students were required to follow a set schedule (see, for example http://vc.lemoyne.edu/ant212/ant212_lemo_sch.html and
http://vc.lemoyne.edu/ant305/ant305_sch_fa.html), to give the faculty periodic evaluations of the course (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/ant212/ant212_eng_form_course.html) and to evaluate their own participation performance (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/ant212/ant212_eng_form_self.html). Careful scheduling was essential when courses were taught among different institutions because of differences in holidays and course start and end times. The immediate feedback in the informal course evaluations were also crucial in creating a successful learning atmosphere. While most schools conduct course evaluations, this is normally done at the end of the semester and the results are not returned to the professor until long after the course has ended. Periodic evaluations allow the professors to make the course more suitable to students' needs. This is especially crucial with new venture courses.
The participation grade in each class was a significant twenty percent. This helped encourage students to climb the learning curve and gain facility with computer interaction. The myth that students are all computer wizards proved particularly fallacious with regard to the workspace. The more support the students had in learning the technical aspects necessary for classroom interaction, the greater their success. The least successful model was the Le Moyne Native American course in tutorial format.
These results reveal that "distance" learning must also be closely supported by collaborative, personalized, and direct human interaction. In a course requiring computer knowledge, students remain at the stage where they have two learning curves to climb: the course material on the one hand, and the delivery/interaction technology on the other. This climb becomes particularly arduous when the subject matter has nothing to do with computers!
Using the BSCW had several advantages. Because the format houses securely enclosed workspaces, students could post materials without worrying about Internet theft. Copyright considerations took on the context of the closed classroom rather than the open publishing format of the Web. Also, the BSCW monitors input and access activity which in turn alerts the users of collaborative activity--even sending the students a daily e-mail report of workspace activity. The professors were thus made aware of the amount (though not necessarily the quality) of individual student activity in the workspace. Activity reports were also compiled from the usage log, enabling the students to monitor their amount of class participation vis-a-vis that of the other students (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/help/stats/index_stats.html). Note, however, that this was not a way to rate performance quality. Nevertheless, a rough correlation could be made between the amount of time devoted to on-line participation and actual learning. While an enterprising student could work a site so as to appear that he/she was participating (a task itself requiring a lot of work), students who would rarely sign onto the workspace generally did not perform well. Contrariwise, those who did participate extensively fared better.
The BSCW has a utility for posting, describing and checking a URL. This allows for student independence and initiative in adding resources from the web to the workspace. Students can also submit papers and "lock" them secure from other students while making their work immediately accessible to the professor. This is particularly crucial when your classroom extends to three schools in two different countries!
Each student has an account on the BSCW. The program gives each of them a biography page on which he/she can post contact information, a photograph, and a biography. This is most useful in collaborative learning as students can "visualize" each other, and both faculty and students can easily contact one another through a variety of media (that is, through the workspace itself, or via e-mail, phone, fax, etc.) The professor can also confine student access to specific workspaces in the BSCW and thus prepare a section of the workspace ahead of time and admit the student to it later in the course.
Most importantly, everything the students do in terms of workspace input is preserved so the faculty can go over the conversations, papers, and other input--commending the good work of some students and suggesting modes of improvement to others. Ultimately, each semester adds to a cumulative knowledge base. Not only can students discuss issues now, they can also examine how their peers discussed the same issue two semesters ago!
Extending Faculty Participation: Fall 1997
Because of the success of the virtual classroom project and the national publicity it enjoyed among Jesuit colleges and universities, the Le Moyne administration committed to extending the use of the virtual classroom (BSCW) facilities to other faculty members. Dr. Bucko worked with Information Systems on faculty development in computer literacy. This was an ideal combination. Dr. Bucko brought with him years of effective teaching coupled with a willingness to learn and to incorporate in it new technologies. Concurrently, Information Systems has set up a staff position to specifically work with faculty to address their growing pedagogical needs for technology. A support person from Information System assisted the group with programming and with other pertinent computer operations which, incidentally, Dr. Bucko and the others heretofore did not enjoy.
Most importantly, Dr. Bucko set up a faculty seminar on computer-enhanced collaborative learning which he headed. Twelve teachers applied for four seats in this seminar through an on-line form (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/apply.html). That they came from every department in the College showed the wide interest the faculty have for these methodologies. The faculty received a one-course reduction for the semester in which they attended the seminar. They were required to apply aspects of what they were learning to their own teaching that semester. They were further required to teach a full-blown computer-assisted class the next year. Each of them also committed to mentor no more than two other faculty for the next academic year. These weekly seminars introduced new technology and techniques, discussed course successes and failures, and provided a forum for technological troubleshooting.
Faculty Seminar: Spring 1998
The four faculty selected for the seminar on computer-assisted teaching well represented the diverse disciplines of the college. They also embodied the potential to incorporate technology in instruction over a wide variety of fields.
Theresa Beaty of the chemistry department taught CHM205: Biotechnology: Wonder Drugs to Mutant Bugs (http://web.lemoyne.edu/~beatytl/biotech.html), a core science course designed for non-science majors. Students learned basic scientific concepts underlying the biotechnological revolution. The course also examined the social consequences of different technologies and their legal, ethical, economic ramifications. The workspace was used to post URLs for web sites dedicated to biotechnology and to conduct discussions relevant to the course.
Leonard Marsh of department of foreign languages taught FRN 102 Elementary French II (http://maple.lemoyne.edu/~marsh/frn102.htm). Students in this class learned to converse, read and write in basic French in the context of everyday living (and computing) situations. Dr.. Marsh used the conversation area for students to write in French and edit each other's work.
Thomas Clifton of the economics department taught Statistics II, a continuation of Statistics I (http://maple.lemoyne.edu/~clifton/STA202.HTM). Topics included ANOVA, simple and multiple regression, and specification testing. He used the workspace to administer quizzes and provide solutions to statistical problems.
Paul Brian Campbell, S.J. of the department of English and communications taught CMM/CRW 387: Script-Writing (http://web.lemoyne.edu/~campbell/387spr98.htm) in which students wrote, edited and "workshopped" a full-length script for a movie or a two-hour television drama. Dr. Campbell made the most extensive use of the workspace for this class, having students brainstorm, upload various versions of scripts, as well as read and critique each other's work. The workspace moved a lot of classroom administrative tasks (such as collecting, collating and distributing scripts from each student) out of the classroom and into the workspace. After learning the technology, students submitted their scripts to the workspace and collected the scripts of their colleagues before the classes began. This allowed more classroom time for instruction and discussion of scripts. .
At this time, Dr. Bucko began adapting another course to the workspace: SOC 200: Careers, Practice, and Professional Computing for Sociology (http://vc.lemoyne.edu/soc200/soc200_s.html), co-taught with Dr. Robert Kelly, also of the sociology anthropology department. Students used the workspace to create professional portfolios which contained their resumes, discussions of their career plans with other students, samples of their writings, and URL links portraying future career plans (such as links to graduate schools or professional organizations). This increased the over-all computer literacy of all our sociology majors (as this is a required class). It also introduced still another faculty member to the technology. This class featured periodic workspace and web assignments which linked task lists with help-files ( see, for example, http://vc.lemoyne.edu/soc200/comp_05.html) and required students to present themselves professionally on the Internet through their own web page.
The extended use of the BSCW created new support problems for the college. To alleviate some of these, the four faculty learning the BSCW accessed the German server for their classes. This allowed Information System time to improve their facilities without impeding the progress of the faculty who would otherwise have wait for these changes.
Making The Virtual Classroom Work
When we started to run the BSCW server ourselves for the first time, UNIX was the only platform supported at Le Moyne (Windows NT version is available now). We used a SUN Sparc 5 server (233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, and 4 GB storage) on a 10M shared Ethernet network. Recently, the server has been upgraded to a Ultra 60 dual processor machine (2-296 MHz, 256 MB RAM, and 4 GB storage) to give better performance.
There are four main components of the software we used on our virtual classroom server:
1. Apache web server: Since the BSCW uses a web browser as its interface, the choice of the right web server is very important. We first tried the Netscape Enterprise Server but had a hard time making it work with the BSCW. Following the BSCW developerís advice, we decided to use the Apache web server--fully tested to work well with the BSCW. Like the BSCW program itself, it is also freeware. The Apache sever actually is the most popular web server running on the Internet. It is easy to download and to compile as well as to configure. You can find more information at http://www. apache.org
2. BSCW (Basic Support for Cooperative Work) server: The BSCW server is the key piece of the project. BSCW (Basic Support for Cooperative Work) enables collaboration over the Web. BSCW is a 'shared workspace' system which supports document upload, event notification, group management and much more. To access a workspace you only need a standard Web browser. Because the software was developed by a German government agency and didnít have any marketing promotion, it still is not well-known to many people. However, Version 2 of the BSCW Shared Workspace System has won first prize in the European Software Innovation Prize 1996 (ESIP'96). The BSCW server is interpreted as opposed to compiled software which requires the instillation of an interpreter language, Python, to run properly. The current BSCW version is 3.2. For more information about the BSCW server software, visit http://bscw.gmd.de
3. Python language package: Python is similar to Perl and Java language with which many of you may be familiar. Python is a portable, interpreted, object-oriented programming language developed over the past seven years. The language has an elegant syntax. A small number of the powerful high-level data types are built in. Using Python can save software developers time and simplify the complexity of the task. Python is also freeware. We did not need to learn or understand the Python language. As long as the Python is compiled and installed correctly, it is the BSCW serverís job to run it. The current version of the Python is 1.5.1. For more Python information, check http://www.python.org
4. RealServer: When we first started the virtual classroom project, Progressive Networks Inc. had a promotion for its RealAudio server. Dr.Bucko thought it would be a good idea to record the lectures and save them onto the server in RealAudio format so that students could listen to them at their convenience. Later on, Dr.Bucko with the help of his assistant at Fairfield learned how to synchronize web text and graphics with the sound piece so the students could view computer screens while listening to the lectures. Now, with the upgrade to the new server, we also upgraded the RealAudio server to the RealNetworks (formally known as Progressive Networks) Basic Server Plus, which allow us to serve not only audio files but also video files. The streaming data format is one of the most popular data format used by Internet to deliver sound and live video (CNN, ABS, PBS etc. all use this format). More information about RealNetworks and its product can be found at http://www.real.com
Aside from the aforementioned main pieces, we also use Netscape Enterprise Server to do the web access log analysis and use another Python script to do the BSCW workplace access log analysis.
For faculty developing and utilizing workspaces such as the BSCW, the most important element is time. Dr. Bucko, for instance, was able to learn the software and to develop teaching strategies to incorporate the workspace into normal classroom work because his students agreed to make the experiment a part of their class. He and the other Le Moyne faculty were able to further tailor their classes for workspace interaction through the time made available through course or class-load reductions.
Time for development is particularly crucial when information systems is overloaded and unable to support a variety of new software packages. Thus, on their own, faculty must devote time to learning software and to testing its suitability for classroom use. This strategy of testing the software before Information Systems begins supporting it makes sense only if faculty devote time and acquire basic computer literacy on their own or in collaboration with one another. This frees Information Systems for more support tasks.
Time is also essential to the actual use of the workspace software in the classroom. While the software eliminates a lot of tasks such as adding URLs to a syllabus, it creates new ones. In most institutions the level of computing competence among students still leaves much to be desired. The faculty must therefore teach and support basic computer skills. Hopefully, this is a transitional necessity. The BSCW monitors students very effectively but it creates more work for faculty who must intervene when inactive students plod through the learning curve. In a non-computer assisted context, a professor lecturing to--or running a discussion with as many as thirty students might not effectively engage all of them. She/He might not even be fully aware that many of them are hardly even paying attention to the lecture/discussion. Their lack of participation--let alone their very identity--is almost impossible to detect until a low-scoring exam or paper appears. With the BSCW, however, a faculty member is made very aware of who is and who is not working. This allows for more direct intervention. But this intervention takes time.
Students also have to be given time to acquire the skills necessary for the workspace. This often means devoting initial classes to technical matters and using office hours for technical support as well as academic questions. While information systems and on-line-help files can offer some support here, specific tasks within any given classroom may require instructor support. Faculty must be willing to devote time to these tasks lest these simply frustrate the students. Hopefully, as more students within an institution learn specific techniques associated with workspace programs, so will there be less classroom time needed for this task and support can be shifted to Information Systems.
Students also need ready access to the virtual classroom. As faculty move more of their work onto the web, schools must invest in more laboratories, working terminals, faster connections and other modes of access such as dorm rooms or off-campus dial-up networks. This creates a need for more personnel and a budget increase for Information Systems earmarked for equipment maintenance, further instruction, and computer laboratory assistants.
As mentioned before, time is also needed to build resources within the workspace. Images, sounds, data sets, and texts all have to be suitably formatted and uploaded to the workspace itself. Administrative support through work-study students is an effective way to accomplish resource-building. The faculty, on the other hand, needs "development time" to equip a classroom just as they need time to develop new courses.
Technical support is the next consideration. While Dr. Bucko, for instance, was able to learn the BSCW on his own, he nonetheless had no ability to run, maintain or upgrade the software. Information Systems plays a vital role in this matter. Even if a faculty member has some expertise in this area, it can be dangerous to let loose such a person on a web-server! Opportune server maintenance and prompt response to system-crashes (the equivalent of having a school burn down!) and other server problems is a must to ensure the smooth running of a workspace program.
Because these projects are not as overtly visible as are many other projects in a college, the administration must also be well-informed about these ongoing endeavors. Ultimately, the administration allocates resources to both information systems and faculty. Keeping "The Office" informed of the existence, the success, and the future potential of these programs is vital to the very development of this area.
Information Systems, faculty, administration and students were all involved in the selection of software and the development of computer-enhanced learning based on this particular software. This collaboration ensured the success of the program.
As the computer technology advances, the computer hardware price drops. It then becomes less and less necessary to wait for sizeable amount of money for the purchase of new equipment. For instance, the secretary down the hall may have just acquired a new PC which runs much faster than your own departmentís server. A powerful computer is surprisingly inexpensive nowadays. There are still several good, solid software programs freely available on the Internet. If you can find a group of people who are more interested in technology than in politics, who are willing to spend more time dabbling in it than they are supposed to, and who, like you and me, just want to move forward to make something happen, you can do it.
Having said all this, we would not want to deceive the reader into believing that our college is the Peaceable Kingdom. The usual conflicts, misunderstandings, mistrusts and petty intrigues are, after all, part of any institution. We nevertheless contend that what happened at Le Moyne (a college which still does not have a permanent budget to fund and encourage this type of development) can be instructive not only for the technological innovations and creative use of computers for education but also as a model for small-scale development and cooperation. Extension of the classroom to the computer and to other institutions is highly achievable through cooperation among faculty, information systems, administration and students.
In many institutions an adversarial relationship between faculty and Information Systems thrives. Much of this is based, rightly or wrongly, on the perception that one group seems to follow its own path and set its own goals independently of the other. So, too, many institutions remain very restrictive in allowing faculty and students access to the web. Restrictions such as these thus stifle, if not completely suppress self-learning, creativity and innovation. The Le Moyne Virtual Classroom project was never started as a project. Rather, it began as the interest of a single faculty member relying on his self-acquired computer knowledge and his experience of working with a colleague in Europe. This basic interest grew and expanded so as to involve other faculty--and consequently other students. Such growth and expansion of an erstwhile humble endeavor fostered noteworthy computer literacy in the institution. This grassroots approach allowed for a gradual implementation of new technology and services in the college. The administration duly responded by supporting these endeavors of the faculty and information systems. By positively blurring the lines between institutions in the college, we were able to achieve high level cooperation and synergy. We did not boast of a hugely funded project but we proudly have a group of people able to work together as they feel their way in a new field.
We would like to thank following people for their contributions to this project: Dan Wheeler for first introducing the BSCW name and its shared workspace concept to us; Vivian Silliman for helping us to establish the virtual classroom project; Clyde Wolford for his cooperation and support; Ted Ervin for his creativity and energy in suppporting workspace development at Fairfield University, Theresa Beaty, Paul Campbell, Tom Clifton, and Leonard Marsh for being the first group of faculty to use the program to teach their classes; and last but not least to vice presidents Kurt Geisinger, Edmund Ryan, and Tom OíNeil for their encouragement and support. We are also indebted to Arnel Aquino, S.J. for editing and proofing the final draft of this paper.