(Excerpt from Syllabus Magazine, 10/97)
Higher education institutions are offering increasing numbers of courses online and over the Web, and the types of online implementations are disparate.
by Judith V. Boettcher
“Online courses” and “courses on the Web” are the fad educational phrases of the 90s. These phrases mean something to almost everyone, but can mean something different to everyone. The phrases also can mean something very different to decision makers, such as legislators, college presidents, and deans. These phrases are clear signs, however, that a new vocabulary for teaching and learning environments is emerging. The problem is that we now have so many terms floating about that it is difficult to communicate with each other about these new teaching and learning models.
Considering that one of the design goals of the Internet was to facilitate worldwide collaboration, it is ironic, but maybe not surprising that we now need to spend some energy thinking about the terminology to describe this new environment. In this article, I hope to provoke some thinking about the potpourri of terms that are threatening to become barriers to effective communication about this important phenomenon in distance learning.
Definitions Without Walls
In determining just how to communicate about courses in the new environment, one thing is certain: there is an irrevocable relationship between the “classroom without walls” and all that has gone before. In describing courses in the emerging new teaching and learning environment, let me suggest the following definitions:
• Online course. A course that can be accessed anywhere and anytime via the Internet. An online course makes use of the Internet technology and related applications to deliver student learning at flexible times and places. Online courses can be cohort-based, but are not necessarily so. Online courses do not require any attendance or participation in location-specific sites.
• Web course. A course that can be accessed anywhere and anytime via the Internet and a Web browser. A Web course makes significant use of the Web technology to facilitate access to class materials and communication between faculty and students, among students, and between students and resources. Web courses can be cohort-based, but are not necessarily so. Web courses do not require any attendance or participation in location-specific sites.
• Web-centric course. A course that makes significant use of the Web technology to facilitate access to class materials and communication between faculty and students, among students, and between students and resources. Web-centric courses shift the center of instruction from the classroom to the Web. Web-centric courses can be cohort-based, but are not necessarily so. Web-centric courses may be courses that are available within a limited geographic area, such as a campus or a city, but are not necessarily so. Web-centric courses may include use of other “gathering strategies” such as intensive location-based launching activities, weekend seminars, and celebratory events. Web-centric courses can look a great deal like regular campus residency courses, with heavy reliance on Web technology and tools.
• Web-enhanced course (or Web-supported course). A course that makes use of the Web technology to support distribution of course materials and student access to the resources on the Internet and on the Web. Designing, developing, and delivering Web-enhanced courses can be an evolutionary step for many faculty and teachers by removing the dependency on paper-based and phone-based materials and communications. It can also be an evolutionary step away from the current classroom-centric model. This would certainly be a “Web-light” course.
As this is basically a first draft of these definitions and given that this field is a dynamic and complex field, these proposed definitions leave a great deal of room for improvement. I look forward to comments and other pertinent Web course analyses.
Matrix of Course Models by Location and Time Variables
|Location Dependent||Location Independent|
|Time Dependent||Campus Course|
|Time Independent||On line course|
Matrix of Course Models by Web Variable
|Internet Dependent||Web Dependent|
|100% (50% or more)||On line course||Web Course|
|50% – 75%||Web Centric Course|
|25% to 50 %||Web-Enhanced or Web supported|
|10% to 25%||On line interaction||Web Interaction and Research|