March 5, 2001
Donna Price is coordinator of ITD communications
While many classes are offered online at campuses around the country and the world, most are still taught in the traditional lecture/discussion style. At Emory, a number of facultyparticularly in the sciencesare experimenting with combining traditional teaching methods with technology, and to good reviews.
Its been a success for us, said Kyle Petersen, professor
of cell biology. Because in teaching anatomy, we rely on images
and models, so its really a natural fit.
We used to have slide carousels that students would have to go
through, Petersen continued, reflecting on the development of e-teaching
in the department. There were some 600 slides for cell biology and
histology alone, and another course had something like 400.
The department began using computer-aided instruction (CAI) in the 1970s,
when a grant funded the development of a computer-controlled slide viewer
for use in human anatomy courses. Eventually the computer was abandoned,
but the department continued to use the slides in its curriculum.
Thats where Petersen came in. The advantages of using multimedia
applications in the classroom were becoming increasingly apparent and
the technology more prevalent, but faculty had little time to learn the
new media. In a farsighted move in the fall of 1993, the department established
a position for CAI development, and Petersen joined the faculty.
He hit the ground running. Within a few months, slides were digitized
and available, giving students the option of viewing images on a computer
for the last third of that semesters courses.
By the next year, the entire slide program was digitized. [It became]
very popular, suddenly, Petersen said. The students loved
it. Theyd much rather sit in front of the computer to study the
material than use the slide projector. We made small interactive programs,
and this is how the students learned histology.
Still, even though the media was available 24 hours a day, students had
to go to the laboratory to view it. However, timesand information
technology toolshave changed, and today Petersen is one of a small
but growing number of faculty experimenting with web-based course-management
tools: in his case, Blackboard software.
At this moment, more than 200 courses are being hosted on the Blackboard
server, said Marcy Alexander, educational analyst for ITD. Some
faculty are evaluating it within the college. [Also] the schools of nursing
and medicine, Candler and Oxford are all engaged in reviewing this teaching
With Blackboard, faculty deliver course materials electronically; combine
text, photography, graphics and schematics, animations, links, interactivity
with bulletin boards and chat rooms; and manage administrative functions,
all with one software package. Tests, pretests, student discussions and
schedule changes can all be posted and viewed online. Wherever students
are, if they have access to the World Wide Web, they have access to the
Its sometimes overwhelming for the student, Petersen
said. Theyll sit in a classroom and get nothing but PowerPoint
presentations, and they just wear out. One of the advantages of using
the [Blackboard] software, and especially the web, is that the student
can go home or the library or a computer center to study.
Petersens initial training on Blackboard was through the Emory
Center for Interactive Teaching (ECIT). Now I can do most of my
development here, he said, referring to his office in the Cell Biology
Building. If I run into a problem, [ECITs] immediately where
I go. Its a wonderful service, and more and more faculty are hearing
about it and wanting to use it.
A downside to distributing coursework online is that it takes more time.
But, Petersen said, its certainly one of the best
things for students. Different learning styles are addressed and supported,
which is very powerful.
For further information about ECITs services, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.