(1997, June). Supporting
Cyber Students over the Web: The On-Line Campus of
Personal homepage: http://www.globe-online.com/philip.uys
If you need assistance in the strategic implementation of e-Learning (networked education/distributed learning) in your institute, you are welcome to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your needs.
The challenge of supporting cyber students over
a distance was addressed at
The project is nick-named "hydi" derived from "hy-permedia in di-stance education".
Key design principles of the On-line Campus were (and are):
* practical needs of cyber students and
* full learning support.
The On-line Campus contains the on-line courses
as well as all the elements to support our on-line students. The On-line Campus
is part of the vision to combine hypermedia on the World Wide Web (WWW) as a
distance learning medium with current educational strategies to provide
education to both overseas and
The main aims of the project are to increase
the quality of learningeducational opportunitiesprofitstudent numbers andstaff productivity.
Supporting cyber students included constructing appropriate
communication structures among students as well as between students and lecturersenrolment for the on-line coursesbackground information on the institutedown loading mechanisms for the coursesnavigational paths and other facilities for different learning styleshelp informationproviding an ability to publish directly on the Web from within the On-line Campus.
One of the problems with traditional distance education courses is the isolation that distance education students often experience. They often don't know who their fellow students, previous students or even their lecturers are!
Our attempts to solve this problem are currently as follows:
2.1 One of the standard hyperlinks at the bottom of each Web page in the courses is "Ideas Exchange".
Here students can
* place public messages for other students on a dedicated message board - with or without an e-mail address;
* place public messages for the lecturer on a dedicated message board - with or without an e-mail address;
* send private messages to the lecturer via e-mail.
2.2 Once larger groups ("pockets") of
students in certain locations are established, it is envisaged that either
lecturers and support staff will visit on-line students (both overseas and New
- conduct student group
- present key lectures and
- address learning problems.
2.3 In some courses, students will be invited/expected to attend annual/semester workshops locally
2.4 Future options to be researched : Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Listservers, Newsgroups, Video-conferencing and phone over the Web.
The Massey University at
The application form is presented as an HTML form which is sent as e-mail to the relevant administration officer who then generates an enrolment form which is mailed to the prospective student.
Payment can be done via bank transfer or other general international measures for fund transfers. At this stage the On-line Campus is not hosted on a secure server and credit card transactions are therefore not considered to be a secure option. Other forms of "virtual" money will still be investigated, but the more traditional approaches will be used for the foreseeable future.
Students often have a desire to find out more about the institute both before they make their choice of where to study as well as afterwards to track new developments.
Prominent hyperlinks in the On-line Campus refer
to the Massey
University at Wellington Homepage which is a comprehensive guide to
the activities, support and courses at the
The pragmatic approach which is being taken in the hydi project led to each on-line course being zipped into a file (in a format appropriate for both PC and Macintosh computers) that can be down-loaded by students onto their hard drives.
This was done to save students Internet access costs and time and frustration of waiting for materials to be down-loaded item per item.
The zipped course file is stored on the Web server in a specially designated FTP (File Transfer Protocol) area which makes it possible for the student to simply take the hyperlink and to indicate where the file must be placed on their own computer.
In conjunction with this, a "Revisions page" exists on the Web where all changes between the making of the course zip files are listed to enable students to down-load these specific amended Web pages.
Students have to be on-line to use Internet related activities in the courses such as investigating other sites from the "Library" section and the communication facilities.
Two basic learning styles were addressed in terms of navigation : the sequential ("narrative") and the random ("constructivist") learning style.
The Web caters very naturally through hyperlinks for the random learner. No strict sequence is built into the courses, although some suggestions of a logical progression are made. The learner can thus take any route through the content and activities; the only fixed requirement is that the assessments need to be completed before credit can be obtained!
For the sequential learner, special measures are taken in our on-line courses.
An overall clickable navigational "course map" which is a graphical presentation of the proposed sequence of the main sections in a course is presented at the start of the course. One of the standard hyperlinks at the bottom of each page within a course is a link to this "map" to help students orientate themselves whenever required.
From the page that contains the "course map", students can also access an "Index" page which contains an extensive list of most of the hyperlinks within the course. The inherent capability of Web browsers to change the colour of all followed links are used here, so that a student can access this page and see exactly which parts of the course have been done and which parts have not been visited. This facility is useful for both the random and the sequential learner.
Within a course, each main section has a clickable navigational "section map". While the student navigate within a section, one of the standard hyperlinks at the bottom of each page within that section is a link to the applicable "section map".
Below the "course map" and each "section map" the graphically represented sections are sequentially listed (and sometimes numbered) as text links. This is done for two reasons:
1. Some students might choose to go through the course without seeing the graphics (standard feature of Web browsers)
2. The inherent capability of Web browsers to change the colour of all followed links are also used here, so that a student can see which parts of the course / section have been done and which parts have not been visited.
6.2 Other facilities
Other facilities in the On-line Campus which were included to support specific learning styles can be described in terms of a common differentiation of learning styles ie pragmatist, activist, reflective and theorist. (It is recognized that every student has a blend of these - as well as other learning styles and approaches).
In the On-line Campus a "Help" section is included to assist students in a variety of areas. A hyperlink to this "Help" section is included at the bottom of each Web page of the On-line Campus for easy access.
Technical issues covered include:
more information on down-loading the zipped course filesetting up the Web browser to send e-maildown-loading applicable plug-ins for the Web browserminimum computer configuration required.
General aspects included are:
A message board in some courses is available for students to publish completed work on the Web. This feature enables students to:
* have their work critiqued by fellow students
* create a valuable resource for fellow current and future students
* personally experience Web publishing
* identify closer with the course materials and the tertiary institute.
Supporting cyber students include constructing appropriate