Book Review - Higher Education and Web Implementation

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Thanks to the growing popularity of distance education and the rising number of people connected to the Web, higher education faculty are increasingly pushed to make courses and materials available on the Web. In their book, The Wired Professor: A Guide to Incorporating the World Wide Web in College Instruction, Anne B. Keating and Joseph Hargitai attempt to provide information 'about incorporating Web-based course materials into college curriculums and instruction.' It provides background to the history of information technology, the Internet, the use of Internet resources in research, Web site creation and design and examples of courses or programs that are successfully using this medium.

To Web or Not to Web

The first section of the book attempts to answer the question of why higher education faculty should be using the Web for their courses. Comparisons are made to other media and technologies that influenced education over the centuries. Though I found this information interesting, I suspect it would be of little interest to most of the faculty I work with. Many of them already know why they need to become 'wired.'

A section describing online research comes next, with a brief explanation of search tools, searching techniques and examples of Web sites created by higher education faculty. Having good examples of faculty-created Web sites is especially useful. Information about search tools and search techniques is very brief, providing little support for those who have never searched the Web. A book such as Searching and Researching on the Internet & the World Wide Web by Ackerman and Hartman would be more useful and provide better examples1.

The bulk of The Wired Professor serves as a tutorial for creating Web pages using Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). While I agree with the authors' assertion that by knowing HTML 'you will retain good control over your pages,' I find it difficult to recommend this to faculty. Most current versions of word processing and presentation software allow the user to save their pages in a Web format. Though these don't always result in perfect pages, they do provide a relatively easy starting point. Combined with a good graphic Web editor (several are mentioned in the book), just about anyone can create a Web page without having to learn HTML. I've seen faculty successfully start using this technique, then learn to use HTML tags to 'dress-up' or improve their pages. For these faculty, this book would be a good resource.

Will someone who reads this book become a 'Wired Professor?' Possibly -- if they have the motivation to learn HTML and have the time and support of network professionals who will help them put their finished product on the Web. Someone who is new to the Internet will need far more than The Wired Professor provides.

David Bullock is the director of the Metropolitan Instructional Support Laboratory in the Graduate School of Education at Portland State University. Bullock also teaches courses in the teacher education and educational media programs and manages the Web site for the Graduate School of Education.

1 Ackerman, E., & Hartman, K. 1998. Searching and Researching on the Internet and the World Wide Web. Wilsonville, OR: Franklin, Beedle.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.

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