Bringing Web Literacy to Faculty
The exponential growth in electronic information resources and the availability of resources beyond the library walls have presented both an opportunity and a challenge for community college faculty. As these institutions move away from traditional paper-based research materials, new skills are needed for navigating the online environment.
During the 1998-99 school year, the adjunct faculty compensation plan at Austin Community College (ACC) included a requirement that the colleges 1,200 adjunct faculty (on six major campuses and numerous other sites spanning a 75-mile radius) complete four hours of faculty development. In return, they would receive a stipend of $80 and become eligible for a salary step increase in the following school year.
ACC full-time faculty and staff, although not eligible for the stipend/step increase, are also being encouraged to enhance their computer and Internet skills. Faculty and staff need to have basic Internet skills to do their jobs effectively, since much of the administrative operation of the college is being converted to Intranet and Internet Web pages. In response to the faculty development requirement and emerging training needs, Austin Community College has created an Electronic Information Literacy (EIL) program for faculty.
Teaching the Teachers
John Hastings, Director of Data Support Systems at the college, was the project manager for the development, delivery and tracking of this program, which included training in using technology and the Internet for instruction. He and a team from the Faculty Development Office (FDO) and the Learning Resource Services (LRS) departments faced a big challenge: designing, developing and delivering training to a large target population with diverse technical skills, as well as varying teaching schedules and locations. Additional challenges included the limited availability of training facilities with access to ACC Internet connections, and a limited number of trainers and training labs. The training had to suit the novice, the expert, and everyone in between. This was the first large-scale attempt to train ACC faculty and staff to actually use the latest technology and to assign projects and papers based on Internet or other electronic information resources.
The Electronic Information Literacy (EIL) program presents an opportunity to teach the teacher, since faculty must understand and be comfortable with the technology before they can teach it to their students. Upon completion of the EIL program, faculty members have an understanding of electronic information resources and techniques for using them in student research and assignments. The EIL program is also a showcase of Web-based instruction techniques and technologies that can be used as a model for other instructional uses.
The EIL program is divided into two components. Part I (one hour) covers basic electronic information skills. It familiarizes faculty with the Internet and the basic use of Web browsers before they enter the Web-based component of the training. People with sufficient Internet knowledge and browser skills can take the test for the first component of the system without any training. Since all of the testing for the first component is done online, the faculty can retake the test (a different version is presented each time) as many times as needed to demonstrate mastery.
Multiple face-to-face workshops are offered to introduce adjunct faculty with little or no Internet or computer experience to the Internet and Web browsers. The workshops include basic information about local and wide area networks, the Internet, the World Wide Web, ACCNet (the Austin Community Colleges internal network), domain names, URLs and connectivity. Also included is a demonstration of a Web browser and basic browser functions.
Part II (three hours) focuses on accessing electronic resources. This Web-based tutorial on accessing and reviewing information consists of five different modules: Understanding Electronic Information Resources; Search Engines and Search Strategies; Evaluating Electronic Information; Integrating Electronic Resources into the Curriculum; and Issues in the Electronic Age. The system requires that faculty demonstrate mastery of each of the modules for successful completion of the tutorial.
Online Testing and Tracking
Due to the very short development schedule, the College purchased QuestionMarks Perception product to implement the online Web-based testing and tracking system. Perception enabled the EIL development team to quickly create module tests from question banks organized by topic. Each test was generated by randomly selecting a specified number of questions from each topic contained in that module. Available question types include multiple choice, multiple response, text questions, numeric questions, selection questions and explanation screens. The software automatically grades each test as it is given and informs the faculty member of his or her score (70% on each module is considered mastery). The software also logs each test in a PC database for later analysis and reporting.
Hastings says that using the Web to conduct training solves the problems posed by a large, far-flung community college system where faculty are spread across a wide geographical area. ACC depends highly on its adjunct faculty, but adjuncts are rarely able to participate in on-campus professional development workshops, explains Hastings. Many adjunct faculty work at other jobs, so its very inconvenient, if not impossible, for them to attend face-to-face workshops. ACC d'es not have sufficient professional staff and computer lab facilities to deliver face-to-face workshops for all of its adjunct faculty. Using the Web, adjunct faculty can work through the tutorials either at an ACC campus or from home. Web based instruction isnt just convenient; its also effective, because it gives adjunct faculty experience on the Web while they learn about electronic resources.
ACC EIL Systems
Question Mark Corporation
This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.