Lanny Arvan and Burks Oakley II
Sloan Center for Asynchronous Learning Environments (SCALE)
During the first year of SCALE (1995-96) there were 16 primary projects. These early adapters of ALN did things pretty much on their own - we in SCALE learned from them and they in turn learned from each other. The cross-pollination of ideas occurred via SCALE seminars and the Sloan conference on our FirstClass server. Since then, we have learned some things about what works and what doesn't in an ALN class. There has been much interest in ALN at UIUC from faculty across the board. We have brought many of these interested faculty into the SCALE fold. Here we trace out the procedure we've adopted to get an ALN course online from scratch. We also provide a case study of how ALN has been adopted in Italian 101. Prof. Diane Musumeci, the course coordinator, has begun to use FirstClass for submitting written assignments in Italian in conjunction with Mallard, developed at UIUC by Donna Brown and Mike Swafford, for doing shorter exercises that are automatically graded.
The first step in our process is to identify good projects. We do so through an RFP. This allows us to funnel support in the form of summer salary for the PIs, TA and programmer assistance, and a desktop PC, to those faculty who appear to be best able to take advantage of it. The two key criteria for evaluating the proposals are enthusiasm and vision, the latter in how to meld the pedagogy to the technology. The next important step is to ensure that faculty are up to speed on using the software, i.e., training. For those year two grantees who were planning to use FirstClass, we offered several hands on sessions run by our training specialist, Lynn Ward. Attendance at these was not mandatory but it was highly encouraged. Lynn also made numerous office visits - both to be assured that software was properly configured on the grantee's computer and to teach them in an environment where they would be most comfortable. We have continued with the seminars and the Sloan conference. The former are quite popular. A problem we've encountered with the latter is that not everyone is using FirstClass. We are likely to move that conference to the Web in the very near future. One of our lessons learned is that it is unrealistic to view ALN course development as a one summer or even one semester actitivy - it is a process that takes some time to get a mature product. Faculty require feedback while in the midst of this process, not just help at the outset. We've given some of that through our evaluation process and through informal conversations with Lanny Arvan.
Diane Musumeci is still at the beginning of the process, yet to an outside observer she looks very far along. The reason - though she's a novice to ALN she's certainly not a novice to teaching Italian - she's been able to import much of her prior course materials into a framework suitable for ALN. She's achieved remarkable success. The students are clearly intensely involved with the course. There is a huge amount of activity in her FirstClass conferences. It is also clear that she has been energized by her students response to ALN. There are plans to do substantially more development for the upcoming semester.