Most Internet providers will create Web sites for their members, and there are large amounts of software that can be purchased to create one's own Web site as well as companies that will do this for a fee. Because of this, creating a web site for a particular instructor and his or her particular classes will be relatively easy. Most universities already have allocated this type of space to each faculty member and even adjunct professors often have space for Web sites for distance learning classes. These are usually not overly fancy, but this is irrelevant based on the fact that any type of web site which provides the necessary information clearly and correctly will be sufficient to do what is needed for a class to learn and understand (Cornell, 1999).
This type of simple web site and an e-mail address are really all the faculty needs for a very basic course, but distance learning courses are somewhat more difficult. They usually involve the use of chat rooms or other online get-togethers where individuals can share their thoughts and feelings. Some of the more simplistic distance learning courses offer message boards where individuals must read something for the class or perform some action and then go on a message board by a specified date and time to post a message as to how their project came out or what they thought about what they read. Students who do these things are graded on what they have to say about what they did or read and the depth of understanding that they show in the comments that they make. They are free to respond to other students' comment, and other students are free to respond to theirs. The instructor is able to monitor the message board so that he or she can respond to whatever is necessary and also ensure that there is no verbal abuse or harassment going on between any of the students online.
As has been mentioned, and assessment of whether the technological skills are effective and what impact they have is basically a qualitative analysis. It is important when studying this type of measure to realize that there are many thoughts and feelings that are involved in this type of issue, and the emotions of many individuals are affected. In other words, the impact of the technological skills that a particular instructor has or the effectiveness of these skills cannot easily be measured in a concrete, numerical, or statistical fashion. Some parts of it can be measured this way, as in whether the professor has created a web site, whether they can use e-mail, and so on. These are yes or no questions that can be measured quantitatively. However, the largest majority of the issue must be measured in a qualitative fashion due to the fact that it relates to feelings and perceptions about how well someone is capable of performing an action. The impact of the technology skills that a particular professor has can best be determined not by the professor himself or herself but by the students that he or she teaches.
This is due to the fact that when one creates something of one's own, one often has a different perception about how it really looks than do their students. A professor who is very unhappy with the way a web site looks because it is not fancy, for example, will likely find that his or her students are quite content with the web site provided that it does what it is designed to do and is clear and easy to understand. There will always be some students who are very advanced in the ways of computers and will find these types of Web sites upsetting and unpleasant. However, for the most part students are not aware of how to do Web sites and create graphics any more than the teacher is and will not be disheartened by the fact that the teacher has not created something unduly fancy. Often these things are just distractions and are actually more annoying to many students who are serious about their education that they are pleasing to students who like to see those types of things on Web sites.
Asking the students to rate a teacher's web site, response time to e-mail, and other issues, would give a reasonable assessment using qualitative methods of the effectiveness that a particular instructor has in using technology skills. The impact of these technology skills is a little harder to measure. Whether students feel as though they have gotten something out of the course and how much of that relates to the technology that was employed during the course and being required to do things on the Internet is one way that this can be measured. However, it is somewhat more of a complex issue and therefore more difficult to ascertain than other issues would be. However, this does not mean that it cannot or should not be measured and it is important that these types of issues are dealt with so that instructors who are not performing well in the competency department where technology is concerned have opportunities to do better and create better Web sites and more understandable information for students who are taking their distance learning courses.
To not do these things would be to do a great disservice to the students in the care of the particular faculty member and this would be unfair to the faculty member, the students, and the university as well. No one would benefit from this arrangement and therefore the competency of a professor to perform distance learning activities must be learned and evaluated before he or she is allowed to do so. Allowing a professor who is unskilled in this area to teach a distance learning course would be a dangerous precedent for a particular university, but this does not mean that individuals who are unaware of how to do these things should be left alone. Instead, these professors should be taught how to do the things necessary for successful teaching of a distance learning course so that their abilities and wisdom can be utilized and imparted to various students via the Internet and other forms of distance learning at a particular university.
Cornell, R. (1999). The onrush of technology in education: The Professor's new dilemma. Educational Technologies, May/June. pp 60-63.
Ehrmann, S. (1995) Using technology to transform the…