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P&S Journal

P&S Journal: Fall 1995, Vol.15, No.3
Plugging P&S into the:Technological Age: by Doug Brunk
Technology to Enhance Education has its own Learning CurveOD

Pat Molholt Jeff Zucker

Pat Molholt wants to make one thing clear to faculty who feel threatened by the idea of a computer-based curriculum: The goal is to make learning more efficient, not to make the instructor's role obsolete.

"We talk about technology in the curriculum, not technology in the classroom," says Ms. Molholt, assistant vice president and associate dean for scholarly resources at Health Sciences.

"The interaction between the faculty member and the student in the traditional classroom is a valuable experience. Some faculty may want to bring some of the technology into the classroom to illustrate something that they would normally have a slide carousel under their arm for. But it's at their discretion; that's not my goal. My goal is to integrate the technology into the curriculum and to give students more independent learning opportunities. Coincidentally, the same material can be used in the classroom if a faculty member desires."

It's hard to know the full impact of installing a computer-based curriculum.

"Nobody has the answers in the area of copyright, permissions, and the downloading of information between networks," Ms. Molholt says. "It's a big challenge."

Though questions remain, most students and faculty favor the idea of a computer-based curriculum, even if they don't know the end results.

"At the basic level you would want something like an illustrated, animated encyclopedia with sound clips," says Yoav Gershon'98. "That's quite an undertaking. I guess on the next level you'd want the system to be truly interactive, not just a light to navigate through levels, but to collect informa- tion, put it together in a way that you understand."

Dr. Herbert Chase Jr., associate professor of clinical medicine, is federally funded to design a medical science core curriculum online. He knows such a system won't replace pencil and paper studies right away. "There will be limitations," he says. "Will you be able to carry your computer home to plug into the system when you go home for study break and visit with your parents? Maybe not. One solution would be to create a compact disk containing visuals for the curriculum. The transfer of images over the modem right now is still slow. And what about hardware that becomes outdated? That's another concern." But the pluses of a computer-based curriculum ring loudly for Dr. Chase. He expects it to improve communication between faculty and students and points to e-mail as a prime example.

"E-mail is the great equalizer," he says. "I've had students send me messages that point out contradictions in lectures or mistakes by faculty that have never been pointed out to me before, because I think people are uptight about coming to me personally and saying, 'So-and-so contradicted so-and-so.' E-mail levels the playing field."

Ellen Whalen'98 says the new system might help improve communication among her peers, too. "If this turns out to be a more effective way of studying, it might free up more time to possibly dedicate to small group discussions."

"It has to be something worthwhile," says Ajay Kirtane'98. "If it's not something radically different that makes things easier, I would be content reading it from a book the way I've always done it." Whatever the end result, an ongoing forum for criticism and evaluation is planned, says Jeff Zucker, coordinator of online publishing and Internet services for the Center for Academic Information Technology. "We want them to communicate problems, suggestions, and criticisms back to us, things we might not have even considered. "We'll also be tracking usage patterns, to make areas more accessible and easier to get back to. We'll be using the computer to continually upgrade the product and make it as much in synch with the users as possible."

copyright ©, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center

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