Classroom 2000: Capturing and Enhancing the Classroom Experience

Master Teaching Program Application
Meghan A. Burke
Project Narrative

A. Goal

The purpose of this project is to develop and support a classroom technology system, referred to as Classroom 2000. This system attempts to capture many aspects of the classroom experience for later access by the students over the World Wide Web. We are interested in determining if this technology supports learning practices that contribute to near- and long-term retention of knowledge. As we experiment with the tools and new modes of interaction that are enabled by the technology, we expect new forms of education to emerge if we can show that they provide ways to motivate and energize both teacher and student.

B. Objectives

The goal of implementing technology in the classroom will be pursued by developing three components: the course web page, the course bulletin board, and the electronic version of the teacher’s class notes.

Web Page

The course web page will be maintained by the instructor, and will be continually updated throughout the course. It will contain all of the pertinent information that is usually found on a printed syllabus (course meeting time and place, grading policy, office hours), but it is also a resource that can be consulted by the students at any time if any of the information changes. It also contains information relevant to each class meeting, such as the topic of the lecture, the reading assignment, the homework assigned or due, and quiz and test times. Often, this is information that may not be set at the beginning of the quarter to be distributed with the syllabus, but which the instructor would like the students to know before coming to class.

Electronic Bulletin Board

The course electronic bulletin board is a communication tool for student discussions. Students can post questions or comments to the bulletin board, which is accessed by other students, in addition to the instructor. This is a way for students to ask the instructor questions outside of class, but, more importantly, it is a way to spark discussion and explanation between students themselves. It is often true that one student can give a perspective on a topic that the instructor cannot, and many times this leads to a better understanding for the student who posed a question than s/he would get from hearing the instructor explain the concept the same way a second time. Moreover, the responding students can learn the material better by reformulating it for themselves. Finally, the students who are reading the correspondence between the two have the concept reinforced by repetition. All of these benefits have been shown to result from student interaction in group settings, but this is often difficult at Kennesaw, where students’ time is at a premium and their schedules are often difficult to coordinate. An electronic bulletin board allows students to access the ongoing discussion at their own convenience, whether it be the middle of the work day or the middle of the night.

Electronic Class Notes

The notations that would traditionally be written on a blackboard are instead written to a computer screen which is visible to the students in the class, but are also simultaneously being captured by the computer for posting to the World Wide Web (WWW). The students may then access the notes later to recreate the classroom experience. These notations are not typed or reprocessed in any way -- they appear on the WWW site in the instructor’s handwriting, exactly as they appeared in class. The written notes are supplemented by audio recordings. The class is audiotaped, and the audio is indexed by the notes, so that a student can click on a written character, and the audio will play beginning with the page on which that particular character was written. This allows the students to access remotely (at home or in a campus computer lab) a recreation of the classroom experience. The students may use this to supplement their own usual written notes; to replace note-taking so as to be more thoroughly attentive in the class; or to catch up on a class that they may have missed. Since students learn in different ways, they may find the technology useful for different purposes. Some may still take thorough notes as an aid to reinforce learning, but some may feel freed from having to copy every notation from the blackboard, and so be able to listen better. One of the objectives of this technology is to be flexible, so as to help different students improve their classroom experience in different ways.

Both the course web page and the course bulletin board are ideas that have already been implemented by a few faculty at KSU. The truly original part of this project is the electronic class notes. However, it is clear that integration of the electronic notes with the other two parts is essential. For example, the class notes would be attached to the web page, so that the students could see the topic and the reading assignment before accessing a class session’s notes. Similarly, the class notes would be accessible for discussants on the bulletin board to refer to. (“Take a look at the second example the teacher did in class today.”) It is the goal of this project that all of the technology objectives would engage the students to supplement their class learning in a way which is most useful to them as individuals.

C. Significance

This project is important to a wide audience. Although the applicant intends to implement it in the teaching of mathematics, its advantages are by no means limited to mathematics, or to the sciences. As more and more students have access to the World Wide Web at home, at their offices, and in campus labs, they will be intrigued to pursue this alternative way of recreating their classroom experience. Moreover, students using the computer labs on campus may find themselves involved in bulletin board discussions to an extent that they never would have been in a face-to-face situation. The objectives listed above are not specific to a type of learning environment; they are just as useful to implement in a classroom discussion setting as in a lecture format. In fact, implementing them in a discussion format may be even more significant -- it is precisely in this setting that students often find it difficult to take effective notes, and students who may have to miss class have trouble catching up on the material at all.

D. Methods

Background and previous work

This project will be pursued in cooperation with the Future Computing Environments (FCE) research group at Georgia Institute of Technology. The applicant spent winter and spring quarters of 1997 at Georgia Tech through the generous support of the Faculty Development Program. There, she taught Calculus II and III using the technology-equipped classroom (known as Classroom 2000) developed by the FCE group in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech. This room is equipped with a “LiveBoard” --- essentially a computer with a screen the size of a classroom white board. Instead of a mouse, however, the LiveBoard responds to a pen, which could be used to draw or write on the screen. The instructor would use the LiveBoard just as one would use a whiteboard in class. The researchers on the project developed the software needed to capture the notations made on the LiveBoard for access on the World Wide Web. Thus, the students in the classroom had an experience resembling that in a traditional classroom (they did not have computer screens at their desks), but they could later access the notes the instructor had written on the LiveBoard from the computers in their dorm rooms, apartments, or campus computer labs. In addition, the audio portion of the class was digitally recorded and also made available on the Web. The audio was synchronized with the notations, so that the students could click a mouse on a character drawn partway through the class, and the audio would begin from that point. The “jumping off point” for the lecture notes was a course Web page, which listed all of the homework assignments, readings, and topics for class meetings, so the students could choose the class experience they wanted to review by date or by topic. All of this is still visible at and at /

It is clear that implementing this technology is an enormous task. Fortunately, the FCE researchers are very interested in developing this technology, and seeing its implementation in a variety of settings. It is for this reason that a mathematics course was chosen to use Classroom 2000, to contrast with computer science courses. Immediately, it was discovered that mathematics classes differed in the presentation methods from computer science classes, which challenged the technology and the developers to adapt. To further expand the scope of the technology, the researchers are interested in collaborating with another institution. KSU seems ideal, with its proximity to Georgia Tech, and yet its very different student needs. The FCE researchers are willing to lend some of the equipment needs for the projects, specifically including the pen-based computer which would record notations.

Plans for KSU

Although KSU and its students have different needs from Georgia Tech, they also could benefit from the technology used in Classroom 2000. One important need, however, is to scale the equipment needs to a limited budget. The FCE group works in collaboration with industrial affiliates, who provide demonstration or low-cost equipment. In addition, the research there works on a much larger budget than is available at KSU. It is precisely this challenge that Classroom 2000 needs to face next, in order to become available to a wider market. For example, the LiveBoard is an impressive piece of equipment, but at around $50,000 retail, it is far beyond the reach of most educational institutions. One way to scale this to a smaller budget is by using a pen-based desktop (or notebook) computer, and a projection system like the ones already in place in several KSU classrooms. This way, the system could emulate notes written on an overhead projector, and the software would make the notes available from the class Web page.

The capture of the classroom experience is a large undertaking which may accommodate only a few courses per quarter. In contrast, the development of course Web pages and bulletin boards is on a much smaller scale. These can be implemented relatively easily in all courses, and can be maintained by the instructor with very little technology support. It is proposed that all courses taught by the applicant would utilize course Web pages and bulletin boards, whereas, to begin with, only one course would use the classroom capture technology. A timeline follows:

Fall, 1997: (reassigned time requested for this quarter) Work with Georgia Tech FCE researchers and with the KSU Presentation Technology Office to create the system needed to capture the classroom experience. Implement the system (with overhead screen capture and audio synchronization) in one course, as components become available. Set up the overhead screen capture using a document camera or a pen-based computer borrowed from Georgia Tech. Set up the audio capture and synchronization using RealAudio (server/encoder to be purchased with project funds). Carry out formative evaluation of the system as it is created. Also, create and maintain Web pages and bulletin boards for all courses taught.

Winter, 1997: Continue to use capture technology in at least one course. Employ SALT student to support classroom system, and to help monitor web page and bulletin board. Carry out summative evaluation of the system, assuming it to be somewhat unchanging throughout this quarter, as contrasted with Fall quarter. Create and maintain Web pages and bulletin boards for all courses taught.

Spring, 1997: Begin dissemination. Continue to use capture technology, and help to implement it in the courses of other interested faculty members. Encourage and support other faculty in the use of course web pages and bulletin boards. Present the technology to the campus through a CETL workshop, and to the wider community, for example, through the Georgia Conference on College and University Teaching. Apply for continued funding of the project from, for example, the Regents’ technology teaching enhancement programs, and the National Science Foundation.

E. Evaluation

Previous Evaluation

As the project has evolved at Georgia Tech, extensive student evaluations have been conducted. In particular, in the Calculus II class, a mid-term written questionnaire was administered to students. This was done for two puposes: one, to find out if the students were using the technology and finding it useful, and the other, to find out if the students were having problems with the technology that needed attention from the supporting researchers. Out of 35 respondents, 29 (83%) stated that they had tried to access the Web page; 26 (74%) were successful. Of those who were successful, 17 (65%) said that they accessed the Web page more than once a week. Of those who were successful in accessing the course Web page, all had attempted to see the notes. Of these, 19 (73%) were successful. Of these 19, 9 (47%) indicated that they accessed the notes more than once a week, and 9 (47%) more indicated that they accessed on a regular basis (although less than once a week). These last figures surprised even the researchers developing the system: they had not thought that such a large proportion of the students would be so interested in using the technology as a regular study aid that they would tolerate the bugs and inconveniences of the evolving system. This instrument showed that the appeal of the capture-and-retrieval of the classroom experience is extremely wide, and students with many different types of study habits found it useful.

Future Evaluation Plans

Since the students, their needs, and their access to technology at KSU are different from those at Georgia Tech, it is essential that the project uses both formative and summative evaluation. Formative evaluation will go on particularly at the beginning of the project, when decisions are being made about equipment and implementation. The applicant will be examining the study habits of the students, as well as their preferences for in-class presentation. Once the system begins to be implemented, students will be surveyed to find out how they use the system, and what parts of it they find the most useful. In addition, the students regularly will be asked to report any problems they have with the system, so that they can be solved in a timely manner and taken into account as the system is implemented. Summative evaluation will take place once the system has been fully implemented. This will begin at the end of the fall quarter, and go on into the winter quarter. This evaluation will concentrate more on the usefulness of the system for the students. The essential question to be asked is “Does this technology support note-taking and study habits which contribute to near- and long-term retention of knowledge?” An answer of “Yes” would indicate the success of the project. The measurable objectives to be used to answer this question are two. First, one can examine the subjective opinion of the students in the class: do they believe that the technology helped them in their learning, and in their class performance? Second, one can compare the objective grades received by those in a section of the class using the technology to those in a section not using the technology. With the sample size only as large as one section, one will have to be careful with these evaluative tools. Support in this area will be requested from the Georgia Tech Educational Technology group, who have extensive experience in evaluations of this sort.

F. Dissemination

Dissemination is an extremely important part of the project. As stated at the beginning of this proposal, the interest in technology use on KSU’s campus has been enormous in recent years. In order to progress in this area, we must communicate methods which are successful, to maximize their benefits and to prevent duplication of effort. The results of this project will be disseminated in two ways: to the campus, via CETL workshops, and to the wider community in Georgia via the Georgia Conference on College and University Teaching. The workshops will concentrate on sharing the methods of creating and maintaining course Web pages and bulletin boards. These can be as low- or as high-maintenance in terms of faculty time as the particular faculty member would like, but even the lowest-maintenance options are extremely useful to the students. The classroom-capture technology would be disseminated to the KSU campus in a demonstration setting, where interested faculty members could learn more about implementing part or all of the technology in other presentation classrooms around the campus. The technology would be demonstrated to the wider, state-wide educational community in a setting such as the Georgia Conference on College and University Teaching. This conference, in the spring, is held at KSU, so it would be the perfect opportunity to showcase and disseminate a state-of-the-art teaching technology project based at KSU.