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UI faculty learn how to create, maintain online courses in new program

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Professors at the University of Iowa will take a giant leap into cyber-education this summer and fall thanks to an ambitious program that will train nearly 100 faculty a year in the skills they need to create online courses on the internet and use other technologies in their teaching.

The professors have been selected to take part in "nTITLE," which stands for "New Technology In The Learning Environment."

Faculty in the program will each attend three-and-a-half-day-long seminars, beginning July 22, where they will learn some of the latest ways technology can help them with their teaching and help them communicate with their students.

At the end of the seminar, each professor will be awarded a $3,000 grant to be used for a technology-based improvement in their teaching.

The program, funded through a $500,000 appropriation from the state Legislature, is sponsored by the UI Center for Teaching, Information Technology Services (ITS), and the University Libraries.

Brenda Sugrue, assistant professor of Instructional Design and Technology and director of nTITLE, says the program is unique in providing faculty with the training and institutional support to use new technologies, but also in training faculty in appropriate teaching techniques to use the new technology to enhance student learning.

"We are hoping faculty will learn how to create a whole new learning environment where students will be the primary beneficiaries," Sugrue says. "The new web-based courses will encourage independent and cooperative learning, and provide students with more interaction with their professors, and more flexibility in the way they approach the materials."

A total of 96 professors from across the university have been selected to participate in the program's debut summer session. Faculty were nominated by the deans of their individual colleges.

Tom Rocklin, director of the Center for Teaching, says improving the technological skills of faculty is one of the biggest professional development issues to confront universities in the post-World War II era.

Many faculty have recognized the potential of new communications tools to improve teaching, but few structured programs have been available to teach professors how to use technologies that students are beginning to take for granted.

"The exciting thing about the internet, the World Wide Web, and email is their potential as teaching tools," Rocklin says. "It's not that the new technologies allow us to do things we couldn't do before, but they allow us to do the things we can do well in a ways that are more convenient, more accessible and have better instructional quality for students."

During the three-and-a-half-day sessions, faculty will learn:

-- How to use PowerPoint, a software program that creates and uses electronic presentations of information in the classroom;

-- How to use WebCT, a new online development system to create and manage web-based courses, which include course content, assessments, discussions, and tracking of students;

-- How to use HomePage, a program for converting documents into HyperText Markup Language (HTML). Documents written in HTML form the basis for websites, and the content of WebCT courses, allowing users to "link" to other sites on the World Wide Web.

-- How to implement new teaching strategies, such as problem-based learning and cooperative learning in the classroom and on the web.

Sugrue says the new web-based courses are intended as a supplement to current courses, not as a replacement for classroom learning. The new courses will free classroom time for mini-lessons on difficult concepts, and activities that foster deep understanding of course content, such as discussions, or working on cases in small groups.

"Class time can be spent discussing and applying information rather than delivering information," she says.

Rocklin says the technological skills of faculty vary widely across campus. The program is designed to help novices as well as more advanced professors.

A portion of the $500,000 will also be used to upgrade classrooms on campus so that they can be used in conjunction with web-based courses and with new classroom technologies.

For more information, visit nTITLE's website at