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Release: Immediate

UI students take 'virtual' tours and learn how to set up websites in new program

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- More than 2,000 new students are expected to take "virtual" tours of the University of Iowa while learning how to navigate the World Wide Web, set up their own websites, and use other communications technology this fall in a new, interactive orientation course.

The students, nearly all of whom are first-year or transfer students, have signed up for the course, called "OnLine at Iowa," as part of an effort to help students get acquainted with campus while beefing up their computer skills.

The students will earn one semester hour of credit if they complete the program. Students who sign up for the course buy a CD-ROM, much like they would a textbook, and complete the segments -- including the rudiments for creating their own websites -- as an online tutorial.

Creator Bob Boynton, professor of political science, ( thinks the course is the only program in the country designed to combine the elements of a traditional campus orientation with an introduction to the electronic resources of a university.

Many universities use interactive technology to teach students how to use electronic resources, but few, if any, others combine that technology with a general orientation to campus, he says.

"The idea is to introduce students to the campus as a place of electronic communication," Boynton says. "Students will learn how to use the electronic tools that they will need to function well at the University and outside the University, but in the process, they will learn specific information about the University."

About 120 students tested the class last school year in a in a pilot project designed to see how well the tutorial system would work for large groups of students. The pilot project also won the top prize in Microsoft Corp.'s 1997 Innovators in Higher Education Challenge.

Working from the CD-ROM, students take an interactive tour of the UI. With the click of a mouse students can follow maps to buildings such as Old Capitol and the Pappajohn Business Administration Building. They also can "tour" the Main Library, or find out information about campus offices and programs.

The disk also includes electronic communications software that gives students access to the Internet. By following the tour, students learn how to find and visit sites on the World Wide Web, how to design and put up their own website, and how to send email.

As they work through the CD-ROM, students are asked to complete a series of tasks that require them to use their electronic skills. At the end of each task, students send an electronic note to a central database, indicating they have completed the assignment.

The CD-ROM will also include online help for students to turn to if they need it.

Note: Students in the course this fall will launch the tutorial using a CD-ROM this fall, but the basic elements of the course are currently accessible at