EESE 5/2001

Internet Teaching - Guest Editor: Thomas Kühn (Berlin)


Integrating the Internet into the English Studies Programme

Udoka Ogbue (Dresden) and Gunter Süß (Chemnitz)

Teaching and learning with the Internet has not become an integral part of the humanities curriculum yet. In order to adapt technologies to the needs of humanities specialists faculty and students need to gain media literacy skills which go beyond mere keyboarding and focus on information retrieval, evaluation and presentation of findings. Moreover, didactic patterns of media enhanced education are essential to empower faculty and students to effectively apply these skills. This contribution aims at illustrating how core competencies in using the Internet are gradually acquired by both faculty and students at the TU Dresden English department.

A number of pre-service and in-service training options assist faculty and students in gaining basic Internet skills. Faculty can benefit from regular departmental workshops, offered by one faculty member or students and focusing on information retrieval and integrating Internet services into their teaching. Moreover, the media centre, the computer centre, and library specialists offer in-service training. Based on the interest of the faculty the subject librarian is able to address the very needs of the target group. Due to irregular attendance and the diversity of requests, these workshops have only been partially successful. In optional "English and Internet" language classes students gain competence in online research, knowledge assembly, and idea presentation on the web in a foreign language setting. They learn to retrieve, select, and evaluate information, to share ideas with partners and present them in various formats (e.g. culture pages on the web). At the same time students practise their English, develop team and project work skills, and raise their inter-cultural awareness.

Internet tutorials are offered to students by trained student tutors, who, with the assistance of one faculty member, teach optional sessions repeatedly during the semester. These tutorials are aimed at both student assistants (to faculty members) and regular students to help them integrate various Internet services into learning and research.

In addition to widely used OPAC libraries (e.g. Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog), faculty and students are introduced to document delivery services (e.g. Subito) and specific databases, yielding relevant results for English and American studies. Of particular importance are EBSCOhost, First Search, and Infoball as they provide bibliographic and full text information and help build a knowledge base from various sources (books, web resources, articles). Though some databases are fee-based they are accessible through licensing agreements with a number of universities. Faculty as well as students at the respective institutions are therefore able to use them free of charge.

English studies gateways and link collections (e.g. AnglistikGuide at Göttingen University, Dresden English Studies Page) have proven beneficial to students. As the web abounds in such jump pages it is recommended to add entries to existing ones rather than set up new link collections merely mirroring the information at every university.

Tailoring resources to meet the needs of specific classes adds another perspective to integrating Internet resources. With the assistance of the English studies librarian and based on reading lists, subject related links are added to the online class descriptions and class web pages. The latter focus on content rather than lists of links as they contain specific tasks, student handouts, and interactive elements (e.g. message boards and mailing lists). Discussion boards and lists can be set up for single classes or selected from the wide variety of forums available. Students can share views with each other or out-of-class partners and learn to use these additional communication tools.

To effectively use the Internet in teaching and learning both faculty and students need core competencies that have not played a major part in the instruction so far. The specific qualities of the medium (e.g. dynamic contents, non-filtered resources, diversity of findings) require skills such as developing search strategies, critically evaluating findings, and building a knowledge base from a variety of sources. Media literacy and media enhanced instruction need to become an integral part of the curriculum. They do not replace traditional forms of teaching and learning but supplement them. Students must be enabled to do task based learning, selecting from offline and online sources, collaborate with real partners, and publish their findings (e.g. on the web). Faculty must be enabled to set a frame for learning and act as a guide or facilitator where appropriate.

This approach has proven quite successful with a number of classes. Students felt they benefited from this less teacher-based but learner-oriented, rather constructivist design, even though it meant leaving well-known paths, risking failure and adding a very time-consuming element to their schedule. Changes in the teacher and student roles, more project-oriented learning and teaching, rearranging learning environments, and a modified evaluation scheme are major steps towards media enhanced education.

The URL below lists the details of the workshop contribution (in German) and links to all relevant material.

Udoka Ogbue
Institut für Anglistik/ Amerikanistik
TU Dresden

Gunter Süß
Fachgruppe Amerikanistik/Anglistik
TU Chemnitz