6.0372 Report on Network Resources Course in Milan (1/75)

Fri, 20 Nov 1992 18:00:19 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0372. Friday, 20 Nov 1992.

Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1992 22:19 MST
From: Maurizio Oliva <MOLIVA@CC.UTAH.EDU>
Subject: Network Resources Course

On November 12, 1992 the first session of an
"online" class offered by the Computer Science Department
of the University of Milan took place. The course,
entitled "Risorse in rete per discipline umanistiche e
scientifiche" (Network Resources for the Humanities and
the Sciences) is taught by Maurizio Oliva who connects
from a remote machine at the University of Utah. A total
of 39 students take part to the class, plus 2 observers
at the Computer Science Depatment of the University of
Milan, another observer at the Universita' Cattolica del
Sacro Cuore in Milan, one observer at the Istituto di
Tecnologie Didattiche e Formative in Palermo, one
observer in Geneva, one last observer in Amsterdam. The
instructor is helped by five on-site tutors. The class is
scheduled to meet in a two hour session for seven weeks,
6-8 PM Italian time. The instructor and the class meet on
IRC on a dedicated channel (minet). All participants'
work is done in a UNIX graphic environment so that
instructor and students may keep several windows opened.
One window is dedicated to IRC which provides real time,
interactive communication between the instructor in Utah
and the students. A second window is used to execute the
commands requested by the instructor. The instructor
executes the commands as well so that he is able to see
exactly what the students see on their terminals. A third
window might be opened by the students to include in an
emacs buffer communications whatever appears in the first
window, e.g., extracts from the lesson or from their
exploration of the network. The instructor can limit
access to the channel to his students, control the topic
of discussion, control students' ability to intervene,
and finally exclude any trouble maker from the channel.
These commands and many others useful for managing
instruction are at the instructor's disposal and are
regular features of the IRC software. Communication
between the instructor and the tutors takes place in the
form of private messages on IRC. A second part of the
classwork is done by the students as individual work in
response to homework assigned by the instructor via
e-mail. E-mail and Talk are also means of communication
between the students and the instructor to ensure an
adequate level of feedback. Finally a mailing list of
all the participants has been set up at the university of
Milan in order to make it easier for people to share
relevant information with the others. In designing this
class we established the following criteria:
- interactive communication in real time among the
- acquisition of a knowledge of the resources available
on internet through direct, guided experience
- the tools used: UNIX machines, graphic terminals,
xwindows environment, IRC, are widespread tools,
available in most of the universities all over the
world. This implies that this setting can be replicated
basically everywhere. A second implication is that the
class does not need to be physically based at one single
institution: a class taught at University of Utah can be
attended to by any student, in any part of the world,
who (at least) has access to an account with telnet

We feel that the discussion of our experiment in
teledidactics might be of interest for the internet
community and feel also that your criticism and comments
may help us to improve our work.

Maurizio Oliva
Department of Languages
University of Utah