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Anniversary: ATP Turns Two Today!

Posted on June 11, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, >Owais Mughal, About ATP
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Adil Najam and Owais Mughal

"RazzaqThe very first post on ATP came online on June 11, 2006. Today we complete two years of this blog. It has been quite a ride.

Let us start by welcoming a new member to our management team. Please help us welcome Asma Mirza who will join Adil Najam and Darwaish as a Contributing Editor. We are confident that Asma, who has been one of the leaders behind the Islamabad Metroblog, will and many new and wonderful dimensions and perspectives to ATP. Welcome, Asma!

Owais Mughal will continue as the Managing Editor. Bilal Zuberi, who has been so instrumental in setting the initial directions of the blog, will take a hiatus because of his increasing professional responsibilities, but we hope that he will continue with his occasional contributions.

But the real core and spirit of the blog is our readers, our authors and our commenters. For their perseverance, for their companionship and for their community, we thank them all – even those whose comments we sometimes have to moderate out because thy can never seem to fully grasp our comments policy. :-)



The ATP Story:
Today, as we mark our second anniversary, the ATP community has grown beyond anything we could have imagined when we first started: 70+ authors have contributed to more than 1000 posts, which have fascinating as well as frustrating discussions through nearly 39,000 comments (not counting the many thousands that had to be moderated out). In two years we have received some 2 million visits and some 4 million page views, and our posts as well as the comments on those posts are now regularly cited in Pakistani as well as international media.

"Pakistaniat"Pakistaniat"Pakistaniat"Pakistaniat"Pakistaniat"Pakistaniat"Pakistaniat"Pakistaniat"Pakistaniat

And it all began on a slow and rather boring summer day, largely as an experiment to find out what a "blog" was. One remembers actually "celebrating" the 100th post largely because we were so surprised that in 35 days we had reached a 100 posts and nearly 600 comments. But it was already clear then that the experiment had turned into something larger than it was originally meant to be; which is why we were already "trying to find a way that it can become a self-operating team-blog." We formally began that transition to making ATP a team-blog shortly afterwards (August 18, 2006). The next step for ATP was to move to its own domain and adopt a new layout design (September 1, 2006).

In December 2006, as we celebrated our sixth month anniversary, we were still quite surprised at the growth and we noted: "We keep celebrating these milestones (hopefully) not because we are self-obsessed, but because in many ways we are ourselves surprised by the wonderful roller-coaster ride this has been … and remains." By the time we completed our first year it was time for another transition. The first anniversary post marked Owais Mughal taking over as the Managing Editor. Soon afterwards (July 18, 2007) the ATP layout went through a major redesign, resulting in what we have been calling ATP3.0. And, now, we find ourselves here.

A Community of Pakistaniat
But all of this is really secondary to what ATP really is, or was meant to be.

ATP’s essence was always to be a community. A community forged out of a common desire to understand, to explore, to debate and to express one’s Pakistaniat. A community does not always agree. Sometimes tempers flare. Often smiles are shared. Occasionally laughter breaks out. Some in every community are perpetually angry. Others only marginally interested. Some act as if they are uncomfortable to even be part of that community. Others cheer-lead even when cheer-leading is not needed. Some help build the community spirit, others assume that they and they alone know what the community is or should be about. Communities celebrate together, communities grieve together, but communities do not always have to agree. They bicker. They sometimes fight. But in moments of joy and in times of grief, they embrace each other again. Such are the dynamics of a community. Such is our ambition.

We may not be there yet, but we would like to believe that we are on the way there. This last year has been full of anger and angst for Pakistan. And the same has been reflected in our pages. Tempers have flared. Hearts have been broken. Blood pressures have gone through the roof. People have said things they might (we hope) later regretted. This is a reflection of the times we have lived through. These times have not been – are not – easy. But for those who keep their eye out for moments of community, there are many to be recognized. Some come out of shared grief. Some out of shared pride. But, most such moments come from the recognition of the small things we share. Those memories of old PTV Ads, of using fountain pens, of drinking chai, of the TV show Fifty-Fifty, of the Naai back home, of Rooh Afza, and of so much more.

On these pages we’ve tried to cultivate this community of Pakistaniat as best as we could. But we have also tried to remain true to our name – All Things Pakistan. We have focused on all things related to Pakistan and stayed away from things that are not directly related to Pakistan. We are not, and do not wish to be, a newspaper or even a new site. But we cannot ignore the unraveling of society and politics and economy in Pakistan. We have had to write on news too often – much more often than we would have wished to write about it – simply because it would have been dishonest to ignore the great news events of our times. We really wish we had to do so less often. It is the news posts that give us the most angst; largely because the news has not been good. But if we are to focus on All Things Pakistan, then we have no option but to try to give our readers a forum where they can try to make sense of the mayhem around them. But, by the same token, we have tried to remain honest to the idea that there are many many facets to any society, and we must focus on all.

Tangay Walla Khair Mangda
"RazzaqOne of the first things we had written, right after the first post, was the About section. And the first sentence we had written is what is still the first sentence there: "We hope that ATP (All Things Pakistan) will be about discussion, not rants." That hope has never wavered, but sometimes we do think that we have failed to meet this mission. Sometimes there is more rant than discussion. We know that many – nearly everyone – is annoyed at us for trying to implement our comment policy through strong moderation. We know that some would prefer no moderation, but we also know that many are like us and seek a certain civility in the discussion. Civility does not mean agreement or running away from tough argumentation. It merely means a certain respect for the other.

The single largest reasons for moderation remain (a) personal attacks, and (b) irrelevance. We are ourselves often attacked personally, and viciously. We know how much it hurts. We therefore assume that others when subject to personal attack will feel the same. Hence, our policies are what they are. Whoever is moderated seems to believe that it is they and only they who are being subjected to moderation. And that this is because of some conspiracy against them and their views, rather than because of their failure to follow the fairly simple principles we have set out in our comment policy. We seem not to be able to convince them otherwise. We take some solace – but only scant solace – in the fact that in just about every controversial post, we tend to moderate out as many posts on each side of the argument. Two years of evidence suggests that the tendency to habitually ignore the stated comment policy, particularly in terms of personal attacks and irrelevance, is not restricted to people of any particular ideological persuasion, or age, or location!

afsos be-shumaar sukhan haaye guftani
khauf-e-fasaad-e-khalq se na-gufta reh gaye

As we had argued in a post long ago, our role is like that of the Tangay Walla in the song "tangay walla khair mangda." There is "banda rang rang da" on the tonga, and the Tonga Walla cannot choose where they go. All that he can do is to make the journey pleasant and sing the song of Khair (I guess here it means something like ‘goodness’ and ‘friendship’).

Where from Here
What you see everyday is the public face of ATP. But behind it is a lot of tedious work. Selecting a mix of topics, keeping a large number of authors productive and happy, the actual writing, lots and lots of work into the formatting and design, remaining topical and fresh, all the IT glitches, and much much more. A particularly difficult task is having to pick the posts and also having to sometimes say No to posts that authors have worked very hard on. We have to do so sometimes simply because a particular topic might not fit well in the mix of posts that we have had or are already planning in the stream. We are always grateful to the authors for understanding and for continuing to write.

All of the above can be draining and takes a lot of time. We do it because we enjoy doing it. But it does take a lot of time. Since both of us have rather busy careers otherwise, this time is often taken away from what we would spend with our family. Our wives are understanding and supportive of ATP (and ATP readers) but we owe them a special thanks for their patience and support in being able to run the blog.

To be honest, sometimes the work gets too much and the personal attacks on us and our integrity get under our skin. Occasionally we have had conversations about whether we should just close the site down. Not just because of the time pressures and the angst, but much more because there are so many other, and better, blogs that have come up. The Pakistani blogshpere has blossomed. We would like that some have picked up a thing or two from ATP, we know that we have picked up lots and lots from lots and lots of other Pakistani blogs. Maybe it is time for us to hang our gloves. To say goodbye and let others carry on the work. Our ambition remains to be able to create a team dedicated enough and enough in line with the ethos of ATP to be able to step back.

Over the last two years our team has grown and we have welcomed many many new authors. We hope to welcome even more in the coming year. Ultimately, we hope that future installments of these anniversary posts might mention our names but would be written by someone else.

So, let us end with something we had written in or 2007 New Year Post:

Our goals are modest. We have no illusions that this, or any, blog can change the realities that are. But we do believe that in talking about this thing we call Pakistaniat, we begin contributing to its creation.

Ideas are important in the lives of nations. Action, of course, is more important; but action without ideas is dangerous and actions based on the wrong ideas can be disastrous.

Ours is the dukandaari of ideas. But we cherish our wares because we believe that good ideas can – and will – spur good actions.

Thank you for two years of your support. Note how in many of our posts we use the words "we" and "our" a lot. We really and truly believe that "you" are part of that "we" of that "our." We hope you feel the same way. So, please, help us take your blog to newer and better places.

P.S. The photography art in this post is from Razzaq Vance.

The use of technology in university and college classrooms has changed in recent years to include the use of course Web sites as a supplement to face-to-face instruction (Green, 2000). Despite this increase in the use of course Web sites in college courses, limited attention has been given to student perceptions of this pedagogical tool. This study explores students’ use and perceived helpfulness of course Web sites (i.e., Web sites used to supplement traditional classroom instruction) in university courses. Four hundred seventeen university students were surveyed over three semesters in 2001-2002. Overall, students had positive attitudes towards course Web sites. The most helpful features listed were course documents, announcements, and gradebooks. Students indicated that the course Web sites increased access to course information that helped keep them organized and on task. In addition, the course Web sites facilitated communication with their instructors and peers outside of regular class time.

********** There is confusion over terminology, as terms such as distance education and Web-based instruction become a standard part of pedagogical discourse. Distance education, online only without face-to-face interaction, needs to be distinguished from the use of course Web sites that supplement traditional classroom instruction. Morss (1999) described these course assistant sites as virtual adjuncts, supplementing students’ traditional classroom learning by providing opportunities to further explore class material, download course documents, access assignments and course information, and continue class discussions. These Web sites are sometimes called supplemental Web sites, course Web sites, or their use is referred to as Web-enhanced instruction, computer-enhanced learning, or Web-assisted instruction. In this paper, we refer to them simply as course Web sites.

As more and more instructors are incorporating course Web sites into their classroom instruction, it is crucial to discern students’ attitudes toward this technology and their use of the Web sites. Consequently, student involvement in the critique and refinement of the course Web sites is a critical factor in designing effective teaching sites (Keating, 1999). Understanding the features that students actually use and those that they find helpful in their course work can help instructors to focus their time and attention on incorporating those particular features. These issues are important to the success of course Web sites.

This paper consists of two parts. Part one is a review of recent research literature and a brief discussion of key aspects of Web-based resources. Part two reports survey data of students’ perceptions of course Web sites from a total of 417 students enrolled in twelve courses over three semesters of the 2001-2002 school year.

COURSE WEB SITES AS A PEDAGOGICAL TOOL The limited amount of research conducted on course Web sites indicates positive student attitudes toward them (Ballard, 2001; Chandler & Maddux, 1998; Sanders & Morrison-Shetlar, 2001; Wernet, Olliges, & Delicath, 2000). Student attitudes do not appear to be related to student learning styles suggesting that course Web sites may be beneficial for a wide range of students (Sanders & Morrison-Shetlar, 2001). Females may have more positive attitudes than males do toward the use of course Web sites but no differences in satisfaction based on age or race/ethnicity have emerged (Sanders & Morrison-Shetlar, 2001).

Wernet et al. (2000) found that students’ satisfaction with the use of course Web sites depends on adequate access to the Web site, more so than prior exposure to Web-assisted instruction. Indeed, many scholars feel that the required use of course Web sites is only furthering the digital divide. Yet, others suggested that access to the Internet does not appear to be a problem because of the availability of computer labs in many universities and colleges (Chandler & Maddux, 1998). As computers become more a part of our everyday lives, students arrive in class with many skills. However, Osika and Sharp (2002) found that students perceive that they do not have the technical computer skills that they need to be successful in Web-based learning environments. This finding indicates that instructors should assess their own students’ technical computer skills and provide more initial guidance in the use of Web-based courseware.

Web Site Features Regardless of the courseware or Web authoring software used, many course Web sites offer the same basic features. Features like announcements, course assignments, course documents, course information, course calendars, and student gradebooks offer the student access to information that can be constantly updated. These features offer the student the convenience of access to the information at any time and from any location. The digital dropbox feature allows the student to submit an assignment at his/her convenience. External links provide the student with access to enrichment activities, supplemental information, and resources. Homework assignments, the class schedule, links to relevant sites, and lecture notes have been found to be popular features among students (Chandler & Maddux, 1998). Online practice quizzes are popular (Sanders & Morrison-Shetlar, 2001) while at the same time increasing involvement in the course and improving grades (Wernet et al., 2000). One feature that has yet to appear in the course management software packages is the digital portfolio that is beginning to appear on instructor-created Web sites (Barrett, 2003).

The Purpose of Course Web Sites As Web-assisted instruction continues to grow in popularity, instructors may feel pressured to create a course Web site. However, many are asking why they should develop a Web site. What features should be included and what are the benefits to their students? What is the purpose of a course Web site and what is its effectiveness in enhancing student learning? Instructors should establish the purpose of a Web site before deciding to develop one for each of their courses (Hazzan, 2001; Horton, 2000; Slattery, 1998).

Benefits and Challenges of Using Course Web Sites Another advantage of course Web sites for students is the access to information in a format in which many traditional college students are familiar. While using technology may be new to many older adults, the current class of traditional college students grew up using computers and the Internet to find, access, and process information. Computer skills are required for virtually every job, and use of a Web site provides students with an additional opportunity to hone their computer skills by learning how to download files, electronically submit files, and navigate their way through a Web site.

For instructors, posting documents on the Web site reduces time and the paper used in copying. Furthermore, posting documents on a course Web site provides students access to materials in a timely manner and exposes them to materials to which they might not have been otherwise exposed, therefore, extending the learning of the student (Horton, 2000). Instructors utilizing the online gradebook can enter grades, have the course average automatically calculated, and allow students immediate access to course grades.

There are also disadvantages to using a course Web site, especially for the instructors. One of the biggest reasons cited for not having a course Web site is the time that is required to develop and maintain the site (Slattery, 1998). Although time is a factor, available courseware tools no longer require knowledge of HTML or programming skills. Documents can be posted in less time than it takes to copy them for each student in the course. Entering grades takes some time but that time is ultimately saved when the grades are automatically calculated.

However many instructors do not benefit as much from Web-based course design because they still maintain parallel systems. In other words, they keep both a written and digital form of a grade book, course-packs, class handouts, and assignments. Instructors are reluctant to relinquish all print forms of course materials. This reticence may exist because of habit, lack of technology equipment, or lack of knowledge of recent advances in Web-based courses. Many instructors view the online gradebook as a tool for students, rather than themselves. Out of habit, instructors record grades in the traditional gradebook, and then enter them online through the gradebook function. To streamline this process, grades can be recorded online, the online gradebook printed and saved for future documentation, and the traditional gradebook can be eliminated. An example of lack of knowledge about technology and equipment occurs when instructors print a copy of the digitally submitted student assignment, grade it by hand, and return the printed copy to the students in class. Others print and grade the assignment, then type the corrections or comments into the digital document, and return the corrected digital copy to the students. This dual system results in additional and unnecessary work for the instructor. A more streamlined approach would be to use existing technology like the Toshiba Portege 3500 Tablet PC that allows teachers to evaluate student work using handwritten comments in a traditional manner but in a digital format. The handwritten comments on the digital assignment provide a more personal means of communicating corrections. go to web site adult learning theory

Design and Development The development of course Web sites has been dramatically simplified through the development of course development and management software. Currently, there are many course development and management tools available including Blackboard CourseInfo (www.blackboard.com), LearningSpace (www.lotus.com), TopClass (www.wbtsystems.com), WebCT (www.webct.com), and WebMentor (www.avilar.com). A means assessment (i.e., what means do you have for developing a Web site) will determine the courseware tools available at your institution (Horton, 2000).

Some comparison studies of the usability of these course management and development tools for faculty have been conducted (e.g., Duin, 1998; Hazari, 1998). In a report comparing different available tools, Duin (1998) determined that usability was a problem for faculty. However, many colleges and universities are now adopting courseware tools and providing training for instructors on using these tools. Instructors can create a Web site using other types of Web authoring tools (see Horton, 2000 for more information on these tools). While these studies begin to give us insight into the experience of the faculty member, the studies neglected to examine usability from the student’s viewpoint.

Use of Web Assisted Software in a Rural, Mid-Atlantic University Blackboard CourseInfo was first introduced to our university in 1999. The university is in a rural Mid-Atlantic area and has an enrollment of approximately 20,000 students. At that time, Blackboard was used in 175 course sections across the university. Since 1999, faculty use of Blackboard has increased at a rate of approximately 25% per semester. As of fall 2002, there were 1,150 course sections of Blackboard being used. Additionally, 750-800 faculty members, graduate assistants and graduate teaching assistants, and 12,000 students were enrolled as Blackboard users. The exact number of faculty and students using Blackboard was unknown because Blackboard’s current tracking system does not recognize the same faculty member or student in several courses. The result is an inflated number of users because some faculty members and students are counted multiple times. The following study focused on the students’ perceptions of Blackboard as it was used in a variety courses at this rural, Mid-Atlantic university.

Blackboard Use in Participating Courses The first author, a professor in the Department of Child Development and Family Relations, used Blackboard in the following four undergraduate classes: Child Development, Introduction to Gerontology, Family Life Education, and Families, Sexuality, and Gender Roles, and one graduate level course: Family Theories and Issues. The professor utilized the announcements, student gradebook, external links, course documents, course information, and assignments in all courses, and used the discussion board in the Families, Sexuality, and Gender Roles course.

The second author, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction used Blackboard in five sections of an undergraduate course: Curriculum and Instruction in Elementary Education. The professor utilized announcements, student gradebook, external links, course documents, course information, and assignments in all five sections and group discussion pages in three of the sections.

The third author, a professor in the Department of Child Development and Family Relations, collected data from first year medical and doctoral students participating in one section of a Medical Physiology course. The course is team-taught by basic science faculty who used the announcements, gradebook, course documents, and course information features of Blackboard to supplement their face-to-face instruction.

METHODS Data were collected in 12 classes by the three authors over the course of two semesters. Two classes were graduate level and the remaining 10 classes were at the undergraduate level. Further, six of the classes were taught in the Department of Child Development and Family Relations, five of the classes were taught in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and one class was taught at the School of Medicine.

At the end of the semester, students voluntarily completed a three-page instrument that evaluated the use of a supplemental course Web site in their class. Blackboard was the courseware tool used for these courses. The evaluation instrument was expanded from one developed by the first author in a previous study (see Ballard, 2001). Four hundred seventeen instruments were completed and returned from the 12 classes combined for a response rate of 84%. The instrument yielded quantitative data that measured student use and access of the Web site, perceived helpfulness of the Web site, and the most helpful features, as well as general background information on the students and their previous use of Blackboard.

RESULTS Student Demographics The majority of students were either juniors (36.9%) or seniors (26.9%), with 18% of the students participating in graduate programs. The mean age was 25.4 years old with a range of 18-52. Almost 83.7% of the students were female (n = 349) and only 14.1% male (n = 59). Over 66% of students had prior experience with using Blackboard and most of the students indicated that Blackboard was being used in at least one of their other courses that semester.

Student Access & Use Students also were asked where they most often accessed the course Web site. Although 84% reported Internet access in their home or dorm room, only 55% reported that they most often accessed the site at this location. Additionally, 23% accessed the site from a school computer lab, 5% from the school library, and 1% reported that they accessed it from a friend’s house. Ten percent of students stated that they accessed the site from multiple locations.

In response to problems accessing or using the Web site during the course, 81% of the students stated that they had no problems. Of the 19% who did experience problems, 68% (n = 5, or 13% of the entire population) stated that their problems occurred in accessing the Web site or they had server difficulties.

Helpfulness Students rated the helpfulness of the Blackboard Web site using a scale of 1 (not helpful at all) to 5 (extremely helpful). Across the 12 courses, the mean student rating was 4.3 (SD = .75). The distribution of student ratings is in Table 1. There was a positive and significant correlation between helpfulness and the number of times accessed during the week (r = .177, p = .001). T-tests revealed no significant differences in perceived helpfulness between those with computer access in their home or dorm room (n = 349) and those who did not have this access (n = 57) (t = 1.12, p = 268). A dichotomous variable of traditional and non-traditional students was created from students’ age with traditional being 17-25 years (n = 344) and non-traditional being 26 years and older (n = 73). There were no significant differences in perceived helpfulness between these two groups (t = -.734, p = .476). Finally, there were no significant differences in perceived helpfulness based on gender (t = -.704, p = .482). go to website adult learning theory

Using a provided list of features, students rank-ordered the top three most helpful features. Course documents, announcements, and gradebook emerged as the top three features overall (See Table 2). In addition, the students rated the helpfulness of the features using a 5-point scale with 1 being not helpful and 5 being extremely helpful. Accessing course documents was rated 4.6, announcements, 4.6, and gradebook 4.3.

Students were asked "In what ways was the Web site helpful or not helpful?" Over half the students (n = 230) indicated that access to course materials and announcements was helpful. Some students specified that having the notes available on the Web site facilitated note-taking because they could concentrate more on the lecture rather than note-taking during class. Others indicated that the ability to get course materials and announcements was helpful if they missed class. Student perceptions of helpfulness are reflected in the following student comments: "… it gives me the opportunity to relay messages to group members …", "… it gives [the instructor] the opportunity to post information regarding the class", "… it is easier for me to print off notes, that way I can pay attention in class", "it is a helpful site for communicating with students." Students were provided with a list of Blackboard features that were not used in the course (or used minimally) and asked which ones would have been helpful to them. Overall, students were interested in online practice quizzes (n = 59), the digital dropbox (n = 27), and a course calendar (n = 35).

In an open-ended question, students were asked for suggestions for improving the use of the Web site. "It would be nice to be able to print out notes ahead of time so that you could write extra things on them during class", "I wish all classes were using it, I wish it was a requirement", "… it is efficient and effective", "Blackboard was a wonderful help", "more information available like course schedule on Web", "online quick quizzes for readings", "optional online quizzes" "have course info and announcements updated everyday", "none, I like it, keep using it", "make it so that you have to go to class to get on blackboard", "A calendar would have been neat." Student Performance Using a 5-point Likert-type scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), students responded to the following comments regarding student learning: "Overall, the use of Blackboard helped me learn course material", "I earned a better grade in this course then I would have if Blackboard had not been used", "I took full advantage of all available features of Blackboard", "I learned more in this course than I would have if Blackboard had not been used", "I attended class less often than I would have if Blackboard had not been used with this course", and "Using Blackboard for this course helped me to improve my computer skills." Results were 3.99, 3.51, 3.80, 3.39, 2.10, and 3.33 respectively. A scale was created from these six items (the fifth item was reverse-coded) with a Cronbach’s Alpha of .66. T-tests were performed to see if there were differences in perceived student performance based on gender, age, experience using Blackboard, and access to the Internet. There were no significance differences for gender (t = -.048, p = .96), age (t = -1.43, p = .16), or previous experience using Blackboard (t = .506, p = .61). However, there was a significant difference in perceived student performance by Internet access (t = 2.38, p = .02). Those who had access to the Internet in their home or their dorm (n = 340) had a significantly higher score on the student performance scale than those who did not have such access (n = 56). Correlations revealed a significant and positive correlation between the student performance scale and overall helpfulness (r = .572, p = .000) and the number of times the Web site was accessed during the week (r = .220, p = .000).

DISCUSSION The results of this study indicate that students are using Blackboard CourseInfo as a tool for learning. They are accessing their course Web sites several times a week, taking advantage of available features, and are finding them helpful. Students enjoyed having access to course information and the opportunity for enhanced communication with instructors and peers. These findings support previous research that indicated positive student attitudes toward course Web sites (Ballard, 2001; Chandler & Maddux, 1998; Sanders & Morrison-Shetlar, 2001; Wernet et al., 2000).

Students appreciated the access to information provided by the course Web sites. Of the features on the course Web site, students perceived the course documents, announcements, and gradebook most helpful. Specifically, they indicated the convenience of being able to access course materials and the availability of grades 24 hours a day as particularly helpful. These results coincide with those of previous research (Ballard, 2001; Chandler & Maddux, 1998; Sanders & Morrison-Shetlar, 2001; Wernet et al., 2000). Many students perceived that having access to class notes before class helped to facilitate note-taking. They suggested that having the notes during class so they could listen to the instructor rather than concentrating on taking notes enhanced their learning. Additionally, students were able to get notes or assignments if they missed class allowing them to keep up with class content, even if they were not able to attend class.

Students also perceived that the course Web site enhanced the communication that occurred between the students, instructors, and peers outside of class. The course announcements helped keep students updated and organized. There were several students who wanted their instructor to post announcements several times a week. Many of the announcements that were posted were related to schedule changes, upcoming events, due dates, etc. The popularity of these types of features (i.e., announcements, calendars) indicates that students appreciate information that helps them to stay organized regarding course requirements and activities. The requests for information that did not necessarily pertain to the course indicate a desire for additional interaction with the instructor outside of scheduled class time.

In addition to communication with instructors, the course Web site appeared to aid in communication with peers. Interestingly, discussion boards did not emerge as a widely used feature or a feature that students found helpful. This may be explained by the instructors’ use of the discussion board feature in the classes surveyed. This feature was used in only four of the 12 courses. Because these were all face-to-face classes and many of them were larger classes (e.g., 45-64 students), online discussion was not emphasized.

The features that students found useful were obviously limited to those features that were used in their courses. When asked which features were not used on the course Web site that would have been helpful, many students responded that they would like to use the practice quizzes, the digital drop box, and a course calendar. This finding supports previous findings that suggested that course calendar or schedules, and online quizzes and tests are helpful features (Chandler & Maddux, 1998; Wernet et al., 2000). Instructors may want to consider implementing these features in their courses. Unlike previous findings (Chandler & Maddux, 1998; Wernet et al., 2000), external links were not a feature that the students thought would be helpful. There may be several reasons for this finding. Some courses used Web sites that were well known to the students and they may not have accessed them through the course Web site. Other links were embedded within homework assignments or announcements and not set up in the external links feature. Finally, not all of the instructors in the study fully utilized this feature and the inclusion of external links should be something that instructors should consider for future use.

Overall, access did not appear to be a problem with this sample. Students accessed the site either from their home/dorm room or the university computer lab. There were no significant differences in perceived helpfulness between those with computer access in their homes or dorm rooms and those who did not have such access. Indeed, many students who had access in their home or dorm accessed the site at the university computer lab instead. It may be that it was convenient for them to check the site at the computer lab between classes. This finding seems to support Chandler and Maddux’s (1998) finding that student access was no longer a problem on college campuses because of the availability of campus computer labs. In addition, access to the course Web site was not interrupted by technical difficulties for the majority of the students. Of the students who experienced problems, most had trouble because the server was down. Not only are more students gaining access to the Web-based resources, the problems associated with accessing the software are decreasing.

Like the findings of Sanders and Morrison-Shetlar (2001), there were no significant differences between the perceived satisfaction of traditional and non-traditional students based on age. This may be because of the widespread use of Blackboard at this institution as well as increased use of computers by all age groups. Contrary to the findings of Sanders and Morrison-Shetlar (2001) who found females to have a more positive attitude than males, there were no significant differences in the perceived satisfaction of the males and females in this sample. One possible explanation for this difference in findings is the small number of males (14%) in this population sample.

Those who had access to the Internet in their home or dorm room had a higher perceived performance in the class. However, there were no significant differences in perceived student performance by gender, age, or previous Blackboard experience. Additionally, there was a positive and significant correlation between number of times the Web site was accessed and perceived student performance and between overall helpfulness of the Web site and perceived student performance. It may be that convenience plays a role in students’ perceived performance. If they have access in their home or dorm room, they are able to access the site more often and take full advantage of the various features used in the course. This frequent access to information in turn, may increase their perception of their performance in the class.

One of the major questions to be answered regarding the use of course Web sites is their impact on student learning. Data from this study do not adequately address this question; however, results do suggest that students may have perceived greater learning with the use of Blackboard. Additionally, many instructors wonder if use of a course Web site deters students from attending class. Attendance for this sample did not appear to be influenced by the use of Blackboard but this is an issue worthy of further exploration.

LIMITATIONS AND FURTHER RESEARCH The data gathered for this study were from a relatively small number of students and not all available course Web site features were used or evaluated (e.g., discussion boards, online quizzes). Therefore, these results cannot be generalized to other populations. Instructors use course Web sites in different ways and incorporate different features; therefore, it is imperative that each instructor evaluate the course Web sites used in their own courses. However, the results of this study provide guidance for implementing a new course Web site or improving an existing course Web site.

Although this study has furthered our knowledge of the use of course Web sites in face-to-face instruction, the ultimate question is still unanswered. That question is whether the use of a supplemental course Web site improves student learning and which particular features used in what particular ways are most effective. Other questions still to be answered by further research include: Is the process of posting class notes or overhead transparencies discouraging class attendance? Does the use of a course Web site encourage instructor-student communication or impede it? Results of this study indicate that communication might be a key issue for students and this should be further explored.

CONCLUSION Technological advances continue to provide pedagogical challenges; yet, initial studies indicate positive student reactions to the use of course Web sites. Educators have only skimmed the surface and have yet to tap the full potential of this new instructional tool. More research is needed to fully answer the questions that we have regarding use, access, effectiveness, and impact on student learning. Despite the unanswered questions, early research indicates benefits for both students and instructors. We must continue to explore this new vehicle for student learning and student-instructor interaction and continue to examine the full range of possibilities this technology presents to higher education.

Table 1 Overall Helpfulness of the Course Web Site

Helpfulness Rating Frequency Percent

1.00 (not helpful at all) 1 .3 2.00 6 1.9 3.00 (somewhat helpful) 29 9.3 4.00 119 38.1 4.50 3 1.0 4.8 1 .3 5.00 (extremely helpful) 126 40.4

Note: The exact rating was estimated for students who marked between two numbers (e.g., 4.5 if marked half way between 4 and 5).

Table 2 Web Site Features Ranked as most Helpful

Feature Ranking 1st 2nd 3rd Total n (%) n (%) n (%) n (%)

Course Documents 152 (36.5) 111 (26.6) 74 (17.7) 337 (80.8) Announcements 115 (27.6) 101 (24.2) 86 (20.6) 302 (73.3) Gradebook 84 (20.1) 103 (24.7) 119 (28.5) 306 (74.2) Discussion Board 22 (5.3) 11 (2.6) 30 (7.2) 63 (15.2)

Note: Discussion Board was used in only four of the twelve classes.

References Ballard, S.M. (2002). The use of course web sites in traditional face-to-face instruction. Journal of Teaching in Marriage and Family: Innovations in Family Science Education, 2(2), 177-200.

Chandler, B., & Maddux, C.D. (1998). Student use of instructors’ Web sites. Washington DC: Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED421152) Fraser, A.B. (1999). Colleges should tap the pedagogical potential of the World-Wide-Web. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 45(48), B8.

Hazzan, O. (2001). Aspects of a university course web site. College Teaching Journal, 49(2), 55-61.

Horton, S. (2000). Web teaching guide: A practical approach to creating course Web sites. New Haven, CT: Yale University.

Kandies, J., & Stern, M.B. (1999). Weaving the Web into the classroom: An evolution of Web enhanced instruction. San Antonio, TX: Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED432270) Keating, A.B. (1999). The Wired Professor: A guide to incorporating the World Wide Web in college instruction. New York: New York University Press.

Morss, D.A. (1999). A study of student perspectives on Web-based learning: WebCT in the classroom. Internet Research, 9(5), 393-408.

Osika, E.R. & Sharp, D.P. (2002). Minimum technical competencies for distance learning students. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 34(3), 318-325.

Sanders, W.B. (2001). Creating learning-centered courses for the World Wide Web. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Sanders, D.W. & Morrison-Shetlar, A.I. (2001). Student attitudes toward Web-enhanced instruction in an introductory Biology course. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 33(3), 251-263.

Slattery, J.M. (1998). Developing a Web-assisted class: An interview with Mark Mitchell. Teaching of Psychology, 25(2), 152-155.

Wernet, S.P., Olliges, R.H., & Delicath, T.A. (2000). Postcourse evaluations of WebCT classes by Social Work students. Research on Social Work Practice, 10(4), 487-505.

SHARON BALLARD, JOY STAPLETON, AND ELIZABETH CARROLL East Carolina University, USA ballards@mail.ecu.edu stapletonj@mail.ecu.edu carrolle@mail.ecu.edu

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38 comments posted

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  1. Thanos says:
    June 13th, 2008 7:10 pm

    I stopped in to congratulate you on two years of excellence in journalism. While I don’t always agree with your authors, I appreciate both your diligence and honesty. Please do keep up the great work.

  2. Janeeta says:
    June 13th, 2008 12:56 am

    Happy Birthday ATP and my heartiest welcome to Asma

    ATP is my favourite blog and the first thing i do when i open my pc in morning is to check for the new posts … i simply dont have the words to describe my feelings of joy and sorrow that i have shared with ATP …. May Allah bless you guys and give you the strength to bring all these wonderful moments and thoughts in our lives for the many years to come Ameen

  3. Ahmed Ali says:
    June 12th, 2008 7:37 pm

    Ahsan, I am not sure what you mean when you say “. Evil has been using all at its disposal to tarnish goodness, so why goodness waits in the cloak of its goodness.”

    “Goodness” wears the cloak of its goodness because that is not a cloak but its skin. If it dropped what you call a cloak it would cease to be goodness and will become evil itself. No?

    ATP, please keep doing what you have done. Do not let the bad people around you stop you from being good. That is what makes you different and special for your readers!!!!!!

  4. Ahsan says:
    June 12th, 2008 5:17 am

    Congrats,

    Great work has been done! And lot of greater work needs to be done. Pakistaniat has everything, great authors, read and informative, mature minds, great look just needs slight pun and punch. Being too sugar-coated sometimes hampers the way towards greater things. Evil has been using all at its disposal to tarnish goodness, so why goodness waits in the cloak of its goodness. It is a war out there.I hope people get the message.

    In the end, all the best for the future!

    Zindabad Pakistan! Zindabad Pakistaniat!

  5. Ahmed Ali says:
    June 12th, 2008 3:15 am

    Congratulations to everyone on the Pakistaniat team. And welcome to Asma.

    You guys and your website is now part of my daily routine. I have to look up what is happening here a few time everyday.

    This post is a perfect example of why I like this website so much: great pictures, detailed and compelling writing, never insulting the intelligence your your visitors and writing in a truly Pakistani style.

  6. Asma says:
    June 12th, 2008 2:48 am

    Thanks for the welcome =))

    fingers crossed :)

    Happy Birthday ATP!

  7. Hassan says:
    June 12th, 2008 2:25 am

    Thank you for Pakistaniat from all Pakistanis.

  8. Khalid R Hasan says:
    June 12th, 2008 2:10 am

    ATP is a “must visit” site for me, practically every day. I may not read all the posts, and definitely not all the comments, but I still have to check you out. Please keep up the good work. We appreciate what you have been doing and realise how much time and effort goes into it, even though we don’t come out and say so on a regular basis.

    And yes, sometimes a few of the comments seem immature, but most of us can live with that so long as you keep on doing what you’ve been doing for the past two years.

    Thank you very much for giving us ATP.

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