January 29, 2001-- Newsletter #115

By Joe Burns

Goodies to Go (tm)
January 29, 2001--Newsletter #115

This newsletter is part of the internet.com network.

Please visit http://www.htmlgoodies.com

Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

I wanted to give you a quick update about some of the events happening at HTML Goodies. First, as you may or may not know, HTML Goodies was sold just after Christmas of 2000. Earthweb sold off many of its sites and newsletters in a large buyout deal with Internet.com. After discussions between my representative the new owners, it seem that things will stay pretty much the same in regards to the site.

As of right now, I will continue to be the main content provider for the site. Furthermore, I am now in charge of all postings and updates. If you see the site updated, it's because I did it.

Here are a couple of other changes you might find interesting:

1. The Goodies homepage has been redesigned to allow for a much more rigid posting schedule. The page will now be updated every Monday with a new tutorial and two new newsletters.

2. HTML Goodies will now accept user-submitted tutorials. I write three new tutorials each month. In order to stay true to the "new tutorial each week" format, I need to have one or two user-submitted tutorials per month. Stop by the HTML Goodies homepage for all the details regarding submitting your work.

3. The Goodies to Go! and Web Design Goodies newsletter archives are now fully up to date and will stay that way for good. Again, hit the homepage for links.

4. I am hiring a copy editor to read the entire site and report back to me with any typos and/or misspellings. I'll then get in there and fix them as soon as I can.

5. I am also hiring a young man to read through the site and look for out of date or incorrect information. I'll fix them as soon as I can. I expect both editing runs to be completed and the changes made within three months.

That's the scoop. HTML Goodies is the biggest HTML help site on the Web. With the sale and my new responsibilities, I intend to polish up the site, update it weekly, and keep it up to date.

Did you hear...

I stated in an earlier newsletter that viruses that attacked Microsoft were so abundant because Microsoft software was so abundant. I also said that once Linux because more mainstream, viruses would be geared to it. Well, it's now being reported that a worm has been causing headaches for Linux Red Hat. If you run Red Hat, a guard against the worm is available from the Linux Web site.

Mafiaboy is in the news again. He pled guilty to 55 charges of mischief for attacking Web sites like Yahoo and Amazon. He was charged with 66 and had just until recently pled not guilty to all.

Did you surf a lot over the past holiday breaks? I did, but apparently many didn't. Nielsen reported a 15% drop in traffic over the last three months of the year. The last two weeks of the year were the lowest traffic numbers. I thought my system was running fast on Christmas Eve.

If you can't tax the music, tax the units that copy the music. France has begun a system to recoup revenue lost to copying digital music. The country has started taxing CD burners. Early last year, Germany taxed hard drives for the same reason. France decided against that and went for the CD writers themselves.

Now onto today's topic...

My semester has gotten under way and once again I'm running two online classes. That means I'm teaching a full load but I only go to the classroom to teach for two classes. The other two are only available in cyberspace. It's really a double-edged sword because I love to teach yet I love to put classes on line.

Before the semester started, a colleague and I met in order to welcome all of the new Executive MBA program students. I'll be teaching them Web design. This colleague has the title of "first teacher at my school to put a class on the Web". I use to hold that title at my last school, but now I'm here.

He and I discussed how I put my classes online and I was rather happy that someone was taking an interest in my work. Then we got around to the real reason for the conversation--He needed someone to head up a new committee that would discuss and draw up guideline regarding online classes.

Every school that allows, nay encourages, teachers to put classes online have a series of concerns dropped right into their collective laps. Here are just a few of the questions I'll need to find answers for:

1. What exactly is an online class?

Oh sure...roll your eyes at me. Well? What is it? And don't you dare say to me that it's a class that is online. I don't take those word games as test answer and I won't take them here thank you very much.

I consider my classes online because they are Web delivered, the student does not have to ever meet with me, and does not have to stick to any timetable other than meeting the homework and assignment due dates and times. The student is on his or her own.


What if a student could look at all of the professor's information online but had to look at it at a specific time of day, as if it were a class meeting time. Is it still an online class?

What if a student has to meet in the classroom on a regularly scheduled basis, yet reads all of his or her assignments over the Web? Is it an online class?

What if a student meets at a regular class time but the teacher is being displayed on a TV screen because he or she is somewhere else? You may call that long-distance education, but can it also be called online or must the Internet be involved for a class to carry the moniker?

What if only the homework and reading assignments are posted online? Is the class considered online?

I'll bet you answered yes to some and no to others. Well, what then are the criteria for an online class? I'm going to have to be able to create those criteria by the end of the semester.

2. Should just any student be allowed to take an online class?

Should there be a proficiency exam before the students take the class? I have had students in the past that were very good in other classes, but because of the delivery element of the online class, they had to drop or they would have failed. The fact that the Web and computers were involved just stopped these people cold. I don't think they should have been allowed to take the class, but what could I, the professor, have possibly done to stop them?

If you think someone should pass a test of some sort before taking an online class, then what would that test be like?

Better yet, should just any teacher be allowed to teach an online class? This is a bigger question than you might think, but here's the biggest one.

3. Who owns the content of an online class?

I'll give you my best example. I put Public Speaking online. The basic concept is that students do all of their book learning online and then return to the school four times over the course of the semester to deliver their four speeches. (Does that mean it's not really online?)

I am most concerned about this because except for four of 27 lessons, I wrote the entire text. It's 350 plus pages long. I did all of the programming. I wrote all of the quizzes and I keep it in my personal directory as school.

The class is built so that it can be burnt to a CD and distributed to anyone who wants to use it for a class. You just take the CD, dump the contents into a server's single directory and you're up and running.

I wrote it that way on purpose so that it could possibly be published and distributed as a way to lighten the load of public speaking courses that often come up at colleges and universities around the world. I haven't had success finding a publisher yet, but if you're interested...

Now we go back to the question. Who owns the class?

Should it be considered a "work for hire" so that my university owns total rights to what I wrote and can use it as they see fit? I certainly hope not. If that's the case, you'll see the creation of online courses dry up pretty darn fast. If I didn't hold any of the copyright, I'd never put a class online again. It's not worth all the work, and it is a lot of work let me tell you.

Is it split down the middle? Does the school own half and I own half? That seems a little more equitable, but what if I go to another school? Do I take it with me? Better yet, can I take it with me?

What if it gets published? Who gets paid? Me? The university? Both? If both...how much?

Questions. Questions. Questions.

I'm sure that other schools have already addressed these points and may already have answers. I haven't made a point of doing any research at this point. I'm just free thinking what I'll actually have to do. This newsletter was my way of pulling some thoughts together and maybe getting some feedback from those who are in the know.

When this semester is over, I'll have suggested university policy. Maybe what I write will become part of the university rules and regulations.

I'd hate to make the wrong suggestions.


That's that. Back to my school work...

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And Remember: Survivor is back on. Statistics show that easily one on four people in the U.S. have appeared on television.

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