INSIDE IOWA STATE
August 31, 2001
Ecademy could compel more profs to put courses online
by Anne Krapfl
A Web-based teaching/learning system could bring huge cost savings for an
ISU student service that captions class lectures for students with hearing
disabilities. Its also an alternative for faculty who want to put their
Ecademy is an evolving research project of Pete Boysen, a systems analyst
with Academic Information Technologies (AIT). Originally created to help a
U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation unit train people in numerous
locations online, Ecademy has the potential to meet other needs.
Iowa States Disability Resources, which hires off-campus stenographers to
provide real-time captioning of class lectures for hearing-disabled
students, spends thousands of dollars each month for long-distance phone
service, currently the link between instructor, captioner and student.
The audio tool in Ecademy could cut costs by replacing the long-distance
phone calls with Internet communication instead. Boysen has run several
tests this summer with university-contracted stenographers around the
country. One of the difficulties hes tackling is the unreliability of the
Internet when traffic is heavy, which translates to transmitted voices
fading or being cut off. Still, Disability Resources hopes to pilot Ecademy
software with one student and one course this fall.
In addition to instruction, Boysen said Ecademy would be useful to
professional groups that want to meet without actually traveling. The
systems communication aides would allow for online meeting discussions;
messaging; sharing items as varied as line sketches, math equations or text
documents; and collaborative editing of the shared items.
The next level
Dorothy Lewis, interim director of AIT, calls Ecademy the next generation of
development for Web-based classes.
Its less production-oriented and more of a research project, for people who
want to do something beyond WebCT, Blackboard, ClassNet some of the other
(Web-based) programs we support, she said. Pete is trying to develop
flexibility into the course modules and making modifications as he
Boysen, who developed ClassNet in 1995, originally for a weather forecasting
assignment in an online meteorology course, agreed that programs like
ClassNet and WebCT are good for faculty who are getting started in online
Boysen is working in the Java programming language to develop Ecademy, which
makes it possible to create more functional and interactive educational
tools than can be used with a standard Web browser interface.
Its course management tools include a syllabus, gradebook, news updates, FAQ
site, schedule, test, test bank (list of questions that are randomly
grouped), glossary and table of contents for a course. Ecademy, through
audio and visuals, walks the creator through building various documents on
the Ecademy server for an online class. Boysen said the authoring tools are
designed to speed the development of high-quality Web pages by faculty or
their office staff and reduce the need for additional Web developers.
Boysen readily admits Ecademy is a work in progress. Hes still testing
several of the tools, modifying others and building new ones, based on past
requests from faculty. He said he welcomes suggestions for additional tools
Ecademy works well with the Windows operating system and personal computers;
on Macintosh computers, it requires at least a 10.0 operating system.
For more information on Ecademy, or if youre interested in testing some of
its tools, contact Boysen, 4-6663.
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
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