Web-Based Instruction: A Practical Guide for Online Courses
reviewed by George Veletsianos - June 22, 2007
Title: Web-Based Instruction: A Practical Guide for Online Courses
Author(s): James Van Keuren
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham
ISBN: 1578864437 , Pages: 104, Year: 2006
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Educational practices have remained relatively stagnant since the 1900s even though we now live in a world where rapid technological advancements have transformed the way we live. The expectation that technology would radically transform learning and teaching in ways that were unfathomable prior to the arrival of the microcomputer is still on the horizon some of us know that this expectation will remain a dream. Some of us also know that in order to enhance educational practice, we need to collaborate by sharing our experiences, mistakes, and lessons learned with others. Dr. James Van Keuren, in his book Web-based Instruction: A Practical Guide for Online Courses, does just that; writing about his own personal practice and experience as an online course instructor, Dr. Keuren gives practical advice in designing and delivering web-based courses.
In Chapter One, the author introduces the reader to web-based courses in the context of adult learners, while in Chapter Two we are reminded that teaching centers around the student and not around the instructor. In this chapter, Dr. Keuren provides practical suggestions on how to assess student readiness for web-based courses while ensuring that students know the differences between face-to-face and technology mediated courses. Additionally, he emphasizes that the online instructor needs to work hard to earn student respect and trust.
Chapter Three notes the importance of support systems (institution-faculty and faculty-student) in the successful deployment and sustainability of web-based courses. In Chapter Four, the author discusses the transition from a face-to-face to a web-based classroom and notes that numerous face-to-face teaching strategies can be implemented online. Yet, the author argues, web-based courses allow for enhanced active participation, student-centered teaching, and student collaboration.
The actual design of web-based courses is discussed in Chapter Five where the author presents how he utilized a process developed by Fink (2003) to reflect upon his course, and instructional and learning materials. Additionally, Dr. Keuren provides examples of instructional design websites that can assist individuals in designing their web-based courses.
Chapter Six notes that the transition to the web-based environment will not be free of bumps. In this respect, the author states that one needs to be patient and flexible with difficulties that may arise. Dr. Keuren illuminates such difficulties through his examples of teacher-student interactivity a variable that he considers important in the world of web-based teaching. Timely, relevant, and positive feedback is another important facet of online courses and the topic of discussion in Chapter Seven.
Chapter Eight concludes the book by summarizing previous chapters and noting that even though the teaching of web-based courses may not be for everyone, instructors can use what they already know about teaching and learning to implement more positive online learning experiences.
Dr. Keuren writes for instructors and instructional designers from the perspective of a faculty member who chose to deliver web-based courses because he found that he needed to change the way he delivered instruction (p. 27). To be fair to both the author and the readers of this review, it is important to note that my review is colored by my own multidimensional experience with online and hybrid courses. As a PhD student, I have taken classes that have been delivered completely online. As an instructional designer, I have designed and developed electronic learning environments. As a graduate instructor, I have taught hybrid courses on technology for pre-service teachers. Finally, as a researcher, I have examined the opportunities electronic media can afford for teaching and learning.
Although student-centered teaching may be found in web-based courses, it is important to note that it is not the use of technology that allows a classroom to be student-centered. Rather, what determines whether a classroom is centered on the student or the teacher, are the teaching strategies that the instructor employs. Teacher- and student-centered classrooms exist regardless of whether the course is taught face-to-face or online. Dr. Keuren, however, notes that in moving to a web-based course, he had to restructure [his] teaching strategies (p. 27) and use teaching approaches that enabled learners to be active participants in their learning. Teaching an online course, therefore, enabled Dr. Keuren to reconsider his teaching practices for the benefit of his students perhaps we too need to rethink where our students are, where we want them to be, and what we as instructors and instructional designers can do to get them there.
If you are looking for a cookbook guide on how to teach an online course with grocery-item lists of advice, then this book may not be for you. Although Dr. Keuren provides recommendations that have to do with web-based instruction, he does not provide to-do lists. After all, personal experiences do not lend themselves well to endless lists. On the other hand, if you are interested in reading how one person transitioned from a face-to-face course to an alternative format, learned how to adjust to a new teaching environment, and in the process wrote a book detailing what he learned about web-based courses, then you may find this book enjoyable.
In essence, Dr. Keurens book provides practical advice, reads quickly, and is very approachable. As such, it may be worthwhile for those who are interested in getting their feet wet with online teaching and learning, and it may serve as a refresher to those who have already taught an online course. Even though the advice offered in the book is, at times, basic (e.g., Use encouragement to create a positive interactive learning environment p. 57), such information is valuable for the smooth teaching of any course. This is probably the most valuable suggestion I took away from reading the book regardless of whether you teach in a face-to-face or an alternative format, there are some simple strategies that you can employ to ensure a more smooth-functioning course (e.g., rapid feedback).
Fink, L.D. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.