VCCS Litonline Introduction to Literature
2002 Final Report
The following report came at the end of a 2002 VCCS LearningWare Grant obtained by Eric Hibbison and Rick Dollieslager, both chairs in the VCCS Regional Centers for Teaching Excellence, to begin maintenance of this 6-year-old website.
LearningWare Grant Final Report
Renovating VCCS Litonline
Eric P. Hibbison, Chair, Midcentral RCTE; Webmaster, VCCS Litonline
Rick Dollieslager, Chair, Tidewater RCTE
Reviewers (all from the Thomas Nelson CC English Dept.)—
of the goals of the original grant were accomplished, but on a smaller scale.
Culling forums involves deleting dozens of web pages that
have no content (blank submissions, labeled by Front Page as “Article ###”),
vulgarity, request for a quick essay (two of the hazards of maintaining open
forums), as well as marginal or inadequate content. The table of contents usually needs to be changed manually,
including retitling submissions that are being kept in order to replace the
thread title with a title that captures the main idea of the submission.
Modules: Under the SOCKET grant, the 7-webpage instructional web on A Farewell to Arms added 40 more pages of objectives, sample materials, and worksheets for developing essays about a theme of the novel to support the objectives. (The actual time for making web pages was not directly supported by the SOCKET training grant, so it should be added to the 120 clock hours expended for this LearningWare grant.)
In addition, a new 27-page instructional web, not planned for this project, was added for studying Antigone, due to the interest of a class taught by one of the participating faculty. See: http://vccslitonline.cc.va.us/antigone/
Resources: The Antigone web includes an illustrated listing of 19 productions of the play that have placed materials about their staging, costuming, the story’s background, and more online with production stills. In addition, 9 adaptations based on Sophocles’ Antigone are also referenced with illustrations and annotations. See—
In addition, the research assignments for A Farewell to Arms contain many links for getting started. Of the 5 pages of research tasks in the Study Guide, see for example, the first page of the set at: http://vccslitonline.cc.va.us/afta/book_one.htm
Resources for teachers include an invitation to participate
in making materials for the website, plus ideas on teaching with Litonline. See: http://vccslitonline.cc.va.us/Teachers.htm
Organization: The materials at the Litonline site
are organized by type of literature—poems, short and long fiction, and drama.
Each type is introduced by an instructional module; other instructional
modules and forums are dedicated to individual works.
A sitemap for the whole site is very handy for navigation; each
instructional module has a sitemap to assist the nonlinear paging of users who
return to a site, as well as page-turning icons and a sitemap icon at the bottom
of each page. Writing tasks, such as study questions, are gathered into one
file linked on the sitemap in three formats--.doc, .rtf, and .txt.
All of this is part of the original design for the Litonline website,
which also included introductions for students on how to write about literature,
including emailing essays.
Interactivity: Litonline includes many forums, which
are interactive in that they give students a place to post detailed and
thoughtful responses to questions about individual works of literature.
The questions are not simple comprehension questions but those which
require re-reading and reflection. Many
instructional webs include a set of study questions that teachers can use to
check whether students understood the lessons of the module.
Often, there are one to three questions per webpage.
So writing is the chief means of interactivity.
Other design features meant to increase the appeal of
instructional (and sometimes discussion) webs include at least one illustration
(usually photographic, occasionally animated) per webpage.
At the moment, only one web uses sound recordings.
is a website of resources from which faculty may select instructional and
discussion webs. It is not a
course, per se.
Field Test: One summer ENG 112 class evaluated comments of previous students at a discussion forum for a play called Trifles. These evaluations assisted with archiving this forum.
Peer Review: One of the major activities of this grant period was gathering suggestions from reviewers and seeing their implications. Patterns in the comments by the three reviewers include these, which affect each of the hundreds of pages in Litonline:
an explanation of how VCCS Litonline fits the “10 Best Practices in Content
Development,” adapted from our application for this grant.
Recommendations 1 and 2 by the peer reviewers impact on navigation.
Revision: So far, peer reviewers’ comments have led to revisions of the “general,” or introductory, pages to eliminate some dead links and add to the pages “For Teachers.” The 4 patterns noted above are high-volume and would require on-going repair and maintenance. Reviewers did endorse the quilt visual metaphor that unites the pages on the Litonline website and gives users instant access to the Litonline cover page.
Lectora vs. Front Page: Just before the grant period, one of the grantees learned to use Lectora, and he will participate in the follow-up training in order to add Lectora features to Litonline. Lectora's "action" features allow showing and hiding of text associated with a picture, for instance, but it does not allow placing a hyperlink on a picture. Tables unfortunately go into textboxes, but pictures, text boxes, and other objects can be "locked" into position. So there are trade-offs for using Lectora vs. Front Page. Lectora, of course, cannot do discussion forums; it's specialty is multimedia features. So Lectora, like Front Page, can associate a sound or a music file with a page; unlike Front Page, Lectora can cause music, buttons, or any object to be "inherited" across an entire website or just a "chapter" (set of pages) within a website, as well as a single page. As an experiment, one of the grantees used Lectora to make a different version of the Antigone productions page that makes text associated with a photo visible when users place their mouse arrow on the photo. See the link at--
Students in the ENG 112 class who reviewed the Trifles
forum comments all seemed to have some computer know-how and access to
computers, even if they didn’t have one at their own residence.
Access speed was never an issue, so it may be time to add more
instructive uses of animation, sound, and even video to selected Litonline
pages. The same grantee just
finished a photography course and attended a workshop on instructional uses of
Figuring out how to archive materials being deleted from a
discussion forum turned out to be a bit more creative than just performing the
dull routine of deleting a page and adjusting the table of contents.
For instance, many of the screaming emergency messages from uncommitted
students requesting instant essays actually contained essay topics from teachers
around the country. Some of these
have been preserved as essay topics or study questions.
Contact Eric Hibbison at firstname.lastname@example.org
for comments about this report or Litonline.
Though no formal presentation is planned for the next English Peer
Conference, some recruiting for monitors for single webs will occur there.
A copy of this report will be placed on the Litonline site, linked to the
section “For Teachers.”
listed in the “Abstract” of this final report, quite a bit of good work got
done, though renovating the entire site of nearly 3 dozen webs was not possible.
More work was suggested by reviewers for smoothing out navigation and for
Budget: 120+ hours for two 3-credit summer stipends seems like a lot of time on task for the dollars. More important, however, this project showed the perspectives of students and peer reviewers to Litonline; reaction was almost universally favorable regarding the usefulness of the website. The major instant benefit is an increase in the quality of Litonline; in the future, maintenance, improvement, and expansion may occur.