quiltlef.gif (8176 bytes) VCCS Litonline Introduction to Literature
English 112 (English Composition II)

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

Summer, 2002

Renovating VCCS Litonline

Grantees

Eric P. Hibbison, Chair, Midcentral RCTE; Webmaster, VCCS Litonline

Rick Dollieslager, Chair, Tidewater RCTE

Reviewers (all from the Thomas Nelson CC English Dept.)—

Tom Long

Vic Thompson

Michael Weiser

Abstract: 

Planned

Accomplished

Cull and archive the 18 existing forums.

Began or completed culling 6 forums; archived 1.

Add 3 modules and student materials to web on A Farewell to Arms.

Done under SOCKET grant.

Obtain 3 reviews of Litonline from VCCS ENG faculty.

Done.  They had many valuable suggestions about design and navigation.

 

Made new instructional web for Antigone with help of JSRCC ENG 112 class.

 

Revised several pages of the Litonline “general” (introductory) web, especially pages for faculty.

 

Recommended all or part of the Litonline site to be listed at 2 other Webs on history or literature.

 

Grantees logged over 120 clock hours of work, not including reviewers’ hours.

URL = http://vccslitonline.cc.va.us/

Timeline:  All 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—

http://vccslitonline.cc.va.us/antigone/productions.htm  and

http://vccslitonline.cc.va.us/antigone/adaptations.htm

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.

Delivery:  Litonline is a website of resources from which faculty may select instructional and discussion webs.  It is not a course, per se. 

Evaluation

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:

  1. To aid navigation, put word tags under page turning icons on every page of Litonline, since the icons are not intuitive and the mouseover tags aren’t visible to beginner computer users.
  2. Set “open in new browser” as the default for off-site links and for links from the sitemap, so the sitemap could always be open for each instructional web.
  3. Many dead links have occurred over the last 5 years.  To handle these would require one or both of these methods:
    1. Do a Google metasearch for each instructional web to replace outdated links with new ones or to correct broken links.
    2. Archive offsite materials that are important links—with copyright/contact information in case the material is removed so permission can be obtained to post the archived copy.
  4. Because of the size of Litonline, various ENG faculty across the VCCS should be recruited to monitor instructional webs for dead links and discussion webs for empty or vulgar submissions (all entries are dated automatically).

Quality Assurance:  See http://vccslitonline.cc.va.us/10_best.htm, an explanation of how VCCS Litonline fits the “10 Best Practices in Content Development,” adapted from our application for this grant.

Usability Testing:  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.

Expertise

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--

http://vccslitonline.cc.va.us/antigone/productions.htm

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 camcorder video. 

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 ehibbison@jsr.vccs.edu 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.” 

Bottom Lines

Results:  As 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 updating links.

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.

Click the purple quilt piece on
each root page to go to the Litonline sitemap.