Collaborative Campus: Rhetoric, Technology and Classroom Re-Composition

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Lissa Holloway-Attaway

    Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)

  2. 2. Angela Mitchell

    University of Georgia

  3. 3. Laura Andrews

    University of Georgia

  4. 4. Christy Desmet

    University of Georgia

  5. 5. Greg VanHoosier-Carey

    Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)

  6. 6. Patricia Worrall

    Gainesville College

Work text
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Our group proposes to demonstrate the technologies, methodologies, and assessment criteria used to develop a University System of Georgia grant-funded, multi-campus distance education project. The project, initiated in September 1999, links faculty and students on three campuses in a collaborative first year writing course through the use of synchronous and asynchronous Internet-based applications. The three schools participating in the project are uniquely diverse in student population and institutional and disciplinary objectives: Gainesville College (a two-year liberal arts school), the University of Georgia (a four-year liberal arts research university), and Georgia Institute of Technology (a four-year technical/engineering institute). The virtual learning community created with the technologies enables students to conduct group discussions, complete critical reading and writing assignments, and design hypertext research projects. The students' practical experience using these collaborative writing tools is reinforced by the course content: a cultural analysis of scientific and technological rhetorical representations. Using fiction, non-fiction, film, and new media, students explore how cultural perceptions of identity and community are transformed by innovative theories of "progress." In our presentation, we will 1) discuss the project's disciplinary and pedagogical objectives, 2) demonstrate the synchronous and asynchronous collaborative environments used to facilitate group discussion, conduct research, and implement hypertext documents, 3) discuss the methods used to promote the desired collaboration via these tools, and 4) present the preliminary results from our assessment of the course.

Collaborative Campus was motivated by our interest in exploring more efficient and pedagogically effective technologies for hybrid conventional/distance learning education, specifically for technology-infused writing courses. Developed in Fall Semester 1999 and delivered and assessed in Spring and Summer 2000, the project is one that promises to extend recent developments in technology and humanities research. Currently, a significant amount of the university interest in educational technology is being directed towards distance education initiatives. This is a mixed blessing for many of us in the computers and writing community. On the one hand, it can mean increased funding for equipment and for teaching initiatives focused on integrating computing technology into current curricula. On the other hand, it often requires vigilance in resisting the delivery-oriented, technology-based format that has become commonplace in many distance education courses. Although many humanities instructors have experience teaching with technology that promotes collaboration, the reality is that much of the current technology is either not technically suited or not sufficiently robust to facilitate distance education writing courses. Furthermore, the relationship between learning and pedagogy in local computer lab classrooms vs. delivery in virtual environments has been insufficiently explored. At present programs, such as Daedalus, are not internet-capable, and text-based environments, such as MOOs, are not conducive to modes of collaboration beyond informal conversation. In order to conduct truly collaborative computer-intensive writing courses in campus labs and in virtual classrooms, we need both tools and methods suited to this more dispersed teaching arrangement.

Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Literature, Communication, and Culture (LCC) has been committed to researching and developing technologies that will promote collaboration and increase rhetorical skills in both local and distance learning environments. From 1996-1999, the Pilot Writing Program in Electronic Environments enabled faculty and students to explore in increasing depth the use of Internet technologies in the humanities. Faculty working in LCC, including those in the New Media Center for Education and Research and in the Information Design and Technology graduate program, worked in the Pilot Program to develop strategies that combined pedagogical interests with technological development. Using the Pilot Program as a model and extending it to include a larger institutional community, the Collaborative Campus project continues to refine the use and design of educational technologies in computer lab and distance learning settings. Although Gainesville College and the University of Georgia had clearly established technologies in the writing classroom as a priority and had technical/pedagogical support services in place for faculty, our project allows for the continuing development of effective tools and teaching methods for computer-intensive education. The project faculty, teaching a diverse student population on each of the University System of Georgia campuses, is positioned to provide a broad spectrum of experience about the effectiveness of educational technologies in humanities courses and to advise others interested in developing interdisciplinary technology-infused curricula.

The collaborative writing technologies utilized by project participants (140 students and 7 faculty) support a variety of rhetorical and pedagogical purposes, while challenging the students to adapt their communication styles to the distinct capabilities of each. TechLINC, our custom-designed synchronous application, is a virtual campus with classrooms, design studios, and "outdoor" meeting spaces that adapts the Palace software, a popular Internet graphical chat environment, to the educational needs of our project. Like much of the traditional collaboration software used in writing courses, TechLINC allows students to conduct and log synchronous discussions; however, whereas most other programs work only on local-area networks, TechLINC is accessible from any computer on the Internet. Thus it facilitates the multi-campus collaboration necessary among project participants. More importantly, TechLINC radically changes the nature of distance collaboration by augmenting text-based discussions with visual and audio resources. TechLINC's ability to interface with web browsers and multimedia Internet applications allows students simultaneously to access web pages or to hear and see streaming audio and video as they conduct their discussions. These capabilities, in turn, make it possible for students, in real-time and at a distance, to do joint Internet research, collaboratively develop web pages, or listen and discuss a recorded news program or interview. They also provide a means for distance collaboration between instructors and students. Instructors teaching with TechLINC each have a virtual office in which they can meet with students to review assignments. Because of TechLINC's ability to interface with web browsers, instructors and students can also jointly examine and discuss assignments uploaded to the Web, or to Web Crossing, our asynchronous application. Web Crossing allows students to respond in threaded discussions to study questions, post drafts for collaborative peer-review, and link to Internet sites that document their research or preview their own hypertext projects. Because Web Crossing is accessible through a Web Browser, requiring no specialized software, it provides a very cost-efficient means for providing students with collaborative writing and research opportunities. As a counter-point to the more informal discussions generated in TechLINC, Web Crossing archives the real-time discussions of the chat application and provides a more structured electronic environment to post extended responses to critical reading, writing, and design-related issues.

Successfully integrating technology and teaching is a primary objective for the project participants, and the course content, along with the writing, on-line research, and hypertext design assignments were developed in conjunction with evaluative criteria to measure student learning using different pedagogic modes suited to each technology. Assessment methodologies, including pre- and post-course surveys, focus groups, and independent writing evaluations by non-participating teaching faculty will critique a number of areas relevant to collaborative computing technologies and rhetorical studies: synchronous vs. asynchronous communication styles, the rhetorical capabilities of hypertext vs. conventional essay writing, and student attitudes about technology as a writing and research tool. In general, the project is designed to foster among students a more rigorous imperative for discovering how electronic writing is used to communicate disciplinary content, while providing faculty with precise data to measure student success in diverse electronic environments.

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Conference Info

In review


Hosted at University of Glasgow

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

July 21, 2000 - July 25, 2000

104 works by 187 authors indexed

Affiliations need to be double-checked.

Conference website:

Series: ALLC/EADH (27), ACH/ICCH (20), ACH/ALLC (12)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None