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Professors Use World Wide Web as a Teaching Tool

By Sam Hartman

Many Institute academic departments, and a few classes in particular, are actively using the World Wide Web, a hypermedia-based global information exchange that allows Internet users to browse and publish information integrating text, video, images, and sound.

On the World Wide Web, also known as the Web, information providers can create pages or multimedia documents for other users to access. These documents can contain textual "links" to several other related documents or other information sources. The linked documents can be located on the same computer as the original page or anywhere else on the Internet.

The flexibility inherent in the structure of the Web is useful in education because, for example, it can allow faculty to easily publish graphics they plan to use in lecture, according to Kate M. Livingston, faculty liaison for the Academic Computing Services division of Information Systems.

ACS is holding a forum Nov. 7 so that faculty members can gain experience in publishing information using the Web, Livingston said.

Academics on the Web

All but four academic departments have Web projects, Livingston said. "Many currently have departmental home pages under way or are thinking about how they can [present] them in their courses," she said. A home page is the starting or root page in a linked series of pages.

Several professors are already using the Web to supplement their classroom instruction, Livingston said. Professor of Physics John W. Belcher, who teaches Electricity and Magnetism II (8.07), uses the Web to present animations of physical processes for his class.

"The professor felt that the students were concentrating so much on the formulas that they weren't able to understand the magnetic principles," Livingston said.

In previous years, Belcher demonstrated the animations in class, Livingston said. "Students didn't have access to these materials out of class," she said. Because they are now on the Web, the animations are available from all Athena Computing Environment workstations, from students' dormitories or living groups, or from anywhere on the Internet.

The Department of Chemistry is also making use of the Web, Livingston said. The Principles of Chemical Science (5.11) page includes problem sets, solutions, and old tests, she said.

"The move [within the chemistry department] has generally been to put more material onto Athena," said Joseph W. Barco '95, the teaching assistant responsible for the 5.11 Web page. "Last year they had lecture notes in Postscript format. When Mosaic [a popular program used to access WWW information] came along, it seemed a lot easier for the general individual to handle."

Barco said that the page is useful to students. "If someone loses or misplaces lecture notes, they have a second resource," he said. Also, "putting the exams online saves the department xeroxing costs," he said.

MIT's official Web page

IS decided last spring to establish "an official MIT home page [a starting point on the Web] that would point to all the schools, departments, and services offered by MIT," according to Suzana T. Lisanti, campus wide information system facilitator for IS.

Lisanti said that since its creation, the MIT home page has grown in popularity so that it now receives requests from as many as 11,000 computers around the Internet in one day.

The Web page was established because "MIT wants to make information more readily available to the internal MIT community, as well as to the outside world," Lisanti said.

Lisanti said that MIT's WWW presence also increases the visibility of MIT to those who might want to work with the university or provide funding.