Beyond the Internet Syllabus
Methods to Enhance Classroom Learning on the World Wide Web

Michael A. Russell
AC 2596
503 491-7348



This proposal will outline several methods to enhance classroom learning using the World Wide Web (hereafter "Web"). Dynamic methods include JavaScript self-graded tutorials, the Discus bulletin board system, and a "Drills and Practice" set of problems. Other methods to enhance student learning on the Web are discussed. The formatting and posting of handouts, quiz answers, etc. on the Web is explained. A method of accepting papers and laboratory reports using Microsoft Word 97's editing protocols is discussed. Finally, for students with limited exposure to the Internet, a sample "introductory laboratory assignment" is provided which initiates students to the myriad wonders of the on-line world.

Note that this document may be viewed on the World Wide Web:


I. Project Goals and Innovation Criteria
II. Project Goals and TLC Directives
III. Criteria for the Evaluation of Project Goals
IV. Sharing Results with Colleagues
V. Timeline for Completion
VI. Grant Budget Summary
VII. Personal Comment

I. Project Goals and Innovation Criteria:

This proposal has been divided into the following goals:

Dynamic Project Goals

Other Project Goals

Dynamic goals indicate a modality where direct interactivity with the student is facilitated - the student can input their data and see the immediate result. Other goals use both interactive and passive modalities to facilitate student learning.

Each proposal shall be discussed separately.

JavaScript Self-Guided Tutorials

Students enjoy using recently learned concepts before being assessed as to their comprehension. A method particularly suited to Web-based learning is the JavaScript Self-Guided Tutorial. JavaScript is a language used by Web browsers (Netscape and Internet Explorer) to add a level of dynamic interactivity not available through normal "text-based" Web language (namely HTML, the HyperText Markup Language.) I am developing a methodology which allows students to "quiz themselves" using a multiple-choice answer guide. The student picks the answer they think is correct, and after pushing a button they discover the answer. In this JavaScript methodology, the instructor never discovers who has been using the tutorial nor the results of the tutorial - this is a "stress free" student working environment with no academic consequences.

The JavaScript methodology will allow anyone who is capable of using a text editor to write custom JavaScript tutorials to be placed on the web using a template (i.e. an example of a working tutorial) and replacing appropriate sections. Once on the Web, a browser (Netscape or Internet Explorer) can be used to activate the tutorial. Application is easy and straightforward, and the results should be quite beneficial to the student.

Discus Bulletin Board System

How often have most instructors wondered what their students were "really thinking" on some subject of importance? The Discus Bulletin Board System is a tool to allow you to find out, to see what makes your students "tick" and to get their opinions on any subject you wish to broach.

Discus is available for free at Installation is straightforward, but it does require some knowledge of Web CGI scripting (CGI = common gateway interface). Once installed, the "administrator" (usually the professor) can post questions concerning a variety of topics, and students can respond to the question. Students can post anonymously is they wish, allowing for safety if a topic is particularly susceptible to conflict.

I am attempting to integrate Discus into my classroom activities, making it a part of my curriculum. I hope to discover the opinions of my students in a non-threatening medium through Discus, and I believe it has great promise.

"Drills and Practice" Problems

The multiple choice question format used in tests has built-in limitations. If the JavaScript modality does not apply itself to a set of concepts, the "Drills and Practice" type problems might fill the need of the instructor to offer a non-threatening workplace for students to test their knowledge without academic reprisals. The "Drills and Practice" problems are also based on the JavaScript browser language, and they allow for precise mathematical quantities to be entered and compared to the correct answer. For example, if you wish to test on temperature conversions between the Kelvin and Celsius scale, it is possible to build a script that asks the student to enter an appropriate value of Kelvins corresponding to a specific Celsius temperature. For the student, utilizing such a program is easy: they simply point their Web browser to an appropriate location and begin the drill. When their question has been entered, they press a button to see the result of their work.

"Drills and Practice" problems are more complex and difficult to create than the JavaScript tutorials, but they are possible. I hope to outline a few guidelines for constructing Drill and Practice problems and show some examples of successful applications of this methodology.

Posting of Handouts, Quiz Answers, etc. on the Web

Students using the capabilities of the Web for learning need passive learning tools as well as the dynamic learning tools discussed above. In addition to posting an "Internet Syllabus", the Web-savvy instructor can post handouts, summaries, lecture notes, sample quizzes, quiz answers, grades, and more on the Web using simple editing tools. Methods to facilitate such a transition from paper-based products to electronically transferred Web documents will be outlined, and several hints will be offered on how to avoid common pitfalls in this area.

Paperless Reports using Microsoft Word 97

With a world population exceeding 6 billion, we must conserve resources more than ever before if we are to maintain a standard of living decent to the next generation. In this spirit, I am developing a methodology for students to submit papers and laboratory reports electronically using Microsoft Word 97's built-in editing tools. The instructor can add comments, replace text and awkward prose, highlight key topics and even score the paper at the end using the protocol I am developing. Both Macintosh and PC versions of Word are accepted, and students using non-Word 97 can output their text as RTF (rich text format) or Word 6.0 with minimal compromise.

An Introductory Internet Exercise

If students in your classes have experienced limited exposure to the Internet, you may wish to provide a self-guided tutorial for them to learn about the mysteries and capabilities of the World Wide Web. I am developing a tutorial that addresses these concerns and allows the student to learn the basic foundations of contemporary Internet culture with minimal discomfort. The tutorial can be offered as a graded exercise or a self-guided worksheet depending on the needs of the instructor. The details of this project will be discussed and explained, and an example of the tutorial will be included in the report.


II. Project Goals and TLC Directives:

The project goals discussed in Section I, above, fit well into the Teaching and Learning Cooperative's two primary directives.

Directive #1, "Developing and sustaining a system supportive of effective teaching and learning, with the emphasis on student learning", is followed absolutely in each of the project goals listed above. The Web offers student learning in methodologies unparalleled within the history of teaching. Student opportunities for learning can be increased dramatically using the dynamic methods of on-line quiz and tutorial testing. These methods are non-threatening (no student outcomes are provided to the instructor) and facilitate an "experimenting arena" for the students to explore the depth of their knowledge without the formality of a quiz or exam (and its academic penalties).

Directive #2, "Ensuring that effective teaching and learning methods supported by the TLC have broad application and are disseminated throughout the MHCC teaching and learning community", will be followed closely as well. All of my protocols and instructions are available free of charge to any learning community that wishes them, be they from Mt. Hood Community College or elsewhere. I will be sharing my results with my colleagues through a written paper, a web site ( and possibly a presentation on the MHCC campus. I am always available for comment and questions.


III. Criteria for the Evaluation of Project Goals:

During the last week of Fall Term 1999 I will be distributing a Feedback form to my students asking for their comments and opinions on the various programs instituted via the Internet. Results will be available by early 2000. In addition, I shall seek the feedback of my colleagues who have utilized these protocols for their own use.


IV. Sharing Results with Colleagues:

A presentation will be arranged as early as Winter Term 2000 to interested faculty and staff regarding the various doctrines explained in the "Project Goals" section, above. A formal paper outlining the specific details of the project shall be created and distributed to interested parties. A web site for my proposal ( will contain these documents as well as any other pertinent information. In addition, I can always be reached for personal consultation either through electronic mail ( or telephone (503 491 7348).

V. Timeline for Completion:

All of the plans outlined in the Project Goals section will be complete by January 31, 2000. The results of the project will be available for colleagues by mid-February 2000.

VI. Grant Budget Summary:



Materials and Supplies: $300



The "Personnel" section includes compensation for the time spent acclimating the procedures to an academic environment and testing their methodology on a viable population of students. The "Materials and Supplies" section includes the purchase of books on JavaScript, Perl and other Web-based programming languages. Given the importance of student learning as expressed by instructors and the community in addition to the TLC's commitment to effective teaching and learning, the rewards of this project make it worth funding.

VII. Personal Comment:

I appreciate your time in considering my request. If I can answer any questions that this paper does not address, please feel free to contact me using the information given below. Thank you for your time,


Michael Russell, Ph.D.
(503) 491-7348

Return to the TLC Proposal Homepage.

Questions about this material should be addressed to the author,
Dr. Michael A. Russell,
Professor of Chemistry at
Mt. Hood Community College
Gresham, Oregon

Last Updated on October 13, 1999