Abstract: "Rethinking the Survey Course for the Internet: The University of Texas Experience"

Christopher Miller, University of Texas, Pan American

While new (and oft-styled "revolutionary") technologies have been incorporated into teaching throughout human history, only the Gutenberg revolution, with the introduction of mass literacy, has had the impact on teaching and learning that the Internet pro mises to deliver. While dimensions of oral culture-face-to-face learning-survived the proliferation of books, cognitive theorists like A. R. Luria and Lev Vygotskii have suggested that the structure of knowledge changed dramatically following Gutenberg; p eople quite literally thought differently. Recently Judith Boettcher of the Corporation for Research and Educational Networking has predicted a similar cognitive reorganization in the wake of what we might call the Berners-Lee revolution.1

If there is any truth to Boettcher's perceptions, teaching to an audience on the Internet will have to consist of more than migrating traditional teaching strategies out of classroom space and into cyberspace. We will, instead, have to fundamentally rethi nk our whole conception of what knowledge looks like and how best to develop and impart it. Along the way, we will have to face many questions that most of us have been able to avoid; by teaching our classes more or less as we were taught, we have not had to question what we have been teaching or, more significantly, why.

These are among the challenges that I have had to face in the process of developing a United States history survey course for the statewide University of Texas System, which hopes to reach students for whom traditional residential college courses-face-to- face learning-are out of reach. This is to be true "distance learning" in that there will be no classroom component, no conventional teaching whatsoever. However those who have been selected to develop its curriculum have been instructed that this is not to be "correspondence" learning. Rather we have been challenged to deliver at least the same quality of learning that students would receive face-to-face in what is, after all, a faceless environment. Our intent is to take the Berners-Lee Revolution face on.

By the time that the American Historical Association meets in January 2001, I will have completed my initial efforts in creating a new survey approach geared to the way knowledge looks in a post Berners-Lee world and will have taken the first cohort of st udents through it. My presentation will focus on the strategies that I will have incorporated-both the familiar and the unfamiliar-and recount the outcomes both in terms of student performance and course function. 1 Judith Boettcher, "What Does Knowledge Look Like and How Can We Help It Grow," Syllabus 13(2) (September, 1999), 64-65. I am styling the present overturning of cognitive strategies the "Berners-Lee Revolution" after Timothy Berners-Lee, who is often cre dited as the "father" of the World Wide Web.