Rethinking The Academy:

Possibilities and Problems

There are certainly both possibilities and problems we must face in the creation of an electronic or virtual department. Chief among these are the new opportunities for teaching afforded by the use of electronic media. We can begin teaching and learning about the use of HTML, of other forms of electronic text and of the relationships between our use of these new forms and our pedagogies.

Meanwhile, our students can benefit from the use of MOO's and of interactive chat programs like IRC and those included in programs like Daedalus as students who have been silent in our classrooms suddenly find a voice through typing. These technologies can also benefit those who are differently abled: the student who has been unable to attend class as a result of limited mobility can now attend via virtual means; the student with a hearing loss can now be on exactly the same foot as the other students in a class.

However, we must not overlook the fact that these technologies bring with them difficulties and problems. We must continue to research the connections between the use of synchronous communication programs and the level and quality of a classroom discussion held via such programs. We must look into the effects of gatecrashing in MOO's, an open environment in which anyone can join in any conversation and where such communication is open to the entire Internet. Composition scholars must continue to question the standards of writing produced for the Net and for the Web - what exactly makes a good academic hypertext and how do we judge such materials? What impact do graphics have on web writing and how should we assess student efforts to produce graphics? How do we ourselves become talented enough graphics designers to teach web design?

Finally, we must analyze and understand the implications for teaching in electronic environments - what is electronic pedagogy and how must our teaching change to reflect the realities of life in cyberspace?

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Last Modified: August 2, 1996

Copyright 1996 by Keith Dorwick