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Reflections (HCW BLog)


December 2016: The Psychology of Video Games is always fun. This last semester was no exception. The interesting games last semester were Pokémon Go and Overwatch. We got the Playstation 4 VR system in the lab with a sample of games. A number of the students participated in some play testing and filled out questionnaires on simulator sickness (SSQ) and virtual reality systems (VRSQ). They really enjoyed it and there were no real problems.

The seminar on Cyberpsychology was fun with ten graduate students. The demographics of the group was interesting: 2 Americans, 8 Asian/Indian. I got the page proofs for the second edition of the textbook, so I provided pdfs of them for the readings. Having students write in-class overviews of the chapters at the beginning of class helped to make sure that students were up on their readings and reviewing them in class helped to focus the discussions.

I am now entering into my last year of teaching before I retire. This will be my last go around through my favorite courses!


June 2016: Not much new in Cyberpsychology, except that June 1st, I totally the manuscript for the second edition and submitted it to Cambridge University Press, 853 pages double-spaced, 158 illustrations, and 50 tables!

The Psychology of Social Media and Social Computing was switched from being an Honors class, to a special seminar in psychology and taught in a regular classroom rather than in the PLS Teaching Theater. It worked out well. We did a lot more show-and-tell of the new issues and new social media sites.


January 2016: For years I have toyed with the idea of "gamifying" (as much as I hate the term) the Psychology of Video Games. So in the Fall Semester of 2015, I finally jumped into it. Essentially, in the spirit of Zelda, I added jars with gems in the lecture notes, treasure chests with knowledge bits (terms to know for the exams), and Easter Eggs peppered throughout the HyperCoursware materials. All students could pick up the Rupees and open the treasure chests but only the first or first X students could get the eggs. Participation varied a lot among the students. Some students were very engaged in finding everything and others were not. I posted a list of items found and a leaderboard showing all items found. At the end of the semester, I correlated the total game points with exam scores. There was a slight positive, non-significant correlation, meaning pretty much nothing. Even if it had been significant, it could not be concluded that gamification led to higher test scores. Some students, wanted the game points to count for something, like extra credit points. I resisted that idea. Maybe next time, I will add a store in which students can buy weapons and abilities. My fear is that gamification actually distracts from learning the material and merely adds more clicks to the interface.

The graduate seminar on Cyberpsychology was great. I had the students review draft chapters for the new Wiley Handbook for Human-Computer Interaction. They also reviewed the chapters for the second edition of Cyberpsychology including the new chapters on virtual and augmented reality and cybersecurity.


May 2015: Cyberpsychology (Psyc 444) was again a blast! Student group projects focused on umd.edu websites, in the classroom, user experience, cybersecurity fears, and self-identity with umd.edu. HCI is rapidly moving into Generation 3: mobile and wearable interfaces. Cybersecurity is the great fear that we do little about. The Internet-of-Things is becoming massive! Virtual reality is just on the brink of happening! Well, don't hold your breath.

The Psychology of Social Media and Social Computing was also great! More projects on Facebook and viral trends. The Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a new psycho-techno-stress. Facebook has aged! All the web is a social space. Where do we hide to be alone?


January 2015: I spent a lot of the summer upgrading the server for cognitron. This required changing the file structure of HyperCrouseware and that entailed changing a large number of path names and some javascript. Fun!

The Psychology of Video Games was again too much fun. The games covered this semester were: Pokemon, Sonic, Uncharted, Tetris (the team dressed up a tetris shapes), Batman Arkam City, NBA 2K Series, Sims Freeplay, Destiny, and Twitch (not a game but a site streaming video game play).

The graduate seminar was Psyc 799, Human Performance Theory, really Cyberpsycholgy. I actually used the class to get ideas about what should be dropped, changed and added for the 2nd Edition of Cyberpsychology. Definitely drop "PDA." Anyway, that was very helpful.


June 2014: Cyberpsychology (Psyc 444) was going great with the constant challenge of updating the material to stay current with emerging technologies. Some material is timeless, but other material changes with new mobile and touch technologies. Again I hit this class with a lot of pop quizzes. For a number of semesters, I have been fascinated with the answers on the final exam to the question: "What was the most interesting thing and what was useful thing that you learned in the class?" The answers to first part are usually all over the map, but for the second the most frequent answer is learning html!

The real problem with Psyc 444 did not emanate from within, but from without. May 7th, I was was informed by my chair that the website cognitron.umd.edu had been hacked. The student's passwords had been compromised and one student's grades downloaded. The hacker was not Anonymous, LuulzSec, The Turkish Hackers, or even Edward Snowden, but was an unnamed undergraduate student in the course CMSC 498N: "Cybersecurity: Keeping Maryland Secure." He was fulfilling a course assignment to find a victim umd.edu site and evaluate its security by hacking into it. Here's copy of his report. I was outraged and filed a formal complaint to University Officials. Here's the copy of the complaint. We will see what the ultimate outcome is... Meanwhile I increased the student's passwords to 12 characters. They were not happy!

My other course was fun, Honr 288Q: The Psychology of Social Networking and Social Computing. This year we did a frequency count on the most popular social media sites week by week from the student journals. Of course, Facebook was number one, but you will surprised at some of the other cites that appeared in the list and their changes through the semester. You can see the table here.


January 2014: Once again, it is amazing to teach or be taught by Psyc 445: The Psychology of Video Games. Each cadre of students brights new light, new experiences, and new perspectives to gaming. We reviewed a new set of games: CANDY CRUSH SAGA, FALLOUT NEW VEGAS,FIFA 13/14, Final Fantasy VII, LEAGUE OF LEGENDS, MARIO KART (Nintendo Wii), MORTAL KOMBAT, and SUPER MARIO 64, and THE LAST OF US. We were amazed at the addictiveness of Candy Crush Saga, now earning over a million dollars a day!

On the pedagogical side, I hit them pretty hard with pop quizes, and had to write a program (Javascript) to snag their 10 best scores out of 15. The wiki continued to work well, but I need to constantly remind them to check in so that I can track individual contributions to the group projects. By the way, one of the projects was so interesting that I reported the results at Magfest this year.

In the second course, Psyc 798J / Inst 728E: Graduate Seminar and Undergraduate Special Topics: Doing Psychological Research on the Internet: Issues and Methods, we maxed out with 15 students! Oddly enough, all of the students were from programs other than psychology! The course worked will with a combination of mini-lectures and student presentations/discussions of the readings, 2-3 per week. This semester, we also got into Qualtrics as well as using my own server for online surveys and experiments. A number of the projects served as pilots for student's subsequent work on masters theses.


June 2013: This last semester was a lot of fun in Psyc 444: Cyberpsychology. I am realizing that this course is like teaching all in one course the history leading up to where we are in both technology and psychology and current events in both fields. Technology is giving us new gester interfaces (I am still waiting for my LeapMotion) and super-mobile computing. Psychology is giving us brain imaging and positive approaches. The fun is staying current across the board while not being in my twenties or thirties anymore by a long shot.

The fun continued in Honr 288Q: The Psychology of Social Networking and Social Computing. Here again, it is amazing to see how the social networking landscape has changed in just one year! Who can keep up with the number of social networking sites popping up (and dropping out). And of course the academic research is burgeoning. This semester I was able to introduce NodeXL to the class. Most of the students were able to follow along through a short tutorial project, but didn't do much else with it except one student who did an ambitious project involving number mode and number of followers in Twitter.

In both courses, the student projects were again great and hosted mostly on the course wiki. However, I am finding more students using Google Docs for teamwork, which does not allow me as easy access to their constributions as does my own system. Maybe with the recent revelations about NSA and the PRISM program, I can scare them off.

On the techy side, I had a major server hard disk crash in the middle of the semester. Not a good time. But thanks to a sort of parallel system, an extra 3 TB hard drive sitting around, and TimeMachine backups, I only had about 6 hours of down time. Also, on the geeky side, I am slowly CSS'ing HyperCourseware.


January 2013: Another great semester teaching Psyc445: The Psychology of Video Games. This semester the team projects focused on the genres of video games, a very difficult issue. I finally implemented 10 pop quizzes to keep the students on task, but in actuality I did not factor the results into the grades. No one complained about that! This was the sixth semester of collecting video game journals! Now we are in the process of analyzing them,

Psyc789 on Doing Psychological Research on the Internet was very productive. We focused the projects on generating surveys and test instruments for Realmsend.umd.edu. The idea was to create a site where gamers could register and fill out surveys about themselves and then about video games. It still needs to go rampant, but hopefully soon.


May 2012: This was a very busy and productive semester for HCW. My crashing problems were an easy fix actually upgrading from FMPro 6.0 to 6.1. But that is still in the Ice Ages. So I am now upgrading to FMPro 12 Servers on both Cognitron.umd.edu and Lap.umd.edu. But this will involve a lot of recoding from the old FMP Command Language to pHp. So far it is going slowing and some databases are on both the old and the new. I taught Psyc444, Cyberpsychology again. Not too much new here except for pushing more involvement with the wiki. I had the Project Teams upload surveys and their final presentations to a team page that I had set up. In the future, I will force them onto this wiki rather than Googledocs, etc.

The second course was really fun, Honr228q: The Psychology of Social Networking and Social Computing. It was a whole new course preparation on my part with new supporting textbook so it was a lot of work. I had to come up with a reasonable list and organization of topics to study and do a lot of literature review and web trolling for material and readings. But it went very well in my opinion. The students had to keep a weekly online journal in HyperCouresware on all of their social networking activities. I will analyzing some of that data this summer. Students develop consistent and unique networking habits. Some were very effective and efficient. Others not so much. The team projects also involved online experiments or surveys. They gave PowerPoint presentations and also wrote a group paper. The paper was a really good feature to back up the PowerPoint presentation with real words and references. These were all uploaded to the wiki. Finally, they had to do an individual project on social networking using social networking. I really didn't give them very good specifics or grading criteria so it was very vague for them and vague for me as to how to assign grades and what to look for. After going through all of the projects twice it started to gell. I may even write a paper about it. What are the criteria for a written paper? Number of words, organization, writing ability, strength of arguments, references, etc. What are the criteria for a blog? For a Twitter stream? I am pretty far along on a method of evaluation and spreadsheet for scoring.


December 2011: This Fall I taught Psyc 445 in the PLS teaching theater and Psyc 779 Human-Computer Interaction in the OIT teaching theater. Things were really bad at first. The FileMaker Pro database was crashing all the time. I got pretty adept at restarting it via Remote Desktop. I explored a lot of possible reasons and ramped up my efforts to switch over to FileMaker Pro 11.0. Finally, I found that when I switched machines for the HCW server, I accidentally installed FileMaker Pro 6.0 instead of 6.4. Now it works great. But I have slowed my efforts to upgrade everything to 11.0 server. But I did switch the Media file! Not a lot of improvements to HCW otherwise. But I have been using the Wiki a lot for team projects, scheduling sessions, etc. Next, I should insist that the students use the wiki for the study group rather than GoggleDocs. One of the students in Psyc 779 did a project on evaluating HyperCourseware. You may see some of these changes next semester.


May 2011: I would swear there were some intervening posts since December 2009. I will have to check on Time Machine. But here we are. All I can add is that Spring 2010, I enjoyed teaching Psyc 602, the graduate level second semester forcing the students onto my new Wiki for their presentations. And in the Fall of 2010, I had a double header with Psyc 444 Cyberpsychology and Psyc 445 Video Games. Both classes did online projects with surveys, etc. I did not do too much with Wikis for these classes. This Spring I am on sabbatical at the Human Factors Research Group at University College Cork, Ireland. This is actually the first time that I am totally connected online, which is not a good thing when one has to deal with all of the emails and responsibilities back home and abroad. Oh well.


December 2009: Not to be too dramatic, but here we are at the end of the decade. Cognitron and HyperCourseware have survived and struggle into the next decade. The Mac OS X server is working wonderfully and I am now exploring setting up wikis and blogs for the Spring Semester. I still have not upgraded the FileMaker Pro database and transitioned CMLD to pHp, but someday. A number of minor improvements occurred this Fall Semester which I will not go into. Psyc 445 was taught the first time as an approved course. The wait list was as long as the class roster. The result was that there were a number of students in the course that were just interested in getting into a 400 level course for Department requirements and not that interested in video games. In the future, this must be turned into an asset. Psyc 309J/709J was a cross listed course (undergraduate and graduate student) on the use of the Internet for research in psychology. Last time it was more of a reading seminar. This time it was a mix of lecture and discussion and lab. We basically assisted the teams in Psyc 445 to construct and run the surveys online.


July 2009: Once again, a two year lag in reflecting upon Hypercourseware and digital teaching. Psyc 444 is going well with my Cyberpsychology book. Pretty much the same projects on Facebook, online relationships, etc. The big news is that Psyc 309V, The Psychology of Video Games and Entertainment has been approved as a regular course Psyc 445. This course is really fun. Check out the materials. On the technology side, I have switched from the aging Webstar server to a full Mac OS X Server. Very sweet, but a lot of work switch over and new particulars to learn.


December 2007: Wow, it has two years since my last entry. A lot has happened. In Psyc 443, Thinking and Problem Solving, I have required students to edit Wikipedia articles and teams to write complete articles for Wikipedia. This has generated about 12 articles. Psyc 309, Cyberpsychology has been approved as a new course, Psyc 444 and now uses a pre-publication copy of my new book, Cyberpsychology: An Introduction to the Psychology of Human/Computer Interaction Finally, I have started to teach a graduate seminar on doing psychological research on the Internet, Psyc 798J.

HyperCourseware is doing well, with new facilities for note taking, improved facilities for assignments and discussions including thumbnail images of the students, class seating chart, and grade sheets and averaging.


August 2005: It just struck me that I have been writing a Tlog for the past seven years! A "Tlog" is, of course, a teaching log. Oh well, I am a bit behind, but I will reflect a bit on the past Spring Semester and the Summer preparation for Fall courses.

In the Spring Semester of 2005, I taught Psyc 602 in the OIT Teaching Theater. It was the sequel to Psyc 601 and followed the same program. All went very well. No major problems but no major advances. Although I did have fun using the Computer Rage Survey data as a major example of data analysis.

This Fall Semester I am teaching Psyc 200. This course required only a simple update of the previous materials, changes of dates and course codes everywhere. On the other hand, for Psyc 309 on CyberPsychology, since I have not taught it for five years, is requiring a lot more work. Notes are being redone and all of the assignments have to be rehosted in FileMaker Pro. But this process is actually rather exciting since I am in the process of actually writing the supporting textbook for this course.


January 2005: In the Spring Semester of 2004, I was on sabbatical visiting the Computer Science Department in the University of Rome, Italy, so, I did not teach any classes in the Teaching Theaters or use HyperCourseware. On the other hand, I worked with a team in Italy on the development of e-learning objects that are designed to be accessible to the disabled. This project should remind us that we need to plan for our e-learning materials to be made accessible to those with impairments. It may not be that hard to make materials compliment with regulations regarding accessibility, but it is not an easy thing making them actually usable and learnable.

In the Fall Semester, I taught our graduate course on quantitative methods, Psyc 601. Although there was a lot work updating the lecture materials for a book that I had not used for ten years, the rest of the course was very standard in terms of using the modules in HyperCourseware. In addition, number of power slates were written for the course and these proved extremely helpful. Course feedback has been an important issue to me. This semester I achieved 100% participation by giving extra credit for the feedback.

Finally, I should note that this semester ended with the UMD Newsdesk release about my work on Computer Rage. See the Computer Rage link for all of this information and fill out the survey on your frustrations with computers and technology. Beware that it is a growing problem that is not going away it is only building up more and more pressure. Unless computer and software designers do something to head it off, I foresee an unprecedented outpouring of computer rage.


January 2004: In the Fall Semester, I taught Psyc 200: Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences and Psyc 707: Theories of Judgment and Choice. Both courses were taught in the Plant Sciences Teaching Theater using HyperCourseware.

The basic improvements in Psyc 200 were the use of more graphics in the notes and more PowerSlates. We again used David Lane's HyperStat Online, through Atomic Dog Publishers. This time I required the students to take the quizzes at the end of each chapter. This did not work out well. The students procrastinated, the quizzes were not well written, and the teaching assistant was not able to record the scores in a timely manner despite the rather nice user interface that Atomic Dog provides. In the future, we will try to incorporate the quizzes in class and have the scores automatically entered in the student grade file. We tended to use WebStat for the statistical package of choice. It allowed us to analyze the data we collected in the first week on class. Once again, the online class discussions were very effective and the online in class exams were flawless.

On the class management side, I spent more time developing charts for attendance and controlling class discussions.

In Psyc 707, we used two textbooks and the rest of the readings were scanned and put in PDF and HTML format on the server. Unfortunately, it was hard to get the students to discuss the readings in class. I suspect that it was due to the technology barrier set up in class with banks of the monitors and fixed desks. To fight technology with technology, I introduced the "in box" at the beginning of class. Students were required to write about what they particularly liked in the readings. These notes were shared by the class and then responded to as a group through the rest of the class.

Teams of three students set up their own online experiments using the lap.umd.edu webserver and FileMaker Pro. Each team did extensive work setting up the design and the coding required for the experiments. They collected data on the web from students in other classes. They analyzed the data and presented their results on the day of the final exam. You can access these projects as a guest in Psyc 707.

Lessons learned from this class for me were to : (1) set up the teams so that there is one in-lab student on each team, (2) change the exams to online out of class so as to not use up valuable class time, and (3) have one student per week responsible for leading the discussion about the article.

During the Spring Semester, I will be on sabbatical in Rome, Italy in the Dipartimento di Informatica doing work on data visualization and decision making. I among other things, I hope to generate new ways of visualizing information in the electronic educational environment (e.g., student records, web logs, interactions, and course knowledge structures.


June 2003: Excellent semester in the Plant Sciences Teaching Theater with Psyc 443: Thinking and Problem Solving. Most of the technology that I used was the same as the last time that I taught the course, with two exceptions. First, I finally switched over to Mac OSX and new versions of WebStar and FileMaker Pro 6.0. This provided much more functionality and control of the server, etc. Second, I switched all discussions over to FileMaker Pro. This made them run much faster and update immediately.

For the students, the great innovation was to focus a lot of our class discussion and all of the team projects on the web site Neopets.com. Neopets is a model of real world problem solving for kids. They have to feed their pets. To feed their pets, they need food. To get food, they have to find it. Once they find it, they have to pay for it. To pay for it, they need Neopoints. To get Neopoints, they must win games, and so on. All of the students were required to get free accounts on Neopets. The team projects were very interesting. The only down side was that a lot of students played Neopets during my lectures if they were bored. The up side was that my teaching evaluation went way up this semester!

On the other hand, the OITS Teaching Theater was terrible. This was my graduate class Psyc 602: Quantitative Methods. I thought that it would be nice to have both the Mac side for HyperCourseware and the Windows side (Virtual PC) for SPSS. But the machines (Beige G3s) running System 9.2 were just not up to it. So we stayed in the Mac OS in class and any SPSS that I did, I did on my laptop using SPSS for Mac OSX. The best experience was being able to plug in the laptop to run on one screen with the HyperCourseware notes on the other. Unfortunately, the students could not run SPSS during lectures, but had to wait until the lab in the afternoon the Plant Sciences Teaching Theater.

The worst experience was during the final exam when about six students were in the Windows side running IE for the browser. The network server crashed and they were disconnected from the Internet. We had to run around and copy their answers into Notepad or whatever and to the hard disk to keep from loosing them. Lesson learned: don't use Virtual PC over the network.

As a final note, last week, Debbie Boehm-Davis, Barry Silverman, Marc Sebrechts, and I got together for a reunion of the class that we taught collaboratively in 1994 as a part of the Circle Project. (see Sebrechts, M. M., Silverman, B. G., Boehm-Davis, D. A., & Norman, K. L. (1995). Establishing an electronic collaborative learning environment in a university consortium: The CIRCLE project. Computers in Education, 25, 215-225.) We experimented with video conferencing, shared notes, conference calls, etc. We explored mental models, communication issues, theories and techniques of team collaboration, etc. It was a lot of work. It had been too much work. Since then we have not even entertained the idea of collaborative teaching.


December 2002: I must start with the worst thing that happened in my class this semester. Even though I do not use WebCT, WebCT was partly responsible for one of my best students totally loosing her final exam. We were in the Plant Science Teaching Theater. The final exam was being given in the Netscape Browser using HyperCourseware. She was going to scroll up to review her answers, but she clicked just slightly above the arrow button on the scroll bar. Guess what was there: an icon for WebCT! The window opened into WebCT. She panicked and closed the window. Her exam answers were lost. In human/computer interaction we call this a "one off error." The solution is to space objects farther apart, especially dangerous selections such as WebCT. And for HyperCourseware, well, next semester I will implement an auto save function across the board.

Now for the better and best things that happened. My new course this semester was Psyc 100H, Introduction to Psychology for Honors Students. I used an online textbook from Atomicdog.com Publishing. It was fantastic, inexpensive, and had a number of interactive elements as well as online chapter quizzes. I highly recommend online textbooks and especially through Atomicdog.com. It was a lot of work putting up the course notes with illustrations and materials, but it was worth it.

Introduction to Psychology was fun in the teaching theater because we were able to hold a number of online discussions, both asynchronous and synchronous, about controversial of topics. The students generated thoughts and ideas for continued discussion in class.

My other class was Psyc 779, Human Performance Seminar: Human Computer Interaction. I taught this course last year so there was not a whole lot new in terms of online materials. But this semester the class project was for incredible. A number of the students were interested in web-based surveys, so the class project was to create a web site for the Design Guidelines for Online Surveys.

The web site is at lap.umd.edu/survey_design. The last class session was a presentation of the site to five visitors that were invited from government agencies. We had representatives from the Bureau of the Census, the National Science Foundation, the National Center for Health Statistics, the General Accounting Office, and the National Agricultural Statistical Services.

In terms of software development in HyperCourseware, this semester I finally got the seating chart working properly so that I have an automatic record of attendance by seat in the classroom. And of course, it is great for calling on students by name. The next step is to link the chart to other resources such as grades, biographical statements, e-messages, and chat sessions. Other additions include a login chart and better listing and management of grades.


June 2002: This Spring Semester I taught two courses, Psyc 200 and Psyc 443, once again in the Plant Sciences Teaching Theater.

Many of the HyperCourseware innovations worked wonderfully; but to be honest as time goes by (at this point, 12 years, believe it or not), they no longer seem to be innovations but basic pieces of the course. In Psyc 200, these included the online class roll with pictures, four online discussions, 14 online assignments, three online tests, etc. In Psyc 443, it included the online class roll, six online discussions, eight online assignments, three online tests, and group projects generating web pages. But a couple of new things were done.

For the first time in Psyc 200, we officially used David Lane's online book, "HyperStat Online" published by Atomic Dog Publishing and used both JavaApplets and JavaScript pages for simulations and demonstrations of statistical concepts and computations.

In Psyc 443, I introduced several new movie clips for illustrations of thinking and problem solving: "Baby Geniuses" and "AI".

Things went well on cognitron.umd.edu until the version of WebSTAR (4.4) that I was using on became unstable and started to crash frequently. First, I installed Rebound hardware to auto-restart on crashes. A newer version 4.5 was subsequently released and installed within several weeks.

Behind the scenes, several additions were added to HyperCourseware. First, all exams were automatically generated from a common database of questions. Auto-grading pages for the exams were also auto-generated. Well, at least it grades the multiple choice questions. I still have to read the essays. Second, I have switched to a Web-based grade book and grade averaging. These are things that commercial packages such as Blackboard and WebCT already do after their own fashion, but which I do in my own idiosyncratic way. which solved the problem.

Perhaps the best complement that I have received regarding teaching with online materials came late this semester. A student in Psyc 200 from 1992 requested permission to come back to the cognitron site to review notes in preparation for taking a graduate course in statistics. I think that this tells us that we need to keep the notes and materials up for the life of our students


January 2002: This last semester was quite intense with two new course preparations: Psyc 309a: Research on Judgment and Decision Making and Psyc 779: Seminar in Human Performance Theory: Human/Computer Interaction. It was a challenge to post the lecture notes, generate new assignments and exams, and keep up with the grading. But it is possible.

In terms of technology, we did the usual online discussions, online submission of all assignments and exams, and projects online. All of the readings in the Psyc 779 were online, either in htmls (from my online text: The Psychology of Menu Selection or pdfs of articles from electronic journals or scanned in from printed articles and book chapters. In Psyc 309a we continued to use printed texts.

A number of JavaScript demos and Power Slates were written for both courses.

With respect to the software, more and more of HyperCourseware is being switched over to FileMaker Pro from the old ObjectPlus system. All of this is transparent to the students. The main change is that in ObjectPlus the html was hard coded and in FileMaker it is generated on the fly. This semester the changes were mainly in the distribution of grades and the generation of the syllabus and other indexes.

Finally, one of my students in Psyc 779 did a usability evaluation of HyperCourseware from an efficiency standpoint and made a number of suggestions that should facilitate access to information and assignments. Look for some future redesigns!


May 2001: This semester has seen several improvements over the past using a Web-based teaching environment (HyperCourseware) in the Teaching Theaters. First the Web-based seating chart was expanded to include both the Plant Sciences Teaching Theater and the AT&T Teaching Theater. In both cases when the students login in the classroom, it adds their names to the chart. If a second student pairs up with another, they can add their name with an "add partner" option. In both cases the charts were helpful to identify and call on students in class as well as for tracking attendance.

The software for homework submission was switched from FormSaver to FileMaker Pro. This allows the students to save partially completed work before they submit it for grading. It also has time and date blocks so that students cannot do their homework during class time in the Teaching Theaters and so that it cannot be submitted after the due date. Of course there is also an override option so that I can give particular students extensions on the completion date. The homework is also graded over the WWW and once graded the student can see the feedback and points assigned. In the future more automatic grading procedures are planned to cut down grading time.

An interesting problem arose in the Plant Sciences Teaching Theater for exams. The flat panel monitors are so close to each other that it is hard for one student not to glance over at other student's answers. In a traditional classroom, the solution is to distribute two versions of the exams. In the Teaching Theater I used a bit of JavaScript that loaded either of two versions of the exam based on whether the IP address of the work station was odd or even.

The team projects in Psyc 443, Thinking and Problem Solving, were significantly better this year than last. I believe that this was partly due to the good mix of students with different skills that were assigned to each group. It also helped showing them the projects from last year as a base of comparison and insisting that they keep extensive journals of their team's progress.

In Psyc 200, Behavioral Statistics, several new "power slates" were written in JavaScript. These help to explain/show the process and intermediate steps in statistical tests. I had hoped to re-introduce the practice of soliciting data on the fly from the students in class, cleaning it, and posting it for the students to grab and analyze. While things are almost ready to go using FileMaker Pro, it was not completed this semester in the limited spare time that I had. Thus I had to poll students using the old show of hands technique or having them call out responses in class. The public response to the data is more fun than anonymously clicking on the computer, so I think that I will still provide that option with the instructor entering the data to be posted. But for sensitive data, anonymity should be provided.

Finally, server speed and reliability was extremely high and maintenance extremely low. One machine (Mac G4) for two classes of 40 students each is ideal.


December, 2000 First, hardware and software: The Macintosh G4 server in my office has been incredible! It's fast, versatile, and never down. The mirrored disk drives have been extremely reliable. I put up an initial version of a Web-based attendance/seating chart. It works very well for adding students to the room seating chart and for adding partners. It figures out where people are in the room by using the fixed IP addresses assigned to the workstations in the OITS Teaching Theater. This next semester I will be in the AT&T Teaching Theater and the new Plant Sciences Teaching Theater. The software will use the course path to identify the room and then the IP address to locate the seat in the room or vice versus. By the way, I am now using FileMaker Pro as the database program.

This last semester I taught our graduate level statistics course, Psyc 601. We had a record enrollment of 39. Fortunately the room seats 48, but of course, it meant sharing computers during the class sessions. Everyone did well accessing the notes, the assignments, and the discussions. This semester the assignments were posted in Hypercourseware, but were handed in on paper and a few via email. But it was a bad idea to mix media. Emails were a hassle with attachments that had to be forwarded to the teaching assistants. Some were lost. Papers had to be collected, graded and handed back. I number were misplaced. Grades were a hassle to get together and into the on-line files. In the future, it should all be in one media, digital.

The dialogues were extremely good. Graduate students put a lot of thought and effort into the entries; and as usual, I got nearly 100% participation with no gender or race imbalances in frequency, length, or quality. Everything went well except for a number of crashes during the exams due to the configuration of the workstations in the Teaching Theater with the network server. Connection was lost with the server causing Netscape to crash and thereby loosing the contents of the forms, namely their exam answers. Some remedy is needed to periodically store the answers on the server. This can be done using FileMaker Pro.

Finally, I continue to hate SPSS as a teaching tool or even teaching how to use the tool. I used the VassarStat programs by Richard Lowry, Department of Psychology, Vassar College and I have also started a file of Web-based power slates at http://cognitron.umd.edu/power_slates/. I should also mention that this semester, I finally got around to analyzing all of the data on confidence ratings that I had collected on 14 multiple choice exams over the last several years. The results were presented at the November, 2000 meeting of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, New Orleans and can be found at http://cognitron.umd.edu/trons/. This next semester will be fun because I will be re-using a lot of materials that I have developed in previous semesters. But I will be converting more of the assignments and other interactions over to FileMaker Pro as I learn how to use it on the Web and figure out some strategies for having it past data behind the scenes.

I am still a maverick and will stay that way. I do not use WebCT with the rest of the campus. I still believe that every teacher on the WWW should be in possession of their own Web server in their own office. Moreover, materials freely available on the WWW on open source format; they should be gleaned from the Internet by instructors; and they should not packaged for profit by the new e-based textbook publishers and courseware providers. Let's open the classrooms, the materials, and the source!


May, 2000: Needless to say we survived the Y2K computer thing and had a splendid semester. In fact, the Y2K bug was really a bit of a let down on all sides. So on to the successes and failures of this semester.

Let me first talk about CyberPsychology. This was a interesting course. Whenever you mix psychology majors and computer science majors, it is interesting. We had some fascinating discussions in the on-line discussion area about software agents, virtual reality, and on-line therapy and an out of control experience with role playing in the anonymous chat rooms. But as usual the best part was team projects. This semester they were superb. The combination of collectors and commentators from the behavioral sciences and constructors and curators from computer science lead to a synergistic reaction. You really have to look at them and inspect the interactive process that the teams followed to appreciate their work. By the way one of these projects was a revamp of the Manual for Students in Web-Based Classes.

The last assignment this semester was for the students to submit multiple choice questions for the final exam. I know that this idea has been used by a number of other faculty in paper-based classes, but on the WWW they were posted for all of the students to see and to use as a study guide.

The only real problem during the semester is drawing the students out to talk more in the face-to-face setting. Typically, only two or three students were happy to volunteer their thoughts in class discussion. Perhaps I will try a more structured approach in the future.

The second class was statistics for the behavioral sciences. Again I used totally on-line textbooks and materials and exams. I always expect more students to drop the class, but they don't. The on-line discussions on probably theory, hypothesis testing, and psychological experiments were lively and entertaining.

This semester with the help of an undergraduate programming, I added a number of "power slates." These are pages of notes that show the underlying computations as if one were doing them on the blackboard. The rest of the statistics were computed using a variety of WWW sites that supply JavaScripts and Applets.

In both courses, the on-line assignments again worked well with only a few lost in cyberspace. Next semester, I will implement some JavaScript that gives a confirmation number following the receipt of the homework. Probably the most effective JavaScript tested this semester was the block in class that prevented students from doing and submitting homework doing the class periods.

Finally, on a more technical note, the WebStar server on the Macintosh G3 was extremely reliable and fast. Over the summer, however, I am switching to a G4 with a 16 gig mirrored drive for added speed, reliability, and security.


December, 1999: Every semester I like to do something new and something old. First the new this semester was the course Psyc 707, Theories of Choice and Decision. I have not taught this course for a number of years so the first effort was to generate the on-line notes. These required a lot of equations and graphs. Four JavaScript pages were written for Bayesian calculations, a Multi-attribute Utility calculator, Thurstian Choice Theory computations, and Brunswik's Lens Model.

I set up a discussion area for each of the readings hoping that students would pool notes there. Only one student took to doing this but was soon frustrated with the fact that other students were non-contributors and with technical glitch. If this activity is to work, it must be more structured and controlled. A successful way that I had done this in the past was to assign one or two students to be responsible for generating notes on the readings for each week.

We also used an on-line book: Behavioral research on the Internet and I required the students to generate studies using the WWW for data collection. They wrote both surveys and choice experiments using html forms. These can be seen at http://cognitron.umd.edu/psyc707/. The majority of the students will be continuing to collect data into the Spring Semester.

The old course was Psyc 443, Thinking and Problem Solving. Each semester I try to upgrade the notes with new examples and Gary Larson cartoons, but the nice thing about teaching this course is that it is easy and requires very little time and effort on my part. Each semester I try make it harder and more work for the students and easier for me! This semester I upgraded the program that I use to collect, grade, annotate, and hand back assignments on the WWW. I would say that I cut the time to grade and process the assignments was cut in half.

In the past I have trouble with students working on assignments during class time even during my brilliant lectures! I had an undergraduate student write a little JavaScript function to restrict submission to assignments from IP addresses in the Teaching Theater. That stopped it quick! Another script is being written to set server side time restrictions for access and submission of assignments and exams.

Finally, the class did team projects. As usual these were a great success. Since they are now able to review the class projects from previous semesters, they were challenged to ramp up the quality. When these are approved for public access they will be available at http://cognitron.umd.edu/psyc443/.

Finally, I am pleased that my arguments for "Desktop Distance Education" will appear in the new book Web-Based learning and teaching technologies. I continue to think that innovative faculty should be running their own WWW servers rather than marching to the beat of WebCT or CourseInfo. WWW shells will only serve to restrict and channel development rather than spawn creativity in Web-based education.


June, 1999: I wish that I could sustain a real enthusiasm for the digital revolution of education. Although exciting things are happening, I also feel a sense of frustration and futility. I am frustrated with the software industry that continues to perpetuate bad design in the midst of good HCI principles and guidelines. Moreover, I am worried that our efforts are futile. Many of the wonderful ideas of multimedia for education have little or no positive, demonstrable effect on learning.

But worst of all, I fear what the world of electronic education will like in the post-digital revolution. More on this later.

On a positive note, this semester went very well. No major problems with software or hardware crashes on cognitron. Psyc 309, CyberPsychology, was a lot of fun. The teams created some excellent WWW pages for the Department of Psychology. This class was interesting because it was taught in the aITs Teaching Theater in the Macintosh OS. I think that I saved a number of heathens from Wintel hell.

Psyc 602, Quantitative Methods, stayed in the Windows World since I had to use another program from purgatory, SPSS. Nevertheless, Netscape rescued us as usual. A new feature of this course was the team project. Teams had to make up a fictitious study, develop an experimental design, generate fake data, run the analysis, and report on the results in a poster session.


January, 1999: After a very hectic Fall Semester and even more harried holiday, I am finally enjoying a few moments of reflective time during the Winter Break. In the Fall Semester, I taught Psyc 440: Cognitive Psychology for the second time in the Teaching Theater and first time on the WWW. I was very pleased with the ease with which old graphic and text materials were ported into html/HyperCourseware files. The feedback again indicated that the students appreciated having the materials available on the WWW. Also, for the first time I ran all of the exams on the WWW. While it was very risky, it worked perfectly. The exams were easily graded and returned to the students with corrections and comments via the WWW.

A large part of Psyc 440 is the demonstration of cognitive experiments. In the past I had to rely on descriptions in class of the these experiments and once in a while I would do paper and pencil experiments in class. In the lab sections we used programs from many years ago to run experiments. This semester I found several sites on the WWW (in particular the University of Mississippi and Purdue University) that provided JAVA applets and Authorware modules of experiments. We ran these in class for discussion purposes and they also be used in the laboratory sections for more serious data collection. This approach was extremely successful. Given the time and resources, it would be a good idea for the Cognitive Area to generate our own set of these using Authorware Attain 5.0. But since I am not scheduled to teach this class again for a year or two, I will let others do this.

My other course was Psyc 443: Thinking and Problem Solving which I have taught many times in the Teaching Theater; but again this was the first full attempt to teach the course totally on the WWW implementation of HyperCourseware. As with Psyc 440 the transition from one digital version to another was not bad. Exams were also conducted on the WWW. I should mention that I wrote a simple program to convert old exams to html forms and another program to grade the exams and write an html file of the graded exam back to the students. In this class we also made use interactive discussions both in class and out of class.

The primary success in Psyc 443 this time was a new innovation in the course projects. In the past I have usually done individual projects, especially when the enrollment is around 15. But this time with 35, I decided to set up groups of 5. The projects were collections of materials that I could use in the future teaching the course. First, I used a Web-based survey to collect ideas, interests, and abilities from the students. Then I set up teams based on similar interests, but varying the abilities of the students. An html literate student was assigned to each group. The members of the groups were designated as either collectors, commentators, curators, or constructors. Teams were required to keep minutes of their meetings and notes on their progress in a special shared project area. On the last day of class each team presented their completed project. Everyone was impressed. These projects are NOT openly accessible to the whole WWW, but can be viewed by clicking on Psyc443 login and entering "psyc443" as the user name and "psyc443" as the password. Then click on "guest." Inside HyperCourseware, click on the Projects Module and you will get to the list of Teams and their shared spaces. Students competed a questionnaire on the team project in which they assigned weights for the contribution of all of the members of their team, including themselves. I assigned grades based on the overall quality of the project, the average weights of contribution, and my reading of the notes and minutes recorded.

Finally, I need to comment once again on the issue of courseware shells. As you will see if you go into my courses, I am NOT using WebCT, although I support the University's decision to provide WebCT as the standard server for courseware. Instead, I am using an html/javascript instantiation of HyperCourseware along with a number of third party applications: Formsaver, BiapChat, ConferWeb, and in the near future FileMaker. Furthermore, rather than running off of a central university Web server, I am running off of a machine in my office using WebSTAR. My reasons for this are many. You can read about some of them in a presentation that I gave at Syllabus 1999, "Desktop Distance Education: Personal Hosting of Web Courses" under "Special Presentations" in the left frame. Basically, they revolve around four issues: pragmatics, academic freedom, intellectual property rights, and interface design. I hope to write more about this in the future; but now I must get back to setting up my courses for the Spring Semester.


September, 1998: The Fall Semester has begun. Two more courses are being ported from the stackware version of HyperCourseware to the WWW version. It is going very well except for the usual disconnect between the Macintosh world of sanity and the Windows world of inanity.


August, 1998: The WWW course on Teaching in the Switched On Classroom is coming to an end. I consider it a great success. There were fifteen students from around the world (from Australia to Newfoundland), interacting in asynchronous discussions, synchronous chat sessions, submitting assignments on the WWW, reading my online book, and collaborating on final projects. I look forward to teaching this course again January 7, 1999.

I wanted to add section here on WebCT. The University of Maryland has purchased a site license to use WebCT and has started training sessions to get the faculty to use it. I attended several of the hand-ons training sessions to see if I would like to use it. I wrote up a lengthy evaluation of the human/computer interface, but I am afraid that I have misplaced it. Perhaps that is just as well. I was very disappointed. I felt that the interface had thrown us back 10 years. It is inconsistent, cumbersome, intolerant, and sucks all of the joy out of courseware creation. While it has most, but not all of the functionality that HyperCourseware has, it is a shell, hard and brittle. To do anything interesting one still has to know a lot of HTML, JavaScript, etc. WebCT only adds a brick wall to the process.

Consequently, I will continue to work in the prototype of HyperCourseware rather than in an off-the-shelf "package."


May. 1998: The semester has come to an end. The Psyc 200, Statistical Methods, exams are graded and all of the homeworks finished and points tallied. I just turned in my grades electronically. Now I am sitting at my desk watching the WebSTAR access log. Students are logging in to view their grades and to look at homework results. All of the files are backed up and the course is ready to go into mothballs. The files will remain on the server for seven years or perhaps longer as a record of this iteration of the course and a repository of the student work.

Similarly, Psyc 498h, CyberPsychology, is done and in mothballs. The student projects were excellent and several of the students have elected to make their work public. These can be found at http://cognitron.umd.edu/projects/.

With each semester there is an amassing of digital materials and products from each new group of students. One of the biggest design issues in the future will be the managing of these materials. How do we organize old materials, new materials, and related materials. How do we find and retrieve notes, grades. exam questions, etc. Unfortunately, no single database will suffice for several reasons. First, there is no initial or well defined structure of materials or set of attributes defining entries. Second, there is no beginning or end of objects to be stored. They are ill-defined and fuzzy. Finally, there is too much overlap of materials between courses.

At present we muddle along with our own organization of files. What is needed is not a slick, complex database, but a better interface to simple databases.

Now I am off to the summer! Some of us will all be thinking about what is needed in the next iteration. Others will just accept what is provided in a commercial "shell."


April, 1998: Both industry and academic administrators continue to talk about the large budgets required for course development on the World Wide Web. I have seen budgets of $40k for the development of a course in engineering. The University of Maryland System is looking at faculty release time that can be as much as $20k. First of all, these figures are hogwash. As software and faculty development progresses, it is my prediction that it will be easier and cheaper to develop courses for electronic publication on the WWW than it is in the traditional paper-based classroom.

But this is not the real problem. The problem is that universities are being persuaded to invest in the extensive development of one course rather than in the development of many faculty. If this continues, we will have a model in which universities become educational industries. One course fits all. Faculty will no longer develop their own courses and unique perspectives but rather they will be "facilitators" of "turn-key" course materials.

Much of this is profit oriented. Faculty and administrators are looking to old as well as new markets (e.g., continuing education, certificate courses) for revenue. Higher education goes capitalistic! And I thought that our mission was one to serve society rather than to exploit it!

But I believe that the attempts at centralization and capitalization of education will fail. Industry projections of profits will prove wrong. In a short time faculty, market forces, and competition will take the wind out of the sails of investment in courseware. Faculty and students will demand academic freedom, diversity, and decentralization. The Internet will spawn a new breed of itinerant teachers who love to teach and students who love to learn. The Internet will allow an inexpensive Web server on every teacher's desk and authorware will allow simple generation and hosting of course materials. I look forward to a freer, less expensive environment for teaching in the future.


March, 1998: Something is becoming more and more apparent as many of us....yes, many of us...continue to rehost our courses on the WWW. We do not need expensive multimedia firms or expensive courseware shells to put our courses on the WWW. In fact, such courseware shells (and I will not name them here, lest I get in trouble) will probably soon prove to be a big mistake.

Universities and colleges should spawn many hybrid approaches and allow the faculty to take the lead in the development of their courses. As time goes on, more and more inexpensive resources, tools, and materials are appearing. This can be seen in my statistics course. I am using an on-line text by a professor at Rice University, my own lecture notes in html and the hypercourseware wanna-be-shell, and running off of a WebStar server in my office.


February, 1998: For eight years now I have been teaching in electronic classrooms at the University of Maryland. Needless to say, it is a lot of work on the start up; but there is a great time savings in re-use of materials. For the past two years, things have been gliding along nicely. I have spent my time fine tuning things and enhancing materials.

But the problem with materials in the electronic classrooms until recently, has been that they are all in-house (or intra-net). Now that the WWW has come of age and that we are fully connected, materials are being rehosted on the WWW. This is the case with HyperCourseware, as you see here.

Now the problem is twofold. Converting the HyperCourseware design to html, javascript, and cgi and converting the materials as well from stackware to htmls and jpegs. However, the overwhelming advantage is access to the vast materials on the WWW. These include on-line books, java applets, and a truly hypermedia database.


January, 1998: As I sit in my office composing and organizing materials for the courses that I am teaching in the Spring 1998 Semester, I have a few reflections and opinions to share. I will try to be unbiased, objective, and generalizable in my comments although a number of my colleagues will object.

It is true that I am a few steps ahead of most of my colleagues in my use of computers in the classroom having taught for eight years in the "AT&T Electronic Classroom" and I am proficient in the use of many computer applications and multimedia/courseware authoring systems also being the author of a system called "HyperCourseware." Nevertheless, I also contend that I am well over the initial enthusiasm typical of many technophiles in education and rather negative about the unbridled claims of the new media to solve the problems of education. Whatever. You may read the comments as they are recorded in reverse chronological order and form your own opinions.