Distance Learning Using Free Tools
Distance Learning Using Free Tools 

Hawaii Community College Web site

Why not outsource distance learning expansion? This manual shows teaching professionals how to create and implement on-line courses with reliable, free systems and software on the internet. Expand distance learning offerings without increasing costs associated with in-house servers.

*** Copyright (c) 2003 by Anson Chong. All Rights Reserved. See note at end of this
article. Initial draft went on line, Feb. 21, 2002. Appropriate supplementary information
posted as addenda. Modifications, spelling and grammer fixes are on-going. Most
recent: May 4, 2003.

This article has been reviewed by Professor Ray Schroeder, Director, Office of Technology-
Enhanced Learning, University of Illinois at Springfield, and published as a resource in the
OTEL's Online Learning News Blog archives on April 15, 2002. The URL is:

How to Set up an Internet Course with Free Tools

Acknowledgements: Professors Birch Robison and Trina Nahm-Mijo, Hawaii
Community College and Judi Kirkpatrick and Bert Kimura, Kapiolani Community
College, for their unstinting encouragement, advice and obvious dedication and
enthusiasm to expand the opportunities of distance learning delivery systems to the people
of Hawai'i. The following are also acknowledged for suggesting useful changes: U. of Hawaii
at Hilo Lecturer, Ann N. Gleason, and Dr. Bernhard Laurich, Hawai'i Community
College Instructor.

Author: Anson Chong, Adjunct Lecturer, Hawai?i Community College,
University of Hawai'i Community College System

Background: This on-line paper is in response to a call for papers for the Seventh
Annual Teaching in the Community Colleges Online Conference scheduled in May
21-23, 2002. The conference was coordinated by Dr. Bert Kimura at the Kapiolani
Community College, U. of Hawai'i Community College System. The theme was "Hybrid
Dreams, the Next Leap for Internet-Mediated Learning," and the WEB site is at

This paper was also used as a resource for the University Symposium:
On-Line Learning
on July 17, 2002 at Tapped In, which is supported by
SRI International & the National Science Foundation. For details click on


How to use this outline: To jump to any topic noted below, simply click on
"Edit" (see tool bar at the top of your screen), select "Find (on this page)..."
and type the topic you want in the box after "Find What:" (and hit the ENTER key).

1. Synoposis
2. Rationale
3. Preliminaries
a. Expectations
b. Disclaimers
c. Ease of Use
d. Assumptions - PC Skills, Teacher Training, Pedagogy, Evaluations
e. Approach & Caveats
4. Systems/Software
a. WEB pages - Purpose
b. An Aside
c. E-mail - Folders, Auto-Reply, Address Book/Class Lists
d. Message Boards - a.k.a. Discussion Boards, Listservers
e. File Archives - Groups, Yahoo Briefcase
f. Links/Bookmarks
g. Polling
h. Virtual Office
i. Chat
j. Profiles
k. Calendar
5. Yahoo! Groups
6. WEB-CT & Blackboard Platforms
7. Thinkwell Platform
8. Prentice-Hall & Thomson Learning Platforms
9. WEB pages - Create
a. Yahoo!/Geocities
b. Pyra Labs (Blogs)
10. Security
11. Conclusion
12. Appendix
a. Other Ideas (your input)
b. Free WEB server lists
13. Addenda - added after 4/8/02
a. Thinkwell Rumors, Carl Tyson, CEO/President, (posted 4/14/02)
b. Online Learning News, Dr. Ray Schroeder, (posted 4/15/02)
c. Technology Tools for Today's Campus, Dr. James L. Morrison, editor (posted 6/18/02)
d. Free Internet Service Providers (ISPs) (posted 4/16/02)

-------- Main body of paper starts here --------


This paper is designed to show experienced instructors, professors and lecturers how
to create and implement on-line courses using free systems and software on the Internet. It
is assumed that the reader knows how to handle elementary Windows environments on a
PC (personal computer) with a modem (a device that connects the PC to a phone line or
cable system). However, the reader does not have to know how to handle HTML code or
JAVA script to set up on-line courses as described here.

The intent is to show experienced college teachers how to adapt standard syllabi and
lesson plans to reliable course-presentation Internet formats. Also discussed is the use of
cost-effective CD digital technology to bring outstanding guest lecturers (all Ph.D.s) in
sound, color and animation right into the student's home PC's.

This approach ENABLES, ELIMINATES and EMPOWERS as follows:

(a) The approach ENABLES distance learning professionals to set up Internet courses
from scratch using free on-line tools as an alternative to the proprietary tools offered by
for-profit corporations. The great advantage here is that the faculty member has complete
control over the Internet course environment and can thus modify and fix the inevitable
hiccups without having to wait for usually swamped tech-help.

(b) The approach ELIMINATES or LOWERS many of the usual cost overheads by
(1) relieving overburdened university computer systems, (2) lowering the use of paper and
all that entails and (3) not taking up scarce classroom space. These huge cost savings
are possible because our approach bypasses institutional servers completely. Also,
savings associated with cutting down on paper use include costs such as xerox machine
use, expensive ink cartridges, and maintenance costs. These are costs that go way beyond
the actual paper costs.

(c) The approach EMPOWERS students and faculty by imparting powerful, useful
skills that continue long after formal courses are over. For instance, after studying this short
paper, a student or faculty member will be able to communicate with anyone on this planet who
has a PC with Internet access, not only by e-mail, but also in sound and by Web-cam
(visually) -- for free. It is a fact that many folks with PCs simply do not realize how easy it is to
use the existing free tools for many applications, and this paper provides the "how to" for those
who want to expand their existing capabilities but have not yet done it.

This presentation, in simple English and without techno-education jargon, demonstrates
how free, easily available WEB tools can be used to set up effective on-line courses
NOW, not in the distant future. Free tools discussed include those provided by
Yahoo!/Geocities, Thinkwell, Pyra Labs, Hotmail, AVG, and Zone Alarm.

The neophyte is shown how to create and use the tools for Internet courses, including
Message Boards (a.k.a. listserves, discussion boards), e-mail, chat rooms (with voice,
non-voice and/or Web-cam capabilities), polling, basic WEB pages, file archives
(including photos and large files), firewalls, virus-checkers, bookmarks, address data
banks, search engines, automatic generation of predrafted messages where appropriate,
and automatic alerts for papers, meetings, and course events.

The author is mindful of the usual pitfalls that the non-technical first-timer could
encounter, and the easy-to-follow procedures here are designed to help avoid them and
thus contribute to learning-curve acceleration.


The reason for creating my own "stand-alone" distance learning system was because
of difficulties I encountered in getting access to local Web-CT system and services. I
am a 63-year old adjunct lecturer and not a regular full-time university faculty member
which limits my access to the university servers. In fact, to this day, I still have no
dedicated U. of Hawaii web sites for my courses, and no dial-up access to the university
servers, although I did try to obtain them. Fortunately, an open-minded department
chairperson, not afraid to consider alternatives, gave me the green light to set up the
systems discussed here.

In the process of starting from scratch, I discovered that creating WEB-based
courses using reliable, free systems and software was not as daunting as previously
imagined. After two years of fine-tuning the creations, I believe that this experience
could be very useful to other teaching professionals. Thus, the decision to put this
on-line as a free publication, available to anyone able to surf the Web.

Institutional administrators may also find the approach here very useful. We spell
out ways to save huge amounts of money in one fell swoop. Basically, overhead
cost (especially personnel costs to keep servers and software "up" and functioning),
materials and equipment costs (use of paper, xerox machines, etc.) and classroom
space are NOT impacted as distance learning opportunities are expanded.

It is NOT the intent of this paper to discourage use of the current Web-CT system which
may or may not be easier to use than the approach used here (although, obviously it would
cost more since our approach by-passes existing university infrastructures for distance
learning expansion). However, it should be noted that this paper is around 28 pages in
hardcopy equivalent length, whereas the Web-CT on-line manual is several hundred
pages long and growing. The firm also constantly upgrades its software which requires
faculty to spend time learning about the latest bells-and-whistles being introduced. This
strongly suggests that perhaps the approach offered by this free paper is indeed less
stressful and easier to set up and use.

If you have developed an Internet system with free tools and are willing to share your
cost-saving insights with others, kindly send an e-mail note to me at
AnsonChong@pobox.com for inclusion in the body of this continuously updated
paper or as a link to this site..



I've found it very useful to post an "Expectations" message on all of my course sites,
particularly the one that is listed at the on-line catalogue that students interested in
Internet-based courses are likely to see. Click on http://important8.blogspot.com
to see what I use. The reason for doing this is to mitigate the well-known phenomenon
of higher-than-average drop-rates for on-line courses as amply documented by Professor
David Diaz in his recent paper on online drop rates

Posting the "Expectations" message early-on gives students a realistic,
unvarnished view of what taking an Internet course may be like. I didn't do this the
first few times I ran such courses and ended up with students who: (a) couldn't type, (b)
were extremely technologically challenged, i.e. were fearful of PCs, had never used one,
didn?t know the difference between an Internet-based course and a traditional classroom
course, etc., (c) thought that they didn't have to do assignments for on-line courses because
they worked a full-time job, had to care for kids as a single parent, were frequently sick,
"had" to take off-island vacations and couldn't get to a PC terminal frequently, etc.,
(d) were easily frustrated, rude, quick to complain (persistent whiners), (e) couldn't read
English very well and if they could, (f) couldn?t follow simple instructions such as how to
send messages, reports, papers and quizzes to an e-mail address.

A frank, "straight-talk" message with a non-threatening self-assessment quiz at the
very outset could help such persons de-select themselves, although not for those in the
"e" or "f" category, of course. You would have to live with such students if you do
Internet-based courses, but then, as a professional instructor, you would know how to
handle such cases, right? (smile) Aside: If you have proctored final exams (as I do in all of
my Internet-based courses), be sure that the student understands that there is no way he
or she can pass the course without doing it.


It would be a good idea to put a standard disclaimer notice at all of your sites.

Technical glitches WILL happen, links sometimes don?t work, your e-mail directives
may not get through (though unlikely if you follow the suggestions here), a parent may
get upset about your reading lists, etc. That's why I put a "standard" disclaimer on all of
my sites. Click on http://www.geocities.com/hawccdisclaimer for a sample which
I feel is quite adequate. Feel free to fly this by a lawyer if you wish.

Also standard Netiquette rules (general rules of politeness) should be established
early. Click on http://www.chowan.edu/acadp/computer/netetiquette/corerules.html for standard Netiquette rules
I use.

A short notice announcing the sanctions you'll use for those who don't comply with
the basic rules would be useful. Here's one I sometimes use: Students are
responsible for complying with all university rules and regulations, including those
posted here. Be advised that all instructors are authorized to drop any student from the
course for non-compliance at any time.

The main point is to provide early documentation if it is necessary to get rid of persistently
disruptive students from your message boards, chat rooms, and other on-line portals to
your courses. You should check your faculty manual on regulations specific to your institution
on this and all such related matters, and save all objectional materials any student posts to
your sites in the event that your efforts to keep your course running smoothly are challenged.


A good rule-of-thumb is to keep your focus on ease-of-use which means that ALL of
the initial information about the course should be easily accessible on one page that loads
quickly onto a student's PC, preferably a page that does not spill over too much beyond
the size of a PC screen.

Long pages that spill over the Main screen may confuse the student (and thus
contribute to lost papers, quizzes, directives, instructions, etc.). Photos, fancy designs, too
many colors etc. can also slow down the loading process. Such slow-downs can cause
you lost readership and countless e-mail messages and phone calls for help and

How to make your own "Main" Web page is covered in "Web Pages," Section 9.
For now it would be helpful for you to keep in mind that ONE page for your "Main"
course site, particularly for entry-level courses is HIGHLY recommended. (Of course,
these are not hard and fast rules, and for upper level courses for more technologically
sophisticated students, this "one screen" rule can be ignored.) Click on
http://kanaka.org to see my one-page sites.

Another basic fact to keep in mind is that many students do not have broad-band (i.e.
fast) access to the Internet via cable, fiber-optics or satellite. This means that pictures,
videos, audio clips and the like may not be easily viewed or heard by many students. It
would therefore be prudent to avoid these kinds of bells and whistles on your main page.

In my case, I bought the cheapest discount PC (1998) I could find at Wal-Mart (HP
Pavilion S50). If a free Internet system or software didn't work on it, I simply didn't use
it. Since many, if not most of my students (and most probably yours) also would tend to
have low-end PCs, the information, processes and procedures noted here will most likely
work if you use them too.


PC skills: This paper assumes that the reader is already familiar with basic keyboard
skills, has an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and knows what it is, and has an e-mail
address and can use it. Most of the other technical skills that are necessary to set up an
on-line course is covered here.

Teacher Training: This paper assumes that the reader is a competent, experienced
instructor and has the skills of a regular classroom teacher including classroom
management skills (and all that entails), demeanor, and a professional attitude. It is
unlikely that an effective internet-based course can be created if the reader has no
knowledge or experience in usual classroom management activity including: lesson plan
and syllabi creation, setting realistic grading options, handling a wide range of student
abilities, establishing deadlines, maintaining class decorum and standards, and so on.
These aspects are not covered here.

For a pretty good description of what's involved in going from a classroom to the
Internet, read How to go from Classroom to the Web Room by Professor Rik Hall,
Program Director, Distance Education, & Off-Campus Services, U. of New Brunswick,
June 2001 at http://wellspring.isinj.com/RikHall.html.

Six factors to consider in setting up on-line courses are detailed in Dr. Suzanne Levy's article on
the same subject located at http://www.web.ms11.net/hawaii/sixfactors.htm.

Finally, a recent paper by Dr. Hakan Tuzun at Indiana University (4/25/03) focussing on guidelines
for converting standard courses into Web-based courses is a good review of literature, to date,
on this issue. The short paper, in PDF format, is at this URL http://www.ericit.org/fulltext/IR021607.pdf.

Pedagogy: It is not likely that this aspect of Internet courses will be standardized
anytime soon. However, common sense suggests that teacher-student contact activity
and feedback in the form of Message Board discussions, papers, tests, quizzes and exams is
important. I do NOT cover these aspects in detail. Instead, I simply show the reader how
I have handled these aspects in my courses and leave it at that. Suffice to say that after doing
these types of courses for the past two years, my feeling is that, at the minimum, a proctored
final examination is vital and frequent on-line quizzes, perhaps weekly, are in order.

Evaluations: Anonymous course evaluation questionnaire development is
under continuous refinement, and Professors Judi Kirkpatrick and Vinnie Linares,
at Kapiolani Community College with Dean Harry Kawamura at Hawaii Community College,
are diligently working on this. Obviously, the questions on the currently used course evaluation
forms are not adequate for on-line courses. For instance, questions regarding timely responses
to student e-mail queries, ease-of-use of various distance learning technologies, down-time
reactions, technical support performance, are not covered.

Update Jan. 2003: The preliminary online evaluation forms are now in use.

It should be noted that on-line "anonymous" course evaluation procedures, per se, are generally
not credible since many folks know that any so-called anonymous on-line message can be
easily traced (as the CIA and FBI have amply proven while tracking down al Qaeda terrorists).
So the more sophisticated student, knowing this, is not likely to be wholly truthful in his or her
responses. (Think about it: If you were a student knowing that a professor has the potential
to know your responses to this kind of questionnaire, and knowing that professors do, in fact,
exchange information about students all the time, would you cut your own throat by trashing him or her?)

Although personnel records of individual students are maintained by your college records folks,
it is useful to keep your own files on students for future reference. Employers or government
security agencies doing background checks may solicit your input many years after the student
has graduated or left your institution, and your notes may be helpful to jog your memory.


With the above having been noted, I now present simple steps for the professional
teacher who wants to create an on-line course using free software and systems currently
available on the Internet. The caveat is that such software and systems may not be available
forever. Click on the following for a recent Fortune Magazine article on this issue.


If Enron, numerous airlines, and countless dot-coms can go belly up - so can these
free systems. Even Web-CT is not immune from the vagaries of the market place.


Introduction: To set up an on-line course, you'll need some basic tools and the
capability to use them. Here are what I consider the basic tools for an on-line course:
web pages, e-mail accounts, message boards, file archive docking areas, ability to
establish links to other Web sites, polls, virtual office hours, chat rooms and student
profiles. Trust me, it isn't as daunting as it sounds. Each of these capabilities is
discussed below.

a. WEB PAGES - Purpose

Remember, the purpose of creating a course Web page is not to win creative artist awards
for intricate Web page design. The purpose is to set up a simple, easy-to-use WEB site so
that you can achieve the course goals and objectives that you have undoubtedly posted there.
For examples of what I'm talking about, check out these one-page sites I created for three
of my courses: http://econ120fall.blogspot.com, http://econ130-fall.blogspot.com,
and http://ps110fall.blogspot.com.

These URLs get published in the university on-line catalogue, and the prospective
student need only click on the site to get the basic information about each course including
a one-click self-test that would help them guage their suitability for taking distance
learning courses in general.

These three sites use the free WEB page services of Yahoo!/Geocities and Pyra Labs (the
"blogs"). Although there are scores (if not hundreds) of free Web page server outfits out
there, it is important to realize that each has its own way of doing things which is not
necessarily transferable to the others. To achieve maximum efficiency, therefore, it is
best to concentrate on one or two systems, master them, and stick with them. (For free
Web page server listings, see Appendix B: Free Web Server Listings.)

I like Yahoo!/Geocities and Pyra Labs because they do not require knowledge of
HTML codes or JAVA script and you do not need to read hundreds of pages of manuals
just to get started. Instead, the way to set up your initial WEB page or pages is simply to
go into the main pages of these systems and follow the prompts. That?s what I did to
learn the basics of these systems, and so can you! I also like these systems because the
web pages you create are not cluttered with advertising banners, pop-up come-ons and
the like. Of course, there are modest ads which support the free systems, but they are not
obtrusive, unlike many other free Web services out there.

My recommendation is to set up your main Web page using Yahoo!/Geocities (the one
that gets listed in your university or college on-line catalogue), and to expand from there
using the Pyra Lab blogger "mini" web pages. Again, for examples of how this is done, see
my sites at http://www.geocities.com/hawcc. Here, the main site is
constructed with the Yahoo!/Geocities easy-to-learn and use PageBuilder tool while the
sub-sites (the actual course descriptions) are done with the Pyra Lab blogs.

To speed up your learning curve time, I've listed some "quick start" procedures
for Yahoo!/Geocities and Pyra Labs, in section 7, below.

See this excellent paper by James Powell of Virginia Tech: "50+ Questions you need
to answer as you design a Web page"
for a useful checklist of questions you may need to ask as you construct your Web pages.


Using the free space provided by your ISP (usually 10-15 MB) to set up a WEB site
is fine. However, this aspect is not covered here because I have yet to master use of
Windows Frontpage and the rather confusing steps (to me) of getting the results of
the drafts uploaded from my "el-cheepo" low-end PC to the ISP I use with free
FTP (file transfer protocols) software. If anyone out there has the time to do a simple
1-2-3 manual on this aspect, preferably using the two well-known free FTP systems,
CUTE and Free FTP, please do it and send me the instructions so that I can add your
words of wisdom to this site at the end of this paper, while giving you full credit, of course.

Added Comment 7/27/02: Since the above was written, I purchased ($35.95)
the CUTE ftp soffware, opened an account with CornerHouse, a low-cost ($5/month)
server and established a domain at GoDaddy (under $9/year) named kanaka.org.
After mastering these systems, I'll post some comments here. UPDATE 4/2/03: Yep,
it works fine. Easy to use. I would recommend that you find a cheap host like I did
and do it. Another, so far, free hosting system (after paying a one-time $11 fee) is
http://www.web.ms11.net that now use as backup for THIS page. (smile)


Your university or college system is likely to provide free e-mail addresses to
registered students. However, they are not likely to provide easy-to-follow instructions
on how to access such e-mail accounts and the internet from home PCs. This is
critical since virtually all students who sign up for Internet courses do so because it is
more convenient for them to do the course from home.

I generally tell my students to get their own ISP accounts. The financially-challenged student
can be referred to various university terminals or the public library. If the Thinkwell video CD
package (see below) is used, they would have to make special arrangements, in some cases,
to get the audio turned on since many libraries have audio "off" for obvious reasons. Over the
past 3 years, I've had only two students who did not have a PC at home. They were advised
not to sign on for my internet courses, but did so anyway. As expected, they were the ones
who complained loudly about not being able to get to a terminal to do the weekly quizzes on
time, get papers in on time, or even to do the Mid-Term online exam on time. To protect
yourself from these whiners, be sure to file hardcopy documentation that such students
have been advised at the beginning of the semester of all course requirements, get them
to sign it, and file the signed documents in their personnel files.

UPDATE 4/2/03: Since around Sept. 2002, the UH-Hawaii e-mail system has vastly
improved. It is now easy to use and has fewer downtowns. A great advantage of it is that there
is no spam or pop-up ads. I recommend that UH students get and use this system.

I also recommend web-based e-mail accounts which are accessible from any Internet connection.
The following comments refer to Yahoo! and Hotmail free e -mail accounts at http://mail.yahoo.com and http://mail.hotmail.com, respectively.

Cautions: As of early 2002, Yahoo and Hotmail, the most used free web-based
systems, have 30-day inactivity clauses. This means that if you do not go into those
accounts for 30 days, they are closed and your e-mail bounces back to the sender.
You can avoid that by sending the firms about $9.95/year, but my experience is that it
is the nature of on-line courses that email accounts for them are used quite frequently
and that the 30-day cut-off is rarely a problem if you remind your students to go "into"
their Yahoo and Hotmail accounts at least once a month -- particularly those students
who use it only as a "backup" account.

Another fine free e-mail service with no 30-day cut-off policy is the Care2 system.
To open an account there, go to

>>--> http://www.care2.com/accounts/signupform.html

1. Folders: I use this option for my weekly quizzes and reports. All you need to do is
instruct students on how to fill in the Subject field to get your quizzes delivered to a
folder named, say, Quiz One or Quiz Two etc. To set up your own folders,
click on Options (left column of your main e-mail page) and follow the appropriate
prompts. See Auto-Reply, below for more useful hints.

2. Auto-Reply: This is useful to assure the student that his/her quiz or report was
received and forestalls that 1 a.m. phone call from a worried student to inquire if the
report was received by the deadline. To set this option up, go to Options from your
Yahoo! e-mail page, click on Vacation Response and follow the prompts.

An example would clarify how to use this feature: Say you decide to give weekly
quizzes. To keep track of them easily, set up an e-mail address called
Math101quiz@yahoo.com (or whatever) to which you instruct all students to
send the quizzes. After setting up the folders there, e.g. Quiz One, Quiz Two,
etc. (as explained above), all you need to do to see if the quizzes are done is
to go to the particular folder. The student, for his or her part, will get your
pre-drafted message stating that the quiz was received.

3. Address Book/Class List: This is useful to maintain and retrieve important notes and
information about each student. It also enables you to send broadside messages to the
entire class quickly without having to type the e-mail address of each student
individually. (Thinkwell and Prentice-Hall also have this capability.)


Also known as Listservers or Discussion Boards, this feature is a must for most
on-line courses because it provides the instructor and all members of the class with the
opportunity to exchange information electronically as a group. Audio and video
interactions are covered under Chat below.

Message Board discussions can be open-ended or time-delimited. Open-ended means
that you allow the class conversation to continue indefinitely -- sort of a rambling
on-line place for the class to go to post messages, get reactions, feedback and even to
make dates throughout the semester!

A more structured and easy-to-administer option is the time-delimited option. All
this means is that you would designate a date/time window for everyone in the class to
log on and participate in a focused discussion on a topic you post. I've found that a 3-day
window works well for everyone. For instance, you can designate a required 3-day
window once a month for everyone to log on and participate -- or if you have time,
perhaps a 2-day window once a week.

Yahoo! provides a Message Board in its Yahoo! Groups suite of free services which
is detailed in Section 5. Thinkwell also includes a free Discussion Board with its
innovative CD textbook discussed in Section 7.


You will most probably want to save and upload files for your students to read and
study. Yahoo! Groups has this feature which is discussed in Section 5.

You also might want to consider using the neat Yahoo! Briefcase feature as a backup.
This free feature basically provides you with a virtual 30 megabyte on-line hard disk to which
you can upload files for others to view at a specific URL (Web address). To use this feature,
you need to do a separate registration. For details, click on "Briefcase" at the bottom of
your main Yahoo! e-mail page. This file-sharing feature, however, is available only to other
Yahoo! users, another good reason to simply require your students to open a Yahoo account
for your courses.


You also will most probably want to have a place for interesting links you want your
students to read. Yahoo! Groups has this feature, which is discussed in Section 5. It is also
very easy to create links directly on your main course Web site, or any other site you
choose, with the Yahoo!/Geocities and Pyra Labs web sites, both of which are covered in
our discussion in Section 9. Here's an example of a links page for my Political Science
course using the free Yahoo/Geocities system: http://www.geocities.com/ps110links

g. POLLS: View this as a way for you get a quick show of hands in your electronic
classroom for particular questions. For instance, you might want to do a poll to find the
most convenient date/time slots for your focused daily, weekly or monthly Message
Board discussions. Yahoo! Groups (see Section 5) has this easy-to-use feature.


The latest free version (as of now, Feb. 2003) of the Yahoo! Messenger software is
vastly improved from earlier versions and now includes the capability to interact with
anyone with the same free software in real-time in audio, visual or both modes
simultaneously. For audio, you?ll need to plug in a microphone to your PC (usually under
$10) and for audio/visual, you'll need a WEB Cam (usually in the $40-60 range).

To download your free Yahoo! Messenger software, go to your main Yahoo! e-mail
page, look for Yahoo! Messenger and click on it for further information. The one-time
download of the free software takes about 13 minutes, much less if you have broadband
cable or fiber-optic connection to the Internet. Click on http://officehours8.blogspot.com
to see how I've setup my Virtual Office consultation information page based on Yahoo!
Messenger. However, be aware of possible security vulnerabilities discussed in Section


Over the past two years, I've found that chat mode works best with small groups of
under ten persons. Larger groups result in slow, clunky sessions which are generally
not useful. Also, if you use this mode, I strongly suggest that all students do it in audio
(i.e. have microphones activated). The reason for this is that the flow of electronic conversation
goes much more smoothly if people are talking. What you would be using is basically an
audio party line which hosts discussions, some of which can get heated. Typing messages
in this environment would be tedious, particularly for those who can't type very well.

On the other hand, typed messages can be saved and stored, which may or may not be
what you want.

There are several ways that you can initiate real-time chat sessions: One way is to
require everyone in the class to enter the course chat room via the Yahoo! Groups suite at
the same time. Another way is to activate your Yahoo! Messenger software and invite
students to join in a chat. This would require, of course, that all students are alerted to
be on line at an appointed time with their Yahoo! Messenger software activated.

The latter (Yahoo! Messenger) can be more complicated and involved to
set up. I've also found, on occasion, that the Yahoo! system can get
congested and the voice messages sometimes ?slow down? -- and sounds like people are
talking while under water. (These instances are few and far between, but still can be
annoying, to say the least!)

After two years of experimentation, I now encourage use of the Chat mode for
students to interact with each other in small groups informally but no longer make it a
course requirement. The best way to get class participation in a focused manner, in my
opinion, is to set up asynchronous Message Board sessions periodically as explained in
Section 4.

j. PROFILES: Last, but not least, is the Yahoo! Profiles page. It can be a useful tool
to facilitate student interaction. Remember, as an Internet course, face-to-face
interaction is not the norm, so the only way people can get to know each other quickly is to
check the profiles of fellow students. I ask students to do the short, standard Yahoo!
Profiles questionnaire, which also has space for them to upload a photo, post links to their
own personal WEB page (if they have one), and other general information. To see the
Yahoo! Profile of anyone in the class, all a student has to do is go to the Groups site, enter
the Members page for the class list and click on the person's name.

Click on http://yahooprofile.blogspot.com to see the simple ?how to? instructions I
use to encourage students to do their profile page.

Postscript: I'm no longer recommending use of Yahoo Profiles because I've
found that most students have great difficulty mastering it even with the simple
instructions noted above. For the upcoming semester, I'm simply asking students
to send me a photo and brief bio for inclusion in a "Class Picture" as a way for
everyone to get acquainted. (It is quite easy to create a one-page "Class Photo"
page using Yahoo/Geocities, detailed below.)

k. GROUPS CALENDAR: Also included in the Yahoo! Groups suite of tools is a
calendar with a useful alert feature which enables you to type in pre-arranged alert
messages to your students. For instance, if you plan on doing weekly quizzes, you can use
the calendar alert feature to automatically send reminders, say, 3 days before the due
date of each quiz.


This free suite of tools is very useful for Internet courses because you, the instructor,
can control access and content of each Yahoo! Group you create. The major
recommended tools and what they do have been covered in sections 4a through 4k,
above. This brief section shows you how easy it is to create a Yahoo! Group for your

a. At the bottom of your main Yahoo! e-mail page is a list of Yahoo! services in tiny
blue letters. Look for Groups and click on it.
b. Right there, in the middle of the page is Start a New Group in a box. Click on it.
c. Next, type in a name for this group, e.g. Physics 101 (and hit the ENTER key)
d. For e-mail address use your Yahoo! e-mail account, for now (the address through
which you just accessed this Groups set up page) and hit ENTER.
e. For Describe type, Physics 101 Groups (or whatever), and hit ENTER.
f. For Language use English, and hit ENTER.
g. For Listed or Unlisted choose Unlisted for now and hit ENTER.
h. For Membership there are three choices. Open, Restricted and Closed. I
recommend using Closed for now, and hit ENTER.
i. For Moderation, you have three choices. Choose Unmoderated for now.
j. Hit the Continue box.
k. For Profile - skip this since you will have already done yours, right? (smile). See
Section 4j, above.
l. For Email Address (again), this one is the address to which you want the
Message Board postings sent. Use an e-mail address you most frequently use, and hit

You are now ready to INVITE folks to this group named Physics 101 Group (or
whatever) which you just created. If you don't have an e-mail list yet, just skip this
section. How to invite folks is detailed below.

Now, after you create a Yahoo! Groups site, the thing to do is set up what you want it
to handle. Here's how.

a. Again, starting from your main Yahoo! e-mail page, look for the list of Yahoo!
services in tiny blue letters at the bottom of the page and click on Groups.
b. Look to the left of the screen and note My Groups with the notation, Physics
101 (or whatever Group you just created above.) Click on that.
c. Go to Settings (lower left side of the main Groups screen) and click on it.
d. There are many options you can modify, but for now, just do the following three
(you can always go back to Settings later and do more):

1. Do you see Welcome Message and Footer? Good. Click on EDIT to edit it.
Highlight the default welcome message and hit your Delete key, then add something
like Here is your invitation to the Physics 101 Group site. Please hit your Reply and
Send keys to automatically gain access to this site.

2. Also, delete the footer default message (highlight what's there and hit your
Delete key). I recommend doing this because it would eliminate a group member
from accidentally unsubscribing themselves. (If a student dropped the class, you can
always unsubscribe them by going to Members and deleting their name from there).

3. For Features and Options, click on EDIT and do the following
recommendations for now (you can change things later on)
a. Messages: No change.
b. Chat: No change.
c. Files/Photos: Click Limited option (You upload, they can download but
not upload). This prevents unwanted clutter.
d. Bookmarks: Check Moderator only (You don?t want everyone in the class
uploading stuff. It could really get cluttered up fast.)
e. Database: Check off (If you have time, however, check this option out. I
haven't had time to do it yet.) :)
f. Polls: Check Moderator only
g. Members: no change
h. Calendar: Check Moderator only
i. Promote: Check off

Then, of course, you need to invite your students to this group and begin to use it. Here's

a. Go to Invite (lower left side of the main Groups screen) and click on it.
b. Type in a list of student e-mail addresses. Be sure to separate each e-mail address
with a comma. That's it! Simple!

(You?ll need to figure out a way to get an e-mail list. Click on
http://econ131todos.blogspot.com for an example of how I got registered students to send
in their e-mail addresses for my Econ131 class.)

c. Hit Send. They will all then get an invitation to join your Groups site. As noted
earlier, hitting their "R"eply key (and ENTER), automatically gets them listed under
Members at your groups site.

n In summary, by setting up a Yahoo! Group Suite of tools for each course, you have
easy access and control over a wide range of tools to make the course an exciting
experience for your students. The tools include (but are not limited to) an easily
accessible Message Board, Chat Room, Bookmark/Links, File Archive, Profiles for each
student, Polling capability, and a Calendar with alert-message features. To enter and use
any of these tools, your students need only look at the left side of their main groups
page, and click on the feature they want to use.

How do you and your students get into this groups site you created? There are
several shortcuts, but for now, just stick to the easiest way to remember: Go to your main
Yahoo! e-mail page, look at the bottom of the screen, click on Groups and follow the
prompts. That's it! :)


This paper does not cover these platforms because I don't use them. The U. of Hawaii
system uses WEB-CT but I found it non-intuitive and didn't have the substantial learning-
curve time to learn how to use it when I first tried it back in 1999. My understanding is that
the tech support has improved somewhat. In my most recent forey at trying it out, I still
found it definitely not easy to set up -- certainly not as easy and intuitive as the Thinkwell
system I'm using. (See Section 7, below). Colleagues at other colleges tell
me that the Blackboard system is easier and more intuitive than WEB-CT.

7. THINKWELL CD SYSTEM: (4/14/02: See Addendum for update.)

This is a unique learning system that is VERY useful for the following entry-level
college courses (as of March 2003): Calculus I, Calculus II, College Algebra,
Intermediate Algebra, Precalculus, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, American
Government, Economics, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics
and Public Speaking.

The exciting feature here is that students can view actual mini-lectures at home.
These lectures are by competent, experienced university professors (all Ph.D.'s).
Click on http://ps110lecturers.blogspot.com to see a summary explanation that I use
for my Political Science course.

To get a more detailed rundown of the Thinkwell delivery system, click on

After three years of using this system for my economics and political science courses,
my feeling is that it is definitely a quantum leap in distance learning technology and very,
very cost effective.

The cost of a typical set of CDs is under $70 for most courses, and up to about $90 for
a few others. This price range compares well with many good quality hardcover textbooks
and workbooks, but the resources that come with the Thinkwell CDs are vast:

The student has instant access to the very reliable Thinkwell servers, 7 days a week,
24 hours a day where tests, examinations, a Discussion Board, technical support and
other features reside

The CDs also provide instant off-line accessibility to the lectures (sound,
color, animations etc.) as well as the transcripts of the lectures (about 150 mini-lectures
ranging from 7-20 minutes) and actual lecture notes. Students can review each lecture
as many times as is needed, off-line, from home.

For the instructor, the Thinkwell on-line test banks and automatic grading systems
are outstanding, as is the telephone and e-mail technical support department. No
question about it. For example, for resolution of multiple-choice questions (fortunately,
very infrequent in my experience) the instructor, after a cursory check, may refer such
questions to the Thinkwell in-house professors who thus become effective "third party"
referees with their authoritative feedback.

Although it is true that a coordinator of a Thinkwell course may appear to be a
modified graduate assistant (since all lectures are handled by experienced, qualified
Ph.D.'s), in actuality, substantial time is required for the coordinative work involved,
including the careful selection of videos to put into a syllabus, selection of weekly (or
daily) quiz questions on the videos, creation of a mid-term and/or final exams (and all the
administrative work involved in reserving exam rooms, getting proctors lined up at
various sites, etc.), assigning term papers and correcting them, creating outside reading
lists and fielding the daily e-mail queries on course work in a timely manner.

For an example of a Course Calendar/Assignments page of one of my economics
courses using the Thinkwell system (Professor Tomlinson's "Macroeconomics") as well
as a standard economics textbook (Professor Mankiw's "Principles of Macroeconomics"),
click on http://econ131calendar.blogspot.com.

Notice the links from there (top of page), including the regular on-campus seminar schedule,
the Office Consultations instructions, the hardcopy textbook I use with this course
(Harvard professor Mankiw's low-cost softcover Macroeconomics) and so on.

The point to emphasize here is that students can get virtually all of the information
they need to handle the course on a daily basis by simply clicking into this WEB
page, which, by the way, is constructed with the amazing Pyra Lab (blogger) easy-to-use

Aside: For all you economics professors out there: As an adjunct lecturer in
economics for the past quarter century, I can say without qualifications that Professor
Steve Tomlinson (Ph.D. Stanford) who does the Thinkwell economics videos is
one of the best -- if not THE best -- lecturer in economics I've ever encountered. Really
first rate. Also, using Harvard Professor N. Gregory Mankiw's, Macroeconomics
or Microeconomics low-cost softcover textbooks in conjunction with the Tomlinson
lectures on the same subjects has synergistic effects that are truly amazing. (I'm sure that
Professors Tomlinson and Mankiw did not coordinate their work, but it sure appears
that they did. Mankiw's easy-to-read textbook tracks amazingly well with the
Tomlinson lectures.)

For the record, I am not a shareholder in Thinkwell or Harcourt Press (that publish
Mankiw's textbooks), nor do I get commissions from them for saying good things
about their works. My opinion is based on actual experience and results in mating the
two for my Macro- and Microeconomics courses as of this writing (March 2003).

8. Prentice-Hall and Thomson Learning Platforms:

Posted 4/10/03: I'm trying out these platforms for the Spring2003
system. Specifically, for my Econ120 course, I'm using the Prentice-Hall "Survey of
Economics" by O'Sullivan/Sheffrin and for my Pol. Sci. 110 course, I'm using
the Thomson Learning "Democracy Under Pressure" by Cummings/Wise. Both of
these publishers, like Thinkwell, offer platforms at which students can self-register
and get to information about how an instructor may want to run the course along
with usual links to further readings, files, discussion boards, etc.

I'm discontinuing use of the Thomson Learning platform because of the many
technical glitches I've found in their online quiz/test software, particularly a very bad
experience I had with a Mid-Term exam. The Prentice-Hall platform is not as
intuitive as it could be (certainly not as easy-to-set up and use as the Thinkwell
platform), but it is adequate. I don't plan to use it next semester, however.

Let's now turn to the creation of Web pages.

9. WEB PAGES - Create:

Although it would be possible to set up a distance learning course without a main
Web page, my feeling is that it would be substantially more convenient to the university
you are with and the prospective distance learning student if you used Web pages for
your courses. Even standard lecture courses would be enhanced by using Web pages to
disseminate useful information, referred to as a ?hybrid? system the term used by the
on-line conference that helped to get this paper started. Click on http//www.geocities.com/hawcc for an
example of how I list my courses, both Internet and standard lecture, at a Web site.

Keeping in mind the pointers noted earlier (see Section 3c, above), here is my
recommendation on how to get started with Yahoo! /Geocities and Pyra Labs.

a. Yahoo!/Geocities: Although there are several ways to create and gain access to the
free Yahoo!/Geocities Web site tools, the simplest and easiest-to-remember way to get
started is from your Yahoo e-mail main page. Here's how:

1. Starting at your main Yahoo! e-mail page, click on Options (left column).
2. Do you see Account Information at the upper left? Good. Click on it.
3. Now, on the right side of the screen, note the column titled Review My
Account Information
and under it Create/Edit Home Page. Click on Create/Edit
Home page
4. Look for Yahoo! Page Builder and click on it.
5. At the lower left side of the screen, find Launch PageBuilder and click on it.
At this point, if you have an el-cheepo PC like mine, it?ll take almost three full minutes
for PageBuilder to load into your RAM. (NOTE: You are NOT downloading anything to your
PC hard disk. All you are doing is loading the program into your RAM -- the random
access memory --so that you can do nifty stuff.)

6. After PageBuilder loads up, look at the top of your screen and note the icons. You
should set aside an hour or so to experiment with those icons, but for now, let's set up
your first Web page in under 40 seconds.
a. Click on Text and note the box that appears on your screen. Put your cursor in
that box and type, say, Test Course 101 -- and then move the cursor to the Save icon
and click on it.
b. You are now presented with information that your page name is Index (that's
good), at which point, click on the tiny Save box.
c. See the message: Would you like to view your page ? Good. Since this is your
first Web page, click on ok so that you can see what it looks like to the public.
d. Congratulations! You have just created a Web page which anyone in the world
can now access by merely typing in http://www.geocities.com/your-Yahoo!-ID.

Now that you have seen how easy it is to create a free Web page, let's not stop just
yet but instead spend another minute or so to make some improvements to Test Course

Let's say that you want to make the lettering bigger. It should now be in Times New
in size 12, the default. (Note the boxes, upper left of the page.)

To make the lettering bigger, first, hit the x (upper right box) of your screen to get
back to your working page at your new web site.

a. Now, highlight Test Course 101 (hold your left button down while dragging the
cursor across Test Course 101, and then release that button).
b. Note the 12 in the box near the top left of your screen. Click on the tiny
upside-down triangle to the right of it. This immediately presents you with a list of
numbers from 6 to 48. Since you are now at 12, the default, and want larger lettering,
guess what you need to do? Yep, you need to put the cursor on a number larger than 12.
Try 18 for starters. Go ahead, put your cursor on 18.

Voila! Note that Test Course 101 is now much bigger! But wait. What if you
want to make that boldface?

c. Easy. First highlight Test Course 101, notice the big B at the top of your
screen, put your cursor on it and click! Voila again! Your Test Course 101 is now not
only in large letters (size 18 to be exact) but it also is in bold face!

By clicking on all of the icons and other items at the top of your screen, you will see
how easy it is to handle fonts (bold face, italics, etc.), colors (for lettering and
background), additions like buttons, photos and other stuff. It would be very worthwhile
to spend several hours manipulating and testing the PageBuilder tools.

I rarely used the help button because the trial and error approach, for me, is the
fastest way to learn how to use this truly outstanding Web page making tool. You can
also click on the PageBuilder tutorial which is available as an option when you
first enter the Yahoo!/Geocities Web page site. Enjoy!

Let's now turn to the other recommended free Web page system.

b. Pyra Labs Blogger: The simplest way to get started is to click into
http://www.blogger.com and follow the prompts after going into the New Account

The system I use for my courses is to set up one blogger account per course, e.g. One
account for Pol. Sci. 110, one for Econ130 etc. From that one account, you can set up as
many plain vanilla Blogger Web sites as you want associated with that account for
free. This arrangement makes it easy for you to find, access, modify or change templates
for these plain vanilla WEB sites quickly, and by quickly I mean within one or two
minutes. (That?s REALLY quick.)

The first time you go into a blogger account, allow yourself about a half hour of
learning curve time to set up a few test blogs (actually, stripped down, simple Web
sites) using the pre-designed templates there. If you do a focused practice session, you'll
soon be a pro and your subsequent efforts to create and use blogger Web sites will be
much faster.

Blogs are plain vanilla in the sense that you won't be able to load photos, streaming
videos, audio clips and fancy art right away. You can do those things with a blog Web site
but it would require more technical expertise. On the other hand, you WILL be able to post
simple messages, do the basic fonts (italic and bold face), and set up links
within minutes without having to learn the intricacies of HTML code or Java script.

Using the free blog system, you'll really be able to set up an effective, easy-to-use
Internet course page with multiple Web sites in under an hour, assuming you have
absolutely zero knowledge about Web page building. No kidding. Try it. It'll amaze
you. Just go slow the first few times to enter the blogger site (if it's congested and slow
to load, just log out and try again in a few minutes).

For an example of one professional looking template I use, click on http://ps110fall.blogspot.com.
Notice the left column with the useful links. How does one set up links in that
left column for this blogger template? Easy. From the main blogger page,
look at the blogger taskbar at the top of the page and click on "Template."

You will then be presented with the page in HTML format. At this point, if you have no idea
what HTML code is all about, you may panic. Don't. Do what I did. Simply examine that page
and notice what's there. For instance, look for the word "Archive" or "Home" in that jumble of words
and compare it to what's on the web page. (To view the web page anytime, just click on
"view web page" on the task bar in the middle of your screen).

Getting back to the page with HTML code: Notice that next to the word "Archive" or "Home" is
a URL (Web page) address for them. URLs start with http:// etc.

The thing to do is simply replace the "Home" (for instance) with whatever you want, say,
with "Zero Tolerance." Then, replace the original URL for "Home" with a URL you
created (using blogger, perhaps?). Just go slowly and you'll be amazed how easy it is.

I f you forget the Web page address (URL) of your blog pages, all you need to do is
click on Settings (near the top of the page) of the particular blog you are interested in.

Again, the entry to the Pyra Lab bloggers is: http://www.blogger.com. Have fun!

ADDENDUM 4/1/03: As of last month, Pyra Labs was
acquired by Google which suggests that maybe, in the not-to-distant future, these free
services may require a charge.


No discussion of distance learning is complete without a briefing on internet security
matters. Basically, there are three first line of defense actions you can take to protect
your home PC: (a) Establish the habit of unplugging your phone line from your PC when
you are not on line, (b) set up an internal firewall at your PC and (c) adopt (and update
frequently) virus scanning/deleting software.

(a) Unplugging your phone line when not on the Internet: This is easy to do and costs
nothing. The main reason for getting into this habit is to prevent unauthorized persons
from entering your PC via your phone line when you?re not on-line. If you use cable,
this may be difficult, and therefore, doing (b) and (c) below becomes more urgent.
You should know that some PCs can be turned on remotely if the phone jack is plugged
in, even if the main power switch to the PC is ?off.? That is why unplugging the phone
jack is recommended. This action can also help to mitigate serious damage to your PC
from electrical storms or power surges.

(b) Setting up a Firewall: Good Firewall software makes your PC ?invisible? to probing
intruders. Some so-called firewalls, however, are not as effective as others. To find out
which are effective and which are not, do a Web search on ?firewalls? using your
favorite search tool. One of the best search engines is at http://www.google.com.

McAfee, Norton and others sell effective firewall software on-line, and you can buy
firewall CDs at your local office equipment store like Office Max. The cost is usually
under $30/year for the service.

You can also download an outstanding free firewall service provided by ZoneAlert at
http://www.zonelabs.com/products/za/freedownload1.html. (I use this one. It is really
good and has won PC Magazine awards). (Amazingly, it is free -- as of Feb. 2002).

(c) Using virus detecting/deleting software: McAfee, Norton and other firms offer this
service for under $30/year. However, I've found that AVG AntiVirus by Grisoft
Corporation is also excellent. I started using it last year after it ?caught? two viruses on
my PC that McAfee missed. They have a free version which can be downloaded at
http://www.grisoft.com/html/us_downl.htm. Periodic updates are also free (as of
Feb. 2002).

It would be a good idea to recommend use of firewalls and anti-virus software at your
disclaimer page or as a separate posting to establish due diligence on your part.

Caveat (added 7/27/02): All of the above, of course, will not secure your
PC absolutely because any competent professional hacker can still get into your
files. How? Easy.

The CIA, FBI, and NSA agents can and do use Carnivore, Magic Lantern and Echalon,
well-known hacking tools. For details on these rather unsophisticated tools and how to
defeat them, go to Robert Graham's excellent FAQ sheet at
>>--> http://www.robertgraham.com/pubs/carnivore-faq.html

More ominous and difficult to defeat are undetectible software and/or hardware trojans
that government agents and private security firms can insert into your PC when you are not
home. Such programs can automatically send your data to interested folks when you go
on-line, or, to avoid detection by some of the more sophisticated firewalls which might
pick up unauthorized outgoing message packets from your PC, the inserted trojans
can be adjusted so as to simply save your data for later retrieval by an agent going back
into your home when you're not in. These practices have been going on for quite awhile
but have been expanded substantially since the 9/11 atrocity.


Distance learning approaches and technologies are still evolving, and institutions of
higher learning are continuously adapting to these new technologies and consequent
realities the technologies create. The on-line conference mode which got this paper
started (click on http://leahi.kcc.hawaii.edu/org/tcon2002 for details) is one way that
new information can be disseminated quickly to interested parties.

There are already over a million WEB sites that cover distant learning matters. To get
a huge list of sites related to ?On-line Teaching and Learning? click on

This paper will eventually end up on that list too! (smile) Enjoy!


A. Other ideas on how to set up on-line courses using free tools:

Your ideas to expand what is covered in this paper are welcome. Send your suggestions
(with URLs) to: AnsonChong@pobox.com.

Technology for Teachers (http://www.techforteachers.org/index.html) is a great
site managed by Donna Hendrey, author of "Essential Microsoft Office Tutorials" with
fellow volunteers including Bernard Poole, Associate Professor, U. of Pittsburg and Marcus Holt,
a professional Web designer.

Instructional Design for Online Learning (http://www.pitt.edu/~poole/edmenu.html)
compiled by Professor Poole (see above) and Mandi Axman, Instructional Designer, Technikon,
Pretoria, S. Africa, has many useful links for folks who design on-line courses.

B. Free WEB server listings:

http://www.freewebspace.net and http://www.freewebsiteproviders.com/

13. ADDENDA (Posted after April 8, 2002)

A. Thinkwell Rumors: Posted 4/14/02: From the Thinkwell site:

A note from Carl Tyson, CEO/President:

We understand that one of our competitors, a multi-million-dollar
textbook publisher, has revived the rumor that Thinkwell is about to go out of business.
Our lawyers are currently addressing the issue with this publisher. Being a small,
independent company, we have heard these rumors since our founding, in 1997.
Although unfortunate, it is not surprising that an older company, faced with a competitive
threat, would seek to frighten the market in order to maintain its traditional dominance.
Nevertheless, Thinkwell continues to experience dramatic growth in the
number of satisfied customers and users that we serve each day. Please feel free to contact
us if you have any questions or concerns

Thinkwell Slipping? OK now. During the Fall 2002 semester, I've noticed a deterioration in the tech support area. Some of my e-mail requests were simply not answered, and there was one instance where the tech folks changed items in the middle of the semester in the on-line exercise area which caused some consternation. Also, a key person who handled our inquiries was laid off in Sept. (Posted 11/19/02) Thinkwell Tech Support OK: There has been a marked improvement in response to queries since the late Fall2002 semester. Because of this, I've reinstituted the system for both of my Pol. Sci. and Micro courses. (For the current Spring 03 semester, I had cut back to only the Macro course I handle). (Posted 3/31/03)

B. Online Learning News by Ray Schroeder, Director, Office of Technology-Enhanced
Learning, U. of Illinois, Springfield. Schroeder was recently named "Distinguished Scholar in
Online Learning, 2001-2003," by the Alfred P. Sloan Consortium (Posted 4/15/02)

This is a continuously updated (Blogger!) site that focusses on
online learning. The URL is: http://people.uis.edu/rschr1/onlinelearning/blogger.html

C. Technology Tools for Today's Campuses, Edited by Dr. James L. Morrison, Professor of Education Leadership and Editor-in-Chief, The Technology Course program at the U. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also a Microsoft Scholar.

This excellent on-line paper at http://horizon.unc.edu/projects/monograph/CD/,
put together in 1997, has substantial breadth and depth with links that work!

D. Free Internet Service Providers (ISPs): (Posted 4/16/02)

My experience with free ISPs is that they are loaded with advertisements, take up a lot
of RAM, not always reliable, lack tech support and can disappear without a trace without
advance warning. However, for the extremely budget-challenged, and in the spirit of the title
of this paper, here is the URL for a list of current ISPs: http://www.all-free-isp.com/

E. Yahoo Groups now has audio Chat: (Posted 5/17/02)

F. Hybrid Teaching Can Blend with Traditional:

>>--> http://chronicle.com/free/v48/i28/28a03301.htm

*** Copyrighted by Anson Chong, 2002, all rights reserved. ***

For educational non-profit tax-exempt entities: Permission granted to cite or quote from this article within the guidelines of the fair-use doctrine pursuant to Title 17, U.S.C., Section 107 of the U.S. copyright law. English translation: Go ahead and quote from this paper as long as you cite the source (this URL which is http://distancelearn.blogspot.com).

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