University of Washington, Seattle Campus
Making the Web IntegralSteve Goldblatt has taken the course Web site to a whole new level. Where most course Web sites act as an out-of-class resource for students, Goldblatt uses his online presence as an integral tool in his classroom instruction. He teaches two graduate and three undergraduate courses in the Construction Management department dealing with various aspects of construction law and policy. His extensive use of digital resources and communication tools allows him to feel more connected to both his profession and his students. "The real need is to have almost constant communication with students," Goldblatt says. "The law changes every day."
For his CETS 505 graduate seminar that meets once a week, Goldblatt updates a weekly course outline with links to relevant material.
"Being connected to the outside world, for all the things that it means, content and diversion, is just incredible."Goldblatt then uses this outline during lecture in place of a PowerPoint presentation or speaking notes to jump from one online location to another, giving students concrete examples of landmark court decisions or late breaking legal developments in Olympia. "It keeps their attention. Instead of saying, 'Do you remember when we looked at . . .,' I click and we're looking at it projected on the wall."
Systemic ChangeDigital technology has affected almost every facet of Dr. Goldblatt's instructional method. "No more handouts, no more overheads, no more rushing to the copy center the morning of the lecture," he claims. Of the five courses that he teaches, Goldblatt assigns a textbook in only one, maintaining a large reserve list in the library and gleaning the rest of his readings from more current publications. "The material on the Web is rich beyond compare. Ninety percent of the stuff I need is in the public domain so there are no copyright issues."
Goldblatt keeps himself informed of the latest information in his field via email lists from Olympia. He makes use of online databases such as FindLaw which house digital versions of cases that may not be published and accessible in hardcopy for months after verdicts are handed down. His own course Web site serves as a resource for other professionals in the construction management field.
He also requires all homework to be turned in as an attachment to email, using a downloadable Excel template available from his Web site, a practice which he says mimics the protocol already standardized in the professional realm. "In our business everything is digital cameras, e-commerce, and database sharing," Goldblatt explains. "Information technology is being reinforced in all classes in our department."
Even the breaks in Goldblatt's three-hour seminars have been transformed. "Students used to come to class with their Walkmans to listen to the game during breaks. Now we just stream it up on the projector!"
Design IssuesProfessor Goldblatt was careful to take his audience into consideration as he built his course Web sites. Many students will have several classes with him over the course of their career at the university, so he has aimed for a consistent look and feel with simple navigation across all five course sites. "I don't do anything fancy, so it loads fast," he says. "I worked hard on the interface so all of the sites look the same; they're easy to get around." Because many of the graduate-level students are coming to class from off campus, Goldblatt even has a link from the top level of his site to an up-to-the-minute DOT traffic report. "I'm thinking about 'em all the time," he quips.
Student Perspective"As a student in [Professor Goldblatt's] accounting class, I really appreciated having everything I needed available on the net (reading/scheduling)," says Janet Anderson, a senior in Architectural Studies. "I loved being able to submit my homework by email as soon as I completed it. I was amazed that I got feedback almost immediately and that I could ask questions and get answers without the press conference clamor immediately before or after most classes. Additionally, I find previewing the class sites makes my enrollment decisions far easier."