for the project:



for the


Project Period: May 1, 1996 to December 15, 1998

Last Update: Monday, 15-Dec-2014 06:53:49 EST

Principle Investigator:

Ernest Knowles, Ph.D.

  • Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor
  • Member, Academy of Outstanding Teachers
  • Emeritus Associate Professor of Physical Oceanography
  • Department of Marine, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
  • 1142 Jordan Hall
  • Box 8208, Raleigh, NC 27695-8208
  • tel: (919) 515-3711
  • fax: (919) 515-7802
  • Email:

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URL for this report:

This Milestone Report webpage includes a continually updated report for the above named project and describes my experience in putting my MEA 200 course on the web. The report is subdivided into five parts:

NOTE: In the years since I completed this project, there has been great advances in the speed and capability of computers and other web-related software and technology.(I now use MAC OS X on a G5 computer, for instance, to make changes to my course, and a MacBook Pro for browsing), so I have changed the report to refect this. All the other recommendations are still of value.

Finally, there has been a large increase in enrollment for this course and in the percentage of Degree Students (DS) taking this class. As you will see in Part 5, where I compare the performance of students in five different venues, the enrollment in all but the regular lecture classes during this study period were generally small (and even some of regular classes had only 69 registered). In the last few years I offered this course, enrollment had a rather steady increase from 25 to 30 students to around 50 students starting about 4 years ago, but in Fall 2014 my enrollment was 64 students and 64 were DS taking MEA 200 as a flexible access class. This large increase in enrollment (and the much increased percentage of DS corresponds to the change NCSU made in its tuition policy in 2012 - full-time DS, taking and paying tuition for at least 12 credit hours, can now include a DE course (even raising the credit hrs to 15) without being charged extra.

Part 1



Project Objectives
Purpose of Project
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The project was initiated in response to a series of discussions beginning in the early spring of 1996 between the PI, Sondra Kirsch (then the Associate Vice Chancellor for Outreach & Extension), Tom Russell (Director of the Office of Instructional Telecommunications - OIT), and John Cudd (Director of Adult Credit Programs & Summer Sessions). Funds for the project were provided by Sondra Kirsch, and the OIT web course and guidelines generated by this project were to be under the administrative control of Tom Russell.

After the start of the project, the Provost provided funds for a select group of 29 faculty to put their regular semester courses on-line by the Fall 1997 semester (registration to be through NCSU TRACS). This initiative was called Project 25 and included funds for one month summer salary, for the purchase and/or upgrading of computers, and for the purchase of additional equipment.

I was selected as one of those faculty and, in addition, to serve on the Project 25 Steering Committee. Since then, I served on an ad hoc committee with: Dr. Frank Abrams - Senior Associate Provost for Academic Affairs; Dr. Bill Willis - Associate Provost for Instructional Technologies; Dr. Doug Wellman, the first Director of the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL); and Susan Nutter, University Librarian. Our charge was to organize and shape Learning Technologies Service (LTS), an outgrowth of Project 25 which, in partnership with the FCTL, was to serve as a campus focal point for educational technology activities. The LTS is now firmly established and includes a team of computing specialists and librarians to offer assistance in exploring, evaluating and applying innovative multimedia applications and information resources.

Also I was named to the Provost's Extension Instruction Funding Response Team to formulate procedures that NCSU would follow because of new funding procedures that were implemented at that time by UNC-OP (general administration). Finally, I was named to the Provost's task force that established DELTA (Distance Education Learning Technologies Applications) to administer distance education for NCSU (now fully implemented in the Provost's office and into which LTS and the original OIT have been incorporated).

Purpose Of Project

The purpose of the project was to directly compare the performance of students taking MEA 200 on the web with those taking the same course in three other venues (regular semester class, summer term, and cable/video independent study), and to provided an opportunity to expand existing web-course guidelines to focus specifically on the creation and administration of web courses at NCSU to be offered by DELTA to any faculty member who wants to put a college-level course for credit on the web.

Project Objectives

Develop, offer and document MEA 200 as a credit-course on the internet

Course content, level of difficulty of exams, and textbook to be used were, to the extent possible, held constant for all of the project period and for all venues of the course. Course development and improvement was continuous but, depending on the pace of development of new and less expensive technology, was to progress through at least three instructional and technology levels:

Level 1. Tutorial and static - at this level, course material is similar to that used in the Independent Studies Course. Graphs and pictures would be static and some from the textbook may be included as part of web course. Students would correspond with PI on one-to-one basis using email, telephone or fax, and with the instructor and other members of the class by listserv.

Level 2. Tutorial and dynamic - at this level, the course would include the same basic material and correspondence as above, but would introduce audio discussions selectable by the student in each lesson, and/or video pictures that students could select to view if they have the proper computer and monitor.

Level 3. Interactive and dynamic - at the final level, the second level course would be expanded to include interactive, real-time "chat-room" sessions that could include the PI and/or students registered for the course who have been assigned to study groups. Eventually, given the rapid development of technology, this also could include two-way "skype"video in addition to keyboard web chat sessions.

To provide the best minimum learning environment, faculty should first seek to offer a Level 2 web course and work toward a Level 3 web course.

Identify and solve problems and disincentives in developing and offering a college credit course on the internet, and write guidelines for use by others

This analysis included, but was not be limited to:

Establish a sound program to evaluate the various delivery strategies

This included, but was not be limited to:

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