The committee previously called the Committee on Distance Learning and the Committee on Alternative Modes of Learning held its first meeting on Thursday, April 29, 1999. The meeting opened with a discussion of the mission and name of the committee. After considering various options, we finally settled on adopting "Committee on Electronically Mediated Learning (EMI)" as our name. We further agreed that our primary mission in the short time available to us (one month) is to gather as much information as we can about what is currently being done at Brown.
John Savage will continue putting information on our website (http://www.cs.brown.edu/people/jes/distance/) while Bill Crossgrove will take the lead in drafting text for a report when we reach that stage. Various committee members discussed specific Brown projects that currently made at least some course materials available using technology.
We each agreed to inform colleagues about our project and web site and conduct discussions with them to find out more about what they are doing. This information will then be fed back to the Committee for inclusion in our deliberations and insertion onto the web site.
Discussion of how to collect information led to a consensus that we should first concentrate on contacting individuals at Brown with known experience in electronically mediated instruction to find out what is currently being done and get ideas to help shape the questions we want to ask ourselves. After this first phase is completed, we plan to send a mailing to all faculty members, both to solicit their ideas and to inform them about what is already being done. In the meantime, we will attempt to make an announcement about our work at the Faculty Meeting of May 4, 1999.
Many of the experiments with undergraduate courses have so far been directed at enhancing existing classroom instruction, though possibilities for offering specific courses primarily through electronic media were suggested by these discussions. Several initiatives at the graduate level were also discussed, and there was some sense that graduate level courses might particularly lend themselves to being offered electronically, especially through the cooperation of people at multiple sites.
Several comments from committee members suggested that the best projects were those that grew gradually, were regularly evaluated, and could be easily modified to incorporate changes. Projects so difficult to launch that once completed they could not be easily modified, by contrast, were less successful. Experimentation and continuing evaluation, in other words, are important components of electronically mediated instruction (just as they probably ought to be for all kinds of instruction). The Committee is interested in learning more about what motivated faculty to introduce electronically mediated instruction in the first place.
Before electronically mediated instruction can be adapted for use elsewhere, support issues will need to be addressed, as will issues of intellectual property rights. There should be generally accepted standards that guide the adaptation of courses for new uses, but these should not become overly bureaucratized.
The Committee decided that it is probably unrealistic to dispense entirely with face-to-face meetings, so the next meeting will be scheduled for early in the second week of May.