Project:  Ohio History
Project web site:
Team members:  John Weaver, Yufeng Wang and Thomas Preisser

Sinclair's project was to create a web site to use as a course enhancement for a new course on the history of Ohio. A special emphasis of the Web site is the historical development of the city of Dayton and the surrounding Miami Valley region of southwest Ohio. Students will both use and also create new material for the Web site as part of their course work. This emphasis on active student involvement in learning is congruent with Sinclair's efforts to become a "learning college." The team members expect to use the knowledge and experience gained in this project to encourage further development of technology-based learning in the humanities at Sinclair.

All of the goals of the action plan were achieved. Our mentor, Dr. Paula Petrik, George Mason University, made her site visit on 18-19 January 2000 and recommended that the college fully support our efforts, which it has done. Collectively, the three team members received a total of 48 quarter hours (equivalent to 32 semester hours) of released time from teaching to work on the project during the period March - December 2000. In February 2000 we were awarded a $3,000 "learning challenge grant" by Sinclair to purchase computer equipment and software. John Weaver, the team leader, made two presentations about the project at conferences (October 2000 and April 2001), and will offer another briefing about it to Sinclair faculty in September 2001. He was also interviewed by the college's public information officer on a local radio station, and stories about the project appeared in the college's student newspaper and alumni newsletter, as well as some suburban weekly newspapers in the greater Dayton area.

After some delays, the new course in Ohio history, taught by Dr. Weaver, was offered for the first time in January 2001, to an on-campus class of 21 students. At the same time he also taught the course (non-credit) to an enthusiastic audience of 80 at a local senior citizens' center. Student evaluations of the course were very positive (75% "strongly agreed" with the statement that the course website was very useful to them in the course; 25% "agreed"; and no one disagreed.).

The team members made considerable use of Sinclair's new instructional technology center for faculty, known as the "Delta Lab," during their released time. They learned techniques of document and photographic scanning, text and graphic editing and web page design. Staff persons in the Delta Lab provided excellent advice and assistance for this activity, and team members Wang and Weaver also used to digital camera and laptop computer acquired for this project to do field research and data gathering off-campus. These pieces of equipment are now available to, and have been used by, other members of the Humanities Department to support their own courses.

The main impact of the project so far has been on teaching and learning in the new Ohio History course. Students are using the web site to research and write papers, and prepare for class discussions, on the history of the National Cash Register Company (NCR) in Dayton; the movement of fugitive slaves across Ohio before the Civil War; and the conditions of Dayton's African-American community at the turn of the century and its most famous member, Paul Laurence Dunbar. Several recently-completed student projects, including one on a turning point in Dayton history, the flood of 1913, will soon be added to the web site. The first class of students to take the course has been very enthusiastic about the availability of the web site, and have made effective use of it for a variety of oral and written assignments. (The site has numerous links to other Ohio history-related sites.) Students have also been able to locate and use a rich collection of texts and photographs that would have been very difficult if not impossible to assemble in any other way.

John Weaver plans to continue working on the Web site. One of his immediate goals is to create a "hypertext" overview of Ohio history that could serve as the platform for a distance-learning, web-only version of the course available both to Sinclair and non-Sinclair students.

We received generous support for this project in many different ways, from many different individuals. The site visit of Dr. Petrik was very successful. She met for lunch with all members of the Humanities Department and shared here expertise and enthusiasm for the use of technology in the classroom. Encouraged by her strong support of our project, Dr. Ned Sifferlen, President of Sinclair, Dr. Karen Wells, Academic Vice-President, and Dr. Jeanne Jacobs, Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, all agreed to commit generous financial support in the form of released time, as well as money for equipment purchases.

In the Delta Lab we were supported by Dr. Helen Grove, then serving as chief technology officer for the college, Mrs. Sheila Morland, web graphics designer, and Mr. Mike Atkinson, computer lab technician. Sheila and Mike in particular worked closely with John Weaver to get the Web site up and running. In obtaining content for the site, we received permissions and other forms of support from staff members of the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, the Montgomery County Historical Society in Dayton, the Dayton-Montgomery County Public Library System and the University of Dayton.

John Weaver made formal presentations on the project at two conferences: 1) Community College Humanities Association, Central Region, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, October 13, 2000; 2) Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education, Dayton, Ohio, April 7, 2001. He is also scheduled to make a presentation during the fall faculty conference at Sinclair this coming September 2001.

Thanks to the cooperation of Mr. Gary Honnert, Sinclair's director of public information, articles about the project appeared in The Clarion (Sinclair student newspaper), February 15, 2000; The Tartan (Sinclair alumni newsletter), April 2001; and in various other Dayton area news weeklies. Mr. Honnert also interviewed John Weaver on his weekly radio program, "Community College Report," broadcast on station WONE, Dayton, Ohio, October 29, 2000.

Lessons Learned
The greatest lesson we took away from this project is that technology can be a powerful tool to find answers to questions and solutions to problems, but that technology alone cannot define or explain the tasks of learning. Only thoughtful reflection and practice individually, and with the help of colleagues and students, can do that. Since this project involved the development of an entirely new course, John first had to decide how to organize and synthesize materials so that students would have meaningful problems and questions to guide them in their learning experience. This had to come before technology could enter the picture.

Becoming even basically proficient in the use of various software programs took a good deal of our time, probably more than we had realized at the beginning. Fortunately, we quickly saw that devoting all our time to become technologically "self-sufficient" was not really the best use of our resources. We are definitely more knowledgeable about creating web sites now than when we began, but beyond a certain point we decided to collaborate with staff members in the Delta Lab on the technical side, which allowed us to spend more time working with content and concepts in our subject areas.

Finally, we have developed a better sense of how technology-based learning needs to be related to the diverse learning styles and levels of preparation that our students in the comprehensive community college typically have. Some are much more computer-oriented than others, and even those who are may not be that skilled in the critical evaluation of the materials that they obtain on-line. Results of some early web-based assignments have convinced John that more needs to be done in giving students good evaluative skills and practice relating to the Web. He learned more about this at a recent conference, and plans to work closely with librarians at Sinclair to address this issue.

John Weaver,
Sinclair Community College

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