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Volume 10, Number 5: April 2004

Information Technology News

submitted by TTT Staff

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1. Billing itself as the search engine with authority, Teoma.com offers an alternative to the ubiquitous Google. The Teoma search engine, developed in 2000 by Rutger's University researchers and ultimately acquired by Ask Jeeves, Inc., sorts its results into subject-communities that allow users to refine their searches. For example, a search for "Ulysses" might reveal sub-categories for the Homerian epic, Joyce's modernist masterwork, the 18th U.S. president, and several other options. Selecting the appropriate category helps users avoid having to filter through countless irrelevant documents to find the websites they need. Several preliminary searches conducted by TTT's editor revealed that, while Teoma may still have kinks to work out, it often located and prioritized sites differently than Google, the long-time unchallenged favorite. And many times Teoma's results led to the more interesting and useful resources.

2. The Moderators Homepage provides mostly web-based resources for moderators and facilitators of online discussions, both in academic and non-academic settings. Developed by Mauri Collins and Zane L. Berge, it contains links to information on starting and managing listservs, samples of editorial policies, netiquette guides, and articles about moderators' roles. The page also covers online teaching in general. The two scholars, who have collaborated on papers and presentations about the value of online forums in education, include many of their own articles on this page. (Note: Faculty interested in facilitating online discussions in their courses should also consult the article on Nancy Chick's advice for running effective forums, elsewhere in this issue.)

3. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education ("Whether Online or in a Classroom, Courses Take About the Same Amount of Time to Teach, Study Finds," 50 (29): page A31.) reports on a comparison of faculty workloads in both traditional and online courses. Results indicated that online courses do not require significantly more time on the part of instructors, even though the instructors themselves believed that they do. What causes this misperception? Researchers suspect the answer lies in the pace of online teaching. According to the Chronicle:

The hours spent teaching in a classroom tend to come all at once, [researcher Gregory Hilsop] says. A professor spends several hours a week preparing a lecture, delivering it, then talking with students after class. In between, the professor rarely interacts with students, besides the occasional office-hour visit or e-mail message ... Work for an online course, meanwhile, tends to be more spread out and constant. The frequent contact with online students can interrupt a professor's research or other projects, making it seem that teaching in cyberspace takes more of the professor's time.

Chronicle subscribers can access this article online. The results of the study have been published in the current issue of The Internet in Higher Education. It can be found online as well, through Elsevier's Science Direct website.


4. Two innovations--RSS and weblogs--have garnered much publicity in the academic world of late. They offer potential in terms of student collaboration (blogs) and in the way we receive and process information (RSS). For the uninitiated faculty member, an article posted on the Information Today website serves as a helpful introduction. "Blogging and RSS — The 'What's It?' and 'How To' of Powerful New Web Tools for Educators" outlines some promising applications of these tools and gives suggestions for getting started.

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