I mentioned in the previous column that it was my
intention to publish details of Internet related courses or course
elements as I discovered them. This column describes what is,
to my knowledge, is one of the first such courses of its type
in the U.K. i.e. one that was specifically designed to promote
an awareness of the web for undergraduate Business students (the
only other I am aware of was reported in Sangster & Mulligan
1996). Much of the text is taken from Liza Pybus' paper to the
recent Scottish Area Group conference in Aberdeen in which she
describes the aims and objectives of the course, gives details
of its first running and highlights the problems the course leaders
had to overcome to bring it to a successful first conclusion.
It provides an interesting model to start from for those who may
be thinking of introducing at least an element of the Internet
into their courses. I am interested in hearing from anyone who
knows of other such courses for undergraduates or postgraduates
that can be described in future columns.
This paper title was chosen to give the message that
this is not necessarily an example of best practice but more of
an experiment that could have failed. It was also chosen to indicate
that the module was not so much about using the Internet as a
research medium as about students acquiring the skills to develop
their own Web site.
Nottingham Business school has 8 different undergraduate
degree routes with a yearly intake of approximately 600 undergraduates.
In common with many other universities, the degree structure is
now fully modularised and divided into two semesters. The 1st
year of undergraduate study is virtually the same for all students,
in the second year their courses become more specialised. The
"Business Applications of the Internet" module discussed
in this paper falls into this category - a 2nd year option running
in the 2nd semester which was offered to students on any of the
Business School BA courses. This module has only run once so far,
from February to June 1996.
Until this coming academic year the first year course
did not attempt to formally introduce the Internet to students
which meant that the safest assumption was that students taking
this module had no previous Internet experience. Due to both staff
and computing resource constraints the number of students allowed
to take this option was restricted to 3 seminar groups (60 students).
The module aims were as follows:
To provide broad Internet understanding & awareness
To develop understanding of opportunities for commercial exploitation of the Internet
To introduce the Internet as a research resource
To give an opportunity to acquire HTML & Web design skills
To develop creative, teamwork and writing skills.
The assessment of this course was entirely group based and divided
into 4 parts which were all linked to the development of a Web
page project. Below are some details of the divisions and designated
weightings, shown in the order they were completed.
Before the module could run a number of barriers
needed to be overcome. The highly practical nature of the module
and the assessment through group work were subjects of discussion
at quality assurance boards. Eventually the need to have a module
of this nature as part of the business school portfolio was established
and it was recognised that assessment within groups would provide
the students with a greater pool of skills and allow more realistically
sized project to be attempted.
The other difficulties to be overcome included the
persuasion of Computing Services to install relevant software
for student access (both HTML editors and packages for manipulation
of graphics), setting up group student accounts which allowed
access to our Web server, thinking through the protection of pages
while students were undertaking work and finding suitable projects
for students to work on.
It was an aim of the course that projects would be
realistic, have the scope to develop into a comprehensive site
presence and have an enthusiastic client requiring the work. The
projects were mainly internal to the university and were either
requested after advertising at cross-university events or suggested
to people working in areas where it was thought there could be
a need. Eventually 15 projects were found to match the number
of groups and ranged from Student Advice Centres to a site for
the Green Business Network. Brief details of each of the projects
were published and after a few days a sign-up list was attached
to a notice board at an advertised time and projects were chosen
on a first come-first served basis. The first projects to go were
the ones associated with the Student's Union and the one completely
external project for Sankey's Garden Products.
The traditional model of the weekly 1 hour seminar
and 1 hour lecture was not suitable for this course. In order
to make best use of our time the 3 seminar groups were converted
into 2 larger groups, making it possible to have two hour work
shop sessions when required. The majority of taught sessions were
workshop based which were supported by two members of staff. Lectures
were spread throughout the semester and included one external
speaker from a local small business who is currently developing
commercial Web pages (see http://www.mandis.co.uk/sovereign/ for
Each workshop had a total of 30 students. This made
it essential to use material that would encourage independent
learning. Therefore, a lot of development effort was put into
producing tutorial workbooks. Each workshop session commenced
with a short briefing time and then quickly launched into a hands-on
time. In addition some use was made of the Netskills materials
to cover some ground (http://www.netskills.ac.uk/). Students were
encouraged to work in groups from a very early stage to create
more self support and therefore cut down on the number of questions.
In addition to classroom contact all students were
obliged to join a discussion list and undertake to read their
mail at least once a day. This facilitated the publishing of questions
and answers associated with Web page development and allowed for
administration announcements without needing to use physical notice-boards.
The module was extremely popular. Demand far exceeded
the number of places available. Students' contact with their client
did not always work out as intended: some clients had a change
of heart about the need for Web resources once the projects got
going, some students left making the first contact until quite
late in the day. In one case a new project had to be found for
students to work on half-way through the course. There were also
the inevitable software/hardware problems associated with using
new products in a lab.
By the end of the module all students developed pages
of some worth and, in some cases, there were very pleased clients
who will use the pages virtually as they stand. These pages will
need a bit of 'tweaking' before going live however, and so are
not yet available for public viewing.
It is worth reflecting on why some projects worked
better than others. In general it was down to one or a mixture
of the following factors:
It was clear from the way in which students were
able to work and project outcomes that it was not a good idea
to let students run with projects that were not requested. It
will therefore be a clear priority to make sure keen clients are
obtained next time. The group that worked on the only external
project seemed to take their work very seriously it is certainly
the intention to find more external projects for next time. The
session given by our external speaker was particularly useful
and well appreciated . Consequently, more than one external speaker
will be included next time if possible.
Many students left a lot of work on the Web pages
until the last minute and so more deadlines will be set to help
discipline students' project development next time. It will be
important to keep the materials and software up to date, so it
will be difficult to reuse many of our tutorials and lecture notes
again as they stand, however a wealth of resources are available
on the Web and it is the intention to browse thoroughly before
developing too many of our own aids.
The First Class conferencing system has recently
been installed in our computer rooms and so it is the intention
to substitute use of this package in place of the E-mail discussion
This module involves a lot of effort - finding projects,
developing materials and keeping up to date with Internet developments
however, it is a popular option and so it will run again. It was
useful for personal development of HTML skills, but how soon will
these be obsolete?
So far the only feedback from students has been on
an informal basis, the general consensus being that it was not
an easy option but was very interesting and gave them chance to
develop some useful skills (two students out of the group managed
to acquire their current placement jobs on the basis of their
newly acquired skills).
In the end no-one drowned !
Sangster, A & C. Mulligan (1996), 'The Integration of the WorldWideWeb into an Accounting Course' , paper presented at the 7th Annual CTI-AFM Conference, Brighton, April.
It is likely that some of the details given in the article will become dated over time.
Please notify the author (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you spot any of these changes and he will update the information where appropriate.
This page was created and is maintained by its author - Andrew Lymer: University of Birmingham.
Last amended: November 1996