A guy who's fascinated by technology, Professor Gregory Moses develops elaborate computer models that predict and then analyze the results of large-scale inertial-confinement fusion experiments. But when he began wondering how to use computer technology to enhance the learning process, students in his "Problem-Solving Using Computers" class were the first to benefit.
Several years ago, Moses, Computer Sciences and Mathematics Professor John Strikwerda and researcher Mike Litzkow developed eTEACH, a multimedia presentation-authoring tool that enables faculty members on campus and elsewhere to integrate and synchronize video lectures, animated PowerPoint slides, web links and closed-captioning for online instruction. The elements appear in quadrants in a single window on the computer screen and students who view each multimedia lecture can pause, rewind or fast forward the video. eTEACH also incorporates a self-assessment as part of the presentation, so students can gauge their comprehension of the material and rewind and review the lectures, if necessary.
The software is one of a few such tools that include closed captioning and work with a screen reader. Moses worked closely with staff at the college's Trace Research and Development Center and the university's Division of Information Technology to build those features into eTEACH.
Today, he and other faculty members use eTEACH to maximize the in-class time they spend with their students — or in the case of UW-Whitewater's online MBA program, to teach them at a distance. In Moses' class, students view the lectures at their leisure as homework assignments, then come to a challenging, small-group laboratory session ready to work, interact with the instructors, and practice what they've learned. The result, Moses says, is a quantum leap in the the students' ability to understand, analyze and solve realistic problems.
It's not surprising that the man who uses computers to learn everything he possibly can about a fusion experiment might also use computers to maximize the way his students learn. "While I started in a technology-push mode, I ended up in a different place — which is a much greater concern for student learning and using that to select appropriate technologies for doing that," says Moses.