The Evaluation of the 1995/96 Beginning Internet Course

J.M.Rogan May, 1996

The first of four Reach for the Sky online classes, Beginning Internet, was taught during from October 1995 to April 1996. It was a revised version of the course that had been taught by Frank Odasz during the Fall of 1994. Revisions to the course were initiated during the summer 1995 workshop at which all Reachers were present, and continued throughout the year by the Skyteam. Approximately eighty teachers from a five state area, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Utah, took the course. The course itself, although designed by Frank Odasz and the Skyteam, was mentored by the Reachers who had taken the course themselves the year before, and who were currently taking the course called Online Mentoring. Hence each mentor was responsible for four mentees.

Feedback from Participants
At the conclusion of the course, five questions were sent to all course participants. At this point in the course, there were 64 participants left, of which 44 replied. The questions, and a summary of the responses to them, are given below.
Question 1
How do you perceive the content of the Lessons? Please explain. Feel free to use examples if that will assist you.

The overall impression of the responses was that the content of the lessons were, for the most part adequate for a course of this nature.

The content of the class was very informative. I have learned many skills and my students are a benefactors of this online class. (Considering I knew very little, I feel I have mastered an enormous amount of material, most in which I have found very beneficial.) The lessons in which I have received the most benefit are Internet E-Mail Basics, Internet Host Systems, Listservs, File Handling skills, using Gopher, Veronica, and URL'S. I enjoyed the WWW and the WebCrawler the best. The online graphics was fantastic.

Overall, excellent.

I think that the lessons are a good start on learning to use telecommunication. They give content, goals and the ability to reach out on your own.

I was impressed with every single lesson! There were times that I felt they were written just for me, to answer questions that I was having.

I thought the lessons were well designed. It seemed like we progressed in a logical sequence.

Basically, the content was fine. I am trying to place myself in the position of a teacher that is new to the net, and that kind of pseudo-objectivity is hard. I think it covered the basics in enough detail with enough background to be appropriate for beginners.

Nevertheless, despite the overall approval, some specific lessons did come in for criticism, as did the sequencing of lessons. It was felt that some of the lessons were based on an obsolete technology which would not be of use to teachers. In particular, the lessons on gopher searchers, newsgroups, and telnetting were most often criticized as being redundant. On the sequencing issue, it was felt by some that the easier lessons were provided last, and the more difficult ones at the beginning.

The content was fine, although the rapid growth of the Web and decline of gopher servers rendered the some lessons nearly obsolete by the time we got them.

I feel the content was just right, however, it may need modification for future classes due to the rapid transition of text-based to image-based methods of Internet communication. In other words, Netscape and others Web Browsers are so much easier to use than Gopher and can do more for the same amount of effort that they have become popular.

Many of the lessons dealt with somewhat archaic technologies. I would have been much happier exploring Netscape rather than doing gopher searches with Veronica like we did 5 years ago.

The content was generally quite good. I was more interested in the lessons at the end than the beginning. I did not like the work with the listservs. I get more than enough mail already. When I subscribed to a listserv, I received tons of unwanted mail. I did not find this lesson useful. Most of what I got was messages about things of no interest to me. I felt the same way about newsgroups.

I had a number of complaints with the newsgroup lesson. Most said that they would not use this. I have not used newsgroups either since the lesson we did on them.

The content was informative but I can see how it needs to change as the technology changes. The outdated things should be dropped to save on time and confusion. Our lives are too busy to clutter up with unusable information.

I felt that the beginning lessons were much more difficult, however, than the ending lessons. Which is to say that I find searches on the Web very simple, as well as graphic manipulation, but things like Gopher more confusing.

Another source of frustration was with the URLs. Using the Internet is, in some ways, like trying to paint a moving bus. URLs which work one week, may not work the next. Some of the URLs referred to in the course were no longer current.

The structure of most lessons was generally clear. However, there were times when the materials or Web links were incorrect, out of date, or inaccessible.

The most frustrating lesson was Number 4 - I found that many of the listed addresses were no longer being used.

The only problem was one that I encountered consistently. It seemed that there were always URLs that were not correct.

As someone not a novice, I did not know if I should report the correct URL or ignore it. I often wondered if they were purposely placed incorrectly to promote sharing or some kind of discovery.

The most highly acclaimed aspect of the lessons were the Skill Builders. These consist of an option set of exercises at the end of each lesson designed to provide additional practice in the topic area of that lesson.

I thought that the content was pretty good. I guess I especially was impressed with the skill builders. It was fun to get done with the lesson and then go exploring at will...

I did like the differentiation between what is required and what is enrichment material. The required material was accomplished quickly enough that one could go on.

I thought it was set up very well. I liked reading the lectures and then being able to try things out in the Homework. I also thought it was nice to have extra assignments if you needed or wanted to do more.

Content seemed about right. The basic lesson was almost too brief, but then the skillbuilders gave plenty materials for going beyond.

The final theme that emerged was raided by only one person, but it is an important one and raises an issue which should be considered by anyone teaching this course in the future.

I am a learner who likes to see the big picture first and then learn the parts. I felt quite lost much of the time. Of course I had little technology background to begin with so perhaps this was inevitable. I had to do a general review at one point in order to give a presentation to my staff and that helped me a lot. I'm almost done with lesson 12 and I now am anxious to review it all this summer. The big picture is now clearer and I want to do more practice of the parts so I can feel more competent.

1. The new web based lessons should follow a different sequence. They should begin with the easiest and most popular lessons - those dealing with the Web and Search Machines. They should then deal with communication, and finally with the more obsolete sections of the Internet.
2. The lessons are going to require continuous updating. URLs will need to be kept current. Software is available that will check all URLs as often as is deemed necessary. More importantly, the content of the lessons will need to be kept current. If the changes in this set of lessons over an eighteen month period is any indicator, then the current set now under development will be outdated within a year. If Annenberg/CPB Math and Science project is to become the repository for the lessons, then it will need to come to grips with this issue. 3. The skill-builders were very popular. They to need to be kept current and possibly expanded.
4. Certain lessons such as those on FTP and Gopher searches were felt to be obsolete. Nevertheless these lessons ought to be retained since the future is unpredictable. For example, it is not impossible that if the Web becomes overwhelmed with users, that the veteran uses retreat to the use of older systems. However, teachers of the course should ascertain the needs and level of sophistication of their students and tailor the course to meet these needs. Just because a lesson on FTP is provided does not mean that it has to be included.
5. It might be very important for some students to see the big picture before embarking on the sequence of lessons on skills needed to use the Internet. Different teachers might find different ways of doing this. One suggestion in this regard will be made in the recommendation section of Question Five.

Question 2
How do you perceive the length of the Lessons? Please explain.
Feel free to use examples if it will assist you.

Almost all the responses indicated a satisfaction with the length of the lessons.

The lessons were a reasonable length. Considering how pressed for time teachers are I think the time requirements were sensible.

Most of the lessons were completed in one or two sessions at my computer. The length seemed appropriate to me.

I thought the length of the lessons was very appropriate and was able to finish most of the lessons in the allotted time.

I liked the length. I perceive it to be about right. Any shorter would be out of the question. If anything, the lesson could be a bit longer, but for me, I wasn't able to get through all the SKILLBUILDERS selection, so there was plenty to keep me happily Interneting away.

The inclusion of the Skill-Builder section certainly contributed to the general satisfaction expressed at the length of the lessons. The Skill-Builders were not only seen as valuable in themselves, but also provided a flexibility in time usage. When pressed for time, they could be skipped. When more practice or depth was needed, and time permitted, they were there as an option.

To me, the lessons were designed to take about two hours or so....unless one ran into problems. I liked the skill builders, which provided ideas for practice in more depth. With some lessons, I did the skill builders--if I was really interested and had some extra time. In a few lessons, I skipped them. (e-mail which I have become quite proficient using and graphics that I use all the time.) I appreciated the fact that the skill builders were there, and I could lengthen or shorten the lesson to meet my needs.

I really liked the length of the lessons. Since this was an online class it allowed us to self-pace. It was fairly easy to knock off 2 lessons at a time. For me this seemed to save some time. The skillbuilders were always very helpful. Sometimes I would do them, sometimes not depending on my workload.

The length of the lessons enabled me to meet the objectives stated and learn a new skill. In addition, I felt that the skillbuilders were very beneficial. They were not required as part of the assignment but they were there for extra practice and to fine tune skills on a particular concept on our own time frame.

Technological problems did make a difference to how people felt about the length and pace of the lessons, since they resulted in falling behind, which in turn led to the perception that the lessons were too long.

I thought the timing was great until I had problems with the New Groups Lesson. It took me awhile to get caught up because I had to upgrade the memory on my computer to handle the newsreader program. Perhaps letting people know at the outset that 4 megs is not enough to do some of the later lessons, would be helpful. I'm sure I would have had problems with the graphics lesson, too, if I had not upgraded. Also, I felt like the end was rushed. We didn't get the lesson outlines in as timely a manner as we had the earlier lessons and then it seemed like they came one right on top of the other. The end of the school year is extremely busy, so it was harder to keep up.

Most seemed alright. It's kind of hard for me to evaluate that, as I had technical problems frequently, as my provider ESD changed the system around and the system was often down on the weekends when I really had the time to do the work. I had to rely on connections at school (where dial up access was not necessary) and that time of day was very busy, and I had problems getting connected especially to Big Sky. When things were working, it went well and length OK.

For the first time ever in the Reach for the Sky project, some comments hinted that the lessons might not have been long enough. However, there were only two such comments so they do represent a decided minority.

I would liked to have had additional activities to try, so I knew whether or not I was really understanding.

Most lessons could have used more tasks. The reading portion was about right in length, although as noted above, sometimes a bit dated. I would have liked to see the mentors modify or tailor the lessons for their groups.

1. Keep the length of the lessons as they are now.

2. Providing adult learners with choices and flexibility is recommended in the literature. The general satisfaction expressed with the Skill-Builders bears out the value of this policy. Teachers of this course should look at all possible ways of modifying and tailoring lessons to specific needs.

Question 3
Please describe your experiences with the technical elements involved in the work you are doing for the Internet Class.

People coming into the course had a wide range of previous experience with the Internet. Hence it is not surprising to find a wide range of responses. Not everyone answered this question, but of those that did, thirteen reported no technical difficulties at all.

Most everything went smoothly, I think mainly because I had a little experience and I was working with all of the recommended software and hardware. We also have a direct Internet Connection, which helps.

Not a problem. But I have had several hours of internet training previous to this one.

I had little or no difficulty with the technical elements for this class.

On the other hand, some had a very frustrating time due to technological problems.

It was scary. I was sure that I was going to do something terrible to the whole system. I had to use a Learning Link System from my local Public Television Station (Lynx) and it was very complicated and frustrating. I am now using a new provider and Netscape. Everything now seems so easy. I must admit that I relied on technical help from my two sons many times.

Technical stuff is frustrating--I am getting better at it and the other reachers have been very helpful.

I had a lot of frustrations at the local level with our district server. I got WAY behind in my lessons because our server was out frequently and it almost seemed like whenever I had time to work (weekends and vacations) that's when they would shut it down to work on it. It was frustrating.

Several things made this class extremely frustrating as well as difficult. I do not feel there was adequate training given prior to using the programs. This could have been solved with manuals. I ran into a problem where the computer I took over was the school's and not my own. When I tried to load and use the programs from the disks, the directions weren't complete enough for me to get everything up and running. Also, one program at least was missing a file that was needed.

This was very frustrating for me. Living in a remote community with very few experts around to help- me solve technical problems took a lot of time that I really didn't have to give. However, progress was made. I learned how to do things I never thought I would ever be doing.

However, most who did experience problems, managed to work their way through them, and in the end could look back on it all as a learning experience.

Once in a while I found the directions for something technical to be confusing. In general, I think the first year I obtained an account on the Internet, I ran into all the technical problems. By the time I was participating with Reach for the Sky, I had become a good problem solver.

A few of the technical problems experienced had to do with the computers being used. Low hard drive capacity and having only 4 MB of RAM were two specific problems mentioned. Most of the problems centered around issue of access to the Internet. The provider selected by Reach for the Sky, Databank, went bankrupt a few weeks into the beginning of the course. Other experienced problems with the State supported provider.

The technical elements were frustrating to me because I had a new computer that I wasn't familiar with. Once I had some of those solved by the right person, I was able to be successful. The databank episode was a real setback.

Overwhelming at first. You-all dumped a bunch of stuff into my computer without much explanation. It promptly (or so I thought) got jammed up. When I dumped and reloaded the stuff and came back up, I gained confidence (and knowledge).

Then when you kicked us off the BBS and DATABank went down. It was like moving away from home.

I feel pretty secure about the technical side. But I can see how someone with little experience may have difficulties. I did have problems with Utahlink. There were problems logging on almost the whole series, and then for a week or two, they shut down the mail server. The technical side went much smoother when I signed up with another provider. I lost mail that I don't even know I lost.

1. Publicize the hardware and software requirements for the course. Provide advice and help for those whose systems do not meet the requirements.
2. Make sure that everyone has an adequate provider prior to the beginning of the course.

3. Make sure that technical advice is available.

Question 4
What are the best aspects of the Internet course? Do you feel that what you have got out of the course was worth the time and effort that you put into it? Please explain.

The responses to this question by and large fell into to broad categories. The first was that the course exposed the participants to new knowledge and skills. Almost half the respondents made this point in one way or another. Even seasoned Internet users seemed to get something new out of the lessons. Many reported that they were "forced" to become proficient in previously ignored areas. With these new skills, came a sense of excitement and renewal.

YES! The course was certainly worth my time. The best aspects ended up being what I first didn't like about the course - it forced me to broaden my knowledge of the Internet, not just the WWW.

Some of the best aspects were that I was forced to look at things that I would not have found time for otherwise. I enjoyed the lesson about sharing bookmark files--I'm going to work that into some of my web pages that I make as class outlines. I am a fairly experienced user, so some of the lessons were quite easy for me, but most contained at least one thing I was not previously aware of.

The best things for me was the motivation to keep learning different applications in manageable chunks at my own pace. I've gotten a lot out of this course and it was worth the effort although sometimes I had to work very late at night because the lines were busy during regular hours.

The class was quite worthwhile. I learned a lot, located new resources, and had an opportunity to experience on-line instruction. It was time well spent.

For me, the best aspect is just having the knowledge and the access to get up-to-date information is the best thing. This project was such a success for me and the time and effort was more than worth it. The people running the project did an outstanding job keeping everyone going.

The second broad theme to emerge was the appreciation for the opportunity to "meet" new people and to have a space to hold online discussions. The opportunity to share ideas and to learn from one another was found to be of particular value.

I feel the best aspects of the course are the wonderful interaction between communications between teachers from five states. This has the most worth.

This course has been well worth my time. I have learned things I will use again and again. I have "met" people that I hope will be cyber-friends for a long time.

I really enjoyed the contact with other teachers. I picked up some great ideas, and learned about some fantastic web sites. I also learned a lot from the lessons about searching the Net, and about FTP, Telnet, and the WWW. The course was definitely worth the effort. I wish I had the time to REALLY explore the possibilities of this fantastic technology, but without this course I wouldn't have MADE time to explore what I have managed to see.

The listserv group was very helpful. It seemed much easier to ask a small group for help or clarification than asking a hundred people. Comments and tricks from others in the group often made a lesson easier for me to complete.

The best aspect of the course is the listserv. Many ideas came from our individual class and allreachers. I learned a great deal more than I anticipated!

The best aspects of the Internet course are the comments from fellow learners. With so many persons having so many different areas (and levels) of expertise, I felt I was getting useful information every day! I have especially had fun checking out favorite sites and bookmarks of other 'Reachers'. And -- yes-- certainly once the software and provider difficulties ceased (or at least dwindled to near non-existence), each lesson became a set of great suggestions for classroom use or involvement.

Part of the value of the interaction was attributed to the mentors.

The best aspect was a mentor. It's nice to have a person who can respond to questions and find stuff out. The course was worth the time.

Making us take the time to do it! Definitely! I would not have done it without the guidance of the course and my mentor.

There was one dissenting voice to the question of whether the course had been worthwhile.

Probably not. Mainly because I had to complete assignments that I wasn't interested in.

One final comment is worth noting. Although it was only voiced once, it does raise an important issue - technical support if vital to the success of the undertaking.

I think the common goal of the group is a big plus. Also, having technical support to back you up when things go wrong. I know that I am much farther than I ever hoped to be in using the internet.

1. Build on the two strengths of the course. These are the provision of new and interesting skills and the ability to interact with other teachers in a safe and comfortable "space".
2. Create flexibility so that no-one HAS to do tasks that they find boring or irrelevant.
3. Ensure that technical support is available.

Question 5
Can you suggest how this course might be improved? Can you suggest content additions or changes?

As might be expected, this question generated the widest diversity of responses. A number of themes did emerge, but many of the issues raised were done so only once or twice. However, the largest single issue to emerge was the suggestion to remove some of the obsolete material in the lessons.

Leave Internet archaisms to the history books. Teach teachers what they need to know NOW in 1996 to access information with their students.

I would drop lessons 4 and 5 from the course. I think you might consider rearranging the order of the lessons. I'd suggest this order: 1, 2, 3, 8, 6, 9, 10, 7, 11, and 12. In place of lessons 4 and 5, I would suggest you add something about creating your own lessons using NetScape and HTML programming.

As for any revisions, I often wondered why the first few lessons spent so much time on subjects that were much easier to work with on the Netscape. (I'll go through my file at school and get more specific with this.) Most of the materials that was covered in lessons 8-11 were things I just stumbled onto while exploring on my own.

I would like to see the newsgroups revamped. I also had some who had a hard time with gopher. They said that they rely more heavily on the search engines in netscape. I would like to see deadlines for each part. I had one student who did 6 lessons in the course of one week. I don't think that you get all that you can just cranking out assignments.

I feel the course work would have been more meaningful and more easily understood if we could have begun with Netscape and then progressed to the other lessons as options available in lieu of Netscape. Netscape is so easy to use and has so many options I haven't had time to explore. I know it will be the search engine of choice for my class unless something even easier is developed.

Shorten the gopher section but KEEP it. There are too many sites that still work with gophers somewhere in their web chain.

I found two major technical areas to be the most useful and interesting to me. The first area that was quite useful for me was LESSON 7: URLS, Gopher, Veronica and Jughead. I found out how to use these portions of the internet and it was exciting. I found that my Netscape viewer was able to utilize a lot more than just the WWW. This was new to me! In lessons 7, 8 and 9 I found that I could stay with Netscape and utilize Gopher searches, use FTP to efficiently transfer and save files, use Veronica and Jughead searches to search for specific titles or categories, in short I was learning how to be more productive with the limited time I had on the net!

Some students spoke of the lack of how-to guides for the software that they were using.
There were times in the lessons when I wished a step by step procedure would have been provided. I'm still not sure I understand attachments, encoding, and decoding messages.

I would have liked to have more details when it came to the assignments. It seemed that I never had enough information in the lessons to accomplish the tasks without asking for help. Some of the lectures didn't seem to apply directly to the assignments.

A third general issues that was raised is one that future teachers of this course should consider carefully. The content of the course deals exclusively (with the exception of lessons 12) with Internet skills. There is nothing on how these skills might be used in the classroom. Some of the course participants needed to see these applications in order to help them understand why they were acquiring the skills. It is part of providing what one student referred to as "the big picture."

It would have been nice to have more discussion on how internet is actually used as a teaching tool. I found the information helpful to me but was having problems deciding how to effectively use the internet as a teaching tool. After attending a workshop in Eugene, Oregon last weekend, I really saw some potential in how I could use the material downloaded to create lessons for my classes. This was a "live" workshop and it was very helpful to interact with other classroom teachers.

The only suggestion I have is that there be more emphasis on actual use within the classroom. What grade levels, with which kids, what equipment you will need.

I would have benefitted from a quick overview of the whole picture, perhaps from a graphic or map of how all the parts of this email - internet thing fit together. I'm not sure how you could do that but I sure needed it!

Some of the respondents expressed their disappointment that nothing on HTML was included. Reach for the Sky has developed a lesson on HTML which is part of the creating an online course. However, it could be pointed to from the beginning course as well, since it is a stand-alone lesson.

As for content additions or changes, as it becomes easier for persons to have access to places to put a home page, I would enjoy learning about proper page editing.

Also, we didn't do any work in html. I had kind of expected we would, and was a bit surprised it was not part of the program.

The need for more structured discussion and interaction was mentions a few times. It was seen by some as an area where mentors maybe needed to take a more active role.

The course was improved drastically when the communications were done via the e-mail platform. I would suggest more WWW lessons and more peer to peer communications.

Well, chatting is kind of a neat thing. That was absent from our instruction.

If people had the time, you might want to consider requiring more personal contact. I guess I mean more use of the CLASS list to get to know one another better. My mentor tried to accomplish this, but not too many messages were posted to our class list other than those regarding lessons.

One criticism I would have is the lack of response from my mentor. I would write messages and not receive replies. I would get lessons late, and not in a timely fashion. It was very frustrating. I know time is precious for all of us, but I would have appreciated a little more input. (Especially in the beginning, when everything was so new.)

Two responses raised the issue of setting deadlines for the assignments.

I wonder if a tighter window for completion of the lessons might help. Some people procrastinated every lesson.I ca understand if someone gets overloaded with grading, holidays, parent teacher conferences and so forth, but everyone should make an effort to quickly catch up to avoid frustrating the rest of the group. I found that I worked on a lesson, submitted my comments to the group, and then often waited weeks until some of the other members submitted comments on that lesson. Perhaps if groups were formed at least partially on the reacher's committing to a speed. That way, fast movers wouldn't be frustrated by those with less time. I think this frustration is why so many reachers posted to the allreachers list instead of or in addition to their class group; they wanted the additional dialogue.

One suggested that each lesson should have a product of sorts.

Each lesson should have some sort of product. Another idea might be to have each lesson generate a part or parts of some sort of lesson or unit - perhaps a "make a copy of this model then do one of your own" approach.

The question of how frequently lessons are sent out, and whether they should be available all the time was raised by a couple of people.

I would like to have seen the course progress closer to the speed at which we could 'handle' it... there were times I could have gone a little faster, which would have helped when my unforeseen 'extended 'time out'' got me sidetracked near the end.

A total program overview/schedule needs to be readily available on the Web.

The need to be upfront with all expectations was made. Although the suggestion was made in the context of payment of stipends, it applies to all aspects of the course such as grades, due dates and so on.

Prompter payment of stipend..or at least being upfront on when it is gonna be paid.

1. Begin the course with Netscape of other WWW search engines. Leave in the "obsolete" stuff, but suggest to future teachers that these section be made optional.
2. Look for how-to guides for specific software and point to it in the appropriate lessons.
3. For some teachers, who need to see how the Internet skills can be applied in the classroom, taking courses one and two simultaneously might make more sense. Future teachers of this course such consider the integration of the two courses as an option.
4. In the concluding lesson of course one, mention and point to the HTML lesson in the Online Mentoring course.
5. Make all lessons available on the Web. This will allow for more flexibility on behalf of those taking the course.

Question 6
Have you found peers or online mentors helpful?

Altogether there were twenty mentors involved in the teaching of the course. Hence no uniformity of responses was expected. Some mentors were very highly rated, while others were a disappointment to their mentees. Fortunately the positive remarks outweighed the negative one by 28 to 8.

Altogether there were 14 comments that were positive, but did not provide any specific reason about why or how the mentor was effective.

Extremely helpful and always there when you need them.

Extremely! I will miss having them as ready resources. (I may ask them for help from time to time anyway.) Actually, some of the allreachers intimidate me, but my class was great! And my mentor was outstanding!

Very helpful. I especially like the help I got from those who had the same platform as mine. I am hoping that reachers will continue to keep in touch and share resources, stories, and get togethers.

Two attributes of good mentors came up frequently. The one was that the mentor hem/herself was a good facilitator, was responsive to the mentees needs, and was prompt in responding.

I cannot say enough about Suzy Flentie. She was always up and positive. She would remind us in a kind way about deadlines, she would share suggestions or problems others were experiencing and she was always available and willing to help in any way. If she couldn't answer a question, she would find someone who could and get back to us promptly. Our mentor was great!

Yes- Diane, our mentor, would phone sometimes just to see how I was doing. That personal touch is critical.

Yes, Lynn Stonelake was wonderful. He really went the extra mile with me. When I couldn't get on line, he called me on the phone several times, trying to offer his help.

Yes, it was helpful to have Bill to answer question and give support. It would have been even better if we had the same type of computer and someone with experience with windows 95. Lee was a big help and Jon.

I did find on-line mentors very helpful. My mentor was On-line Deen and although I didn't ask many questions he was very helpful when I did. I would feel comfortable asking him questions in the future even though the course is over.

My mentor was Don Slabaugh. He did an excellent job of encouraging, cajoling and reminding me--all in a positive tone.

The mentor mostly seemed useful to keep me on track on the lessons and as a motivator. Also as a "personal" anchor, so I felt someone in the project knew my name and a bit who I am. I think the mentor is an important part of the design. And a low mentee/mentor ratio is important for that personal touch.

My mentor was terrific. She and one other class member were helpful in exploring possibilities beyond the basic issues covered in the lesson.

The other positive aspect mentioned in connection with the mentors was their ability to create a supportive group.

I enjoyed reading the e-mail from peers. Their comments about lessons helped me better understand them. I found most of the people who wrote were high school or junior high faculty who had quite a bit of computer experience. I enjoyed their input. My mentor was very helpful and so supportive when I had self-doubt. I appreciated her availability and encouragement.

I loved working with the teachers at my grade level from other states. We did some great projects together.

I thought this was a very helpful group. A number of people posted questions and usually received several replies. I contributed help when I was able to.

Some mentors were criticized for not having enough technical expertise.

Unfortunately, I quickly deduced that my mentor's 'net savvy was insufficient to be of much assistance to the group. He was far too reticent to stimulate dialogue.

I was ahead of my mentor all the way. Anything I asked she wasn't much help with. Ideas from being on the list serv were valuable.

I did receive some help but I think a lot of people aren't quite literate enough because the technology has come so fast.

However, the larger criticism of mentors was lack of effort rather than lack of expertise.

Our mentor was rather quiet, but so were most folks in our group. I am not quiet nor am I shy online, so this is not a problem.

My mentor didn't seem to have time to do or say anything but post the lessons (and one time she had someone else do it).

My mentor had some technical difficulties during the course.

There were times when I didn't know if she was receiving my messages or not. There were long periods when I did not hear from her. I knew someone else in the project, and he received all of his lessons earlier than I did. I was never sure if that was due to the mentor or because someone else in my group was slower to finish than his group.

I would have liked it more if my mentor checked in with me on a more regular basis just to see how I was doing with the lessons and to offer encouragement. We seemed to click more by the end of the project. I think that all of us in my group suffered from time pressures from our regular jobs that made things more difficult.

Finally, there were a few responses from persons who pointed out that they really did not need a mentor at all.

Usually, I did not need the mentor, so did not seek him out. My comments here are probably not typical.

Although I did not require help, it seemed there were always folks "roaming around" on-line that could lend assistance.

1. Keep the idea of providing online mentors for those taking the various courses. The overall reaction is very positive.
2. Where possible, choose mentors and mentees that share the same platform.
3. If possible, find a way of checking on whether mentors are doing their job to the satisfaction of the students. However, the logistics of this could be very difficult. Another option would be to require mentors to do a brief evaluation of their performance after the first few weeks of class.

In general, the response of Reachers to the first course was positive. Overall it was seen as worth the time and effort invested in it.

Recommendations have been embedded in the body of the report, and so will not be repeated here. However, one final recommendation to the Director of the project is to bring these recommendations to the attention of the appropriate person or persons. For example, the report should be made available on the Reach for the Sky Homepage so that those teaching the course in the future can benefit from the comments of those who have just taken it. The recommendations concerning the continual updating of the course material and URLs should be stressed to the future "owners" of the course. The idea of having teachers contribute to the growth of the lessons, say by designing Skillbuilders, is an excellent one and should be heeded.

It should also be pointed out that many of the recommendations have already been taken to heart and are currently being incorporated into the new web-based hypertext lessons.