Online Teaching in Archaeology

Many universities are offering online archaeology courses as part of the national and international trend to deliver instruction using Information Technology (Lightfoot 2000). Most of these courses offer material online as supplements to regular classroom instruction: syllabi, class notes, exercises, assigned reading, quizzes and tests, chat rooms, and e-mail opportunities for discussions with instructors. These classes make effective use of the power of online instruction but the structure of the course still parallels that of the traditional classroom. They are not virtual classrooms where students take off on their own initiative, travelling as fast as their experience and academic foundations will allow. In a virtual archaeology lab course the student should sample course material at their own pace: proceed through assignments in any order, perform assigned exercises in working environs of their own construction, and take exams as they feel ready.

Fetherston (2000) has reviewed the pedagogical challenges of teaching with the World Wide Web. He notes that as instructors move beyond the simple translation of traditional instruction, more constructivist approaches emerge. Elements of web-based constructivist learning which are critical to the success of Anthropology 491 are: the development of a community of learners, the design of relevant authentic tasks, the use of technology appropriately to engage the learners, and the development of a sense of ownership by the students for their products (Fetherston 2000; Oliver 2000)

In our Anthropology 491 course, we posted assignments and supplied assigned reading as articles online and as a CD-ROM. Students were also encouraged to purchase Don Crabtree flintknapping videos and the Digital Stones CD-ROM (Lohse and Sammons 1998). The Anthropology 491 web site gave the entire course structure: syllabus, background on use of the web, live links to important web sites and discussion lists, names of outside researchers who had agreed to interact with students in live chat rooms, scheduled chat room times, glossaries, bibliographies, reference images, exercises to be performed with examples, quizzes, and examinations. All interaction with students was done online: assessments given, grades and corrections delivered, chat room transcripts posted. E.S. Lohse was the instructor of record. Robert Schlader was the Graduate Assistant and Web Wizard. D. Sammons scripted the original Digital Stones CD and participated in all chat rooms.


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Last updated: Thu Jul 11 2002