University Acts to Advance University-Level Teaching Through Computer-Aided Courses

Israel’s Council of Higher Education wants a massive use of computer-aided instruction on the academic level, and the University has responded to the challenge in a massive way. The result is that the Council, which supplies the lion’s share of the budget of all Israeli universities, has recently awarded Haifa a grant of NIS 1.2 million (approx. $300,000) to help finance 28 proposals to develop such courses. The Council first had to vet all the proposals submitted to it.

The University has put up a matching grant of NIS 2.2 million (approx. $550,000), which will be used, in part, to set up a Center for Technology-assisted Learning Courses to coordinate, support, and advance this development beyond the initial projects. Prof. Raphael Talmon of the Dept. of Arabic heads the new Center.

He explained to Focus that the center, strictly a support unit, would provide aid to the lecturers in two areas: in the technology itself and in the pedagogy. Help with the first area would come from the computer-knowledgeable, which in part means from students in the very courses to receive computer-aided instruction. Terming such students “the bridge between technology and the discipline,” Talmon finds that the young generation in general has a knowledge of computers and can build Internet sites. The Center’s limited staff does include, though, both a pedagogic designer and a graphic designer to ensure the quality of the proposal being developed.

For the technical aspects of the various proposals, the Center will call on the assistance of three groups to provide support: specialists in building sites or in developing computer-assisted courses who come from the various Faculties, though there may also be “outsourcing” if the needs of a proposal so require; staff of the University’s Computer Unit, particularly those with experience in distance-learning programs and video-conferencing; and members of the University Library’s mesillah unit for database bibliographies and building Internet connections.

Of the 28 proposals approved by the Council’s Planning and Budgeting Committee, 13 came from departments in the Faculty of Humanities, 8 from the Faculty of Social Sciences, 3 from the Education Faculty, 3 from the new Faculty of Sciences and the Teaching of Science, and 1 from the Faculty of Social Welfare.

“The requirements of the learning environment mean that the computer in education should be used for more than administration, registration, and even tests, but for something more creative,” Talmon says. He looks forward to the development of the proposals and putting the resultant course on the Web. “If the course seems appropriate, then other universities can have their students use the site we developed. It will be available 24 hours a day. The library of [computer-aided] courses we build up will offer communication that crosses boundaries.”

The development of the 28 proposals will go a long way to realizing the practical advancement of technological education both here at the University and throughout the country.