New Web program creates virtual classes

Prometheus, an Internet tool for course work at GW, has gained momentum during the spring semester, offering professors and students a new educational medium.

“(Prometheus) has done more for the faculty than anything I’ve ever seen,” said Computer Information and Resource Center Director Brad Reese, who helped implement the software.

The World Wide Web-based course work application was developed by the Instructional Technology Lab division of CIRC to promote the Internet as a classroom tool. The program is named after the ancient Greek titan, Prometheus, who stole fire from the heaven for the benefit of mankind.

From its inception last spring, Prometheus gained a large University following, Reese said. Despite limited advertising, the program acquired 170 faculty and more than 2,200 student accounts.

The Internet previously provided students and faculty members basic course information, but Prometheus is different, Reese said.

“It provides tools not readily available in the past,” he added.

Features such as an online syllabus, student chat room and virtual office hours are tools professors such as Philip Wirtz, who teaches statistics and research methods, have been using since last year.

Wirtz said the program is impressive and fosters class interaction.

“It serves to greatly facilitate communication between instructors and students,” he said. “Students are able to go straight to the source.”

But praise for Prometheus is not limited to professors – students also share the enthusiasm.

Senior Shannon Christopher used the system to interact with fellow students in a business course last fall.

“We used it because the class was divided into teams for group discussion,” Christopher said.

Reactions to Prometheus are overwhelmingly positive, Wirtz said.

“I think, if anything, I’ve undersold its virtues,” Wirtz said.

The program also has been upgraded since its first version was installed last year to make it more visually attractive, Reese said.

But Christopher pointed out a problem in the program. Although it proved to be easier and more user-friendly than a listserv, she said she and her classmates had trouble viewing chat room messages.

“They say you can use it through any computer, but the message is only clear through Netscape, (not) Microsoft Explorer,” said Christopher, who added that fellow classmates frequently received jumbled messages.

Some glitches persist in the new program, but advertising for the program will be heavy, Reese said, because Prometheus gives GW a look into the future.

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