An Experiment in Class Management Using the World-Wide Web

Curtis Dyreson, Department of Computer Science, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia. Phone +61 77 81 4621 Fax: +61 77 81 4029. Email: Home Page: Dr. Curtis Dyreson [HREF1]
Keywords: WorldWideWeb, Tertiary Education, Assessment


While there are numerous papers on using the World Wide Web (WWW) for educational purposes, most of these papers are speculative, approaching the topic from a ``what could be done'' perspective, e.g., [HREF2, HREF3, and HREF4]. In contrast, this paper has a very practical focus; it is a report on what we have done.

Starting in February 1995, we began to develop several tools to help teachers put their classrooms onto the WWW [REF1,REF2]. At that time few tools existed beyond translation tools to put lecture notes on-line, e.g., LaTeX2HTML [HREF5], and robots to find links to related materials, e.g., Lycos. In addition to these facilities, we wanted self-assessment lessons, electronic testing, on-line marks, and electronic teacher evaluation forms.

This paper describes the tools that we developed. The primary obstacle that we encountered in developing these tools is that the WWW is designed for open, anonymous use, whereas exams, marks, and teacher evaluations must be kept secure, in order to prevent cheating, protect student privacy, and eliminate unauthorised modifications. We address security and privacy concerns in this paper. We also provide a detailed analysis of student usage and feedback. The analysis leads us to mixed conclusions about the utility of the WWW in a tertiary classroom. Some classroom aspects, such as interactive lessons were used heavily, but we found that others, such as lecture notes, were used much less than we expected.


Others have observed that the WWW is a potentially valuable tool for education, in terms of connecting students to a world-wide fund of information, delivering multimedia classroom materials, and supporting interactive lessons. We believe that the WWW can not only be utilised to improve student education but, just as importantly, to improve teacher efficiency by reducing the clerical load on teachers.

To take one example, teachers invest a significant amount of time in mundane clerical tasks associated with the typical exam. The exam is usually prepared using a word-processor. Once complete, it is printed, the printed copy is Xeroxed, and the Xeroxed copies are distributed to students in the class. After students take the exam, it is collected and marked by the teacher. Marking consists of grading each question, tabulating the results, and entering the marks into a spread-sheet (or other grade calculation database). An electronic exam on the WWW can reduce the clerical load in every step save the first, that of developing the exam using a word-processor. If the exam is on the WWW, copying the exam, distributing it, and collecting the results are done by the WWW, rather than by the teacher. Further, the student answers can be automatically marked (to some extent), the marks tabulated, and those marks inserted directly into a spread-sheet. As a result, the time currently spent on menial clerical tasks could instead be spent on developing a better exam.

We are well aware of the fact that within the educational community there exist widely divergent viewpoints as to what constitutes the ``best'' testing environment. There are definite advantages to electronic testing and marking such as the fact that electronic exams support automatic collection of student performance statistics on individual questions. Such statistics are important in determining which lessons need to be reiterated in class. There are also distinct disadvantages such as machine crashes. We leave the pedagogical wrangling to the experts; in this paper we address whether the electronic testing, marking, and maintenance of marks using the WWW is technologically viable.

The advantage of using the WWW to deliver classroom materials is that it offers a simple, highly-accessible, platform independent interface. It does not matter whether a student is at home using a MacIntosh or in a lab using a Sparc station, the student uses essentially the same interface to access the classroom. The primary obstacle that we encountered in using the WWW for these purposes is that the WWW is designed for open, anonymous use, whereas exams, marks, and teacher evaluations must be kept secure, in order to prevent cheating, protect student privacy, and eliminate unauthorised modifications. We address security and privacy concerns in this paper.

A secondary concern is to develop a ``good'' exam user-interface. Students at the tertiary level have years of experience in taking exams using pen and paper, but no experience in taking an exam on a computer. An exam is usually a very stressful time for a student. The last thing that a student needs during an exam is to fight against a poorly-designed user-interface. User-interface design is an on-going concern.

So our goal was not to replace the traditional classroom with a WWW classroom, but to use the WWW to help supplement the traditional classroom.

Development environment

We developed our tools for use in a university environment. More specifically, we taught the following introductory-level computer science subjects using the WWW: CP1500 - Information Systems (80 students) [HREF6] and CP2050a - Principles of Programming Languages (55 students) [HREF7]. (We would like to note that other subjects at JCU, such as CP1006, CP2700, and CP1020 also made extensive use of the WWW, but this report does not cover the software used to maintain them nor does it make an analysis of these subjects). A majority of the students in both subjects were Computer Science majors, but some were non-Computer Science majors (primarily Commerce majors) in their very first term in college. The level of previous computer experience varied widely from those with 10+ years of industry experience to those that had no previous exposure to computers (e.g., 16% of CP1500 students claimed to have never previously touched a computer). Almost all of the students were novice WWW surfers. All subject development was done on a DEC-alpha machine in a Unix environment.

Teaching environment

Each subject had two or three lectures and one tutorial per week. The WWW was used primarily during the tutorials. The goal of our project was not to replace lectures or tutorials but to utilise the WWW whenever we could to supplement the traditional modes of instruction. Tutorials were held in a lab with approximately thirty networked, diskless 486 machines with 10 inch colour monitors. Students were able to access the WWW using netscape through windows or an XTERM emulator. Lynx and xmosaic were also available. Overall, the network was slow and subject to frequent crashes (once a day).

An on-line subject

A large part of putting subject materials on-line is making information presented in the classroom available, such as lecture notes, subject handouts, links to related information, and important announcements. We were trivially able to put all subject materials onto the WWW using existing tools (we used LaTeX2HTML extensively). A more interesting part of a subject is the classroom aspects relating to assessment. This includes lessons with self-assessment, quizzes, exams, teacher evaluations, and student marks. There exist several tools to put self-assessment on-line such as the Tutorial Gateway [HREF8], the Review Automated Generation System (RAGS) [HREF9], CUQuiz [HREF10], Mklesson [HREF11], QM Web [HREF12], qform [HREF13], and a system presented at AusWeb '95 [HREF14], but we developed our own tools for putting both self-assessment lessons [REF3] and quizzes with assessment on to the WWW [HREF15].

In the next four sections, we discuss the tools for quizzes, self-assessment lessons, surveys (teacher evaluations), and student access to marks. We then turn to an analysis of student usage of the various parts of a WWW classroom.

Electronic quizzes

In this section we describe a tool, called QuizMaker [HREF15] for putting a quiz onto the WWW, and a ``semi''-secure protocol that we used for tri-weekly exams.

Our quizzes are a sequence of forms processed by CGI-bin scripts. The first form asks the student for an entry password, which is then used to identify the student for the remainder of the quiz. Once the student gains entry to the quiz, they use a very simple interface to answer each question. We designed the interface to be sensitive to small screen sizes and to minimise the number of key strokes and mouse movements required to answer a question. Each quiz page contains just a single question, so even with large font sizes, most questions fit comfortably within the narrow confines of a 10 inch monitor. Each question is either a true/false, multiple choice, exact answer, or short answer question. We used buttons for the true/false and multiple choice options so that only one mouse click is required to answer many questions. Maximum marks (and negative marks) for each question are displayed with the question. Each question also has a button that allows a student to skip the question and return to it later, as well as a button to review and update all previously answered questions. An example quiz is available [HREF16]. Student answers are collected in a student database for later marking. If the network or browser crashes during the exam, when the student restarts the quiz their current quiz state is restored from the answer database. Once the student finishes they push a button to submit the exam which e-mails a copy of the student's answers to both the student and to the lecturer.

There are two primary security concerns associated with quizzes:

  1. protecting the integrity of the student answer database, and
  2. preventing cheating during the exam.
Since the student answer database is accessible via the WWW (the WWW updates the database during the exam with student answers), what is to prevent anyone from altering or damaging answers? The integrity of the database is maintained through standard Unix file protections that only allow the WWW to change the student answer database. The answer database resides outside of the WWW file hierarchy so possible changes are restricted to CGI-bin scripts or Java applets. On our system, only trusted users are allowed to write CGI-bin scripts and applets. While our security arrangements place trust in the integrity of Unix and CGI-bin script authors, we can detect whether that trust has been violated and restore integrity by checking the database against the e-mailed copies of quiz answers.

Another security concern is that student may cheat during the quiz. The WWW makes it easier for students to cheat in a number of non-traditional ways such as examining the quiz outside of when they are taking it, `spoofing' another student, exchanging answers via e-mail or WWW pages, and bookmarking quiz questions to return to them and change their answers long after the quiz has completed.

To discourage spoofing and restrict remote examination of the quiz we used a one-time password-protection scheme. Students take the quiz in tutorial sessions (i.e., in a supervised environment). The tutor hands out a unique, one-time entry password to each student just prior to when they begin the quiz. The password grants permission to enter the quiz exactly once and also identifies the student (to the CGI-bin scripts) for the remainder of the quiz (it is passed as a hidden variable from form to form). Choosing unique one-time passwords and handing them out at the last possible moment prevents one student from cooperatively spoofing another student (by e-mailing a reusable password to a student at a remote site who then takes the exam concurrently, filling in the correct answers). We also checked the HTTP-REFERER variable to ensure that the quiz CGI-bin scripts are accessed only from quiz-related CGI-bin scripts. So a student cannot save a quiz question, modify the hidden state, and restart the browser on the modified state (i.e., bypass the entry protocol and jump directly to the modified quiz). This check prevents one student from changing their password to maliciously or cooperatively spoof another and also prevents students from saving a quiz page and restarting the quiz at a later time. Also, using hidden variables to pass the quiz state (rather than in a URL) keeps students from bookmarking questions and returning to them later.

While a one-time password limits spoofing, it also makes it impossible for a student to reenter the quiz after an unforeseen crash. So QuizMaker generates a sequence of one-time passwords for each student to allow readmission after a crash. The tutor hands out these passwords as needed. As a final security precaution, we restricted quiz access to tutorial times.

We could not, however, institute a ``closed book'' quiz. Current browsers make the full slate of information on the WWW, e.g., lecture notes, available to each student during the quiz. So we used an ``open book'' philosophy and encouraged students to surf during the quizzes.

Another security hole is that since tutorial times are typically staggered, students in earlier tutorials can save quiz questions to local files and e-mail them to students in later tutorials. Since we encourage surfing, students can even use the WWW to make these questions (and possible answers) available during the exam itself. Off-line checks of the access log can possibly detect questionable surfing behaviours at a server, but it is impossible to fully monitor and detect whether cheating is in fact occurring. We offset this to some extent by randomly chosing questions during the quiz from a pool of questions. But students in later tutorials still have a distinct advantage since they can see the ``kinds'' of questions that are on the quiz. With current browsers, in a multi-window environment, there is no way to prevent students from saving quiz questions, or their answers to them.

Teachers are concerned not only with quiz security, but with the ease of putting a quiz on the WWW. We assumed that teachers would like to develop all subject materials, including quizzes, using a familiar word processor (e.g., emacs) and formatting package (e.g., LaTeX) rather than enter quiz information using a form-based interface (e.g., [HREF17]). So we wrote a Perl program, called QuizMaker, to read a text file with special ``quiz tags'' and generate all the databases and HTML needed for the quiz. QuizMaker creates several small databases that contain the quiz information. The actual quiz pages are dynamically constructed during the quiz from the database by a CGI-bin script, with the security restrictions described above. The only difficult part to learning to use QuizMaker is learning what each quiz tag means. The quiz tags entirely control how the quiz is formatted and constructed. Tags were used to distinguish question types, answers, and hints. Most tags are self-evident. An example multiple choice question is shown below, the correct answer is indicated by the (r) tag.

(MC) When a tuple is deleted,
  (w) the key, if any, is replaced by NULL.
  (w) the delete operation is not allowed if the tuple's primary
      key is a target of a foreign key.
  (w) the tuple is deleted as well as the tuples that have foreign keys
      that have the deleted primary key as their target.
  (w) all of the above. 
  (r) none of the above.

We chose to maintain the quiz questions in a text file and then convert them to a database so that we could format the questions using LaTeX. We then ran QuizMaker on the output of latex2html. Consequently we could generate a LaTeX version of the quiz as well as an HTML version as a backup in case the network was down for an extended period of time.

We found that we would always make one or more minor mistakes when we created a quiz, however, unlike a paper quiz, an electronic quiz can be dynamically modified. One must be careful when modifying a quiz because some students may already have answered some of the questions. So we added a flag to QuizMaker to allow teachers to change the entry/submit passwords and times, the wording of a question, e.g., reword a question to make it clearer, or the correctness of an answer, e.g., add a new answer to an exact answer question. Changes other than those mentioned above are not supported.

We also developed a WWW interface to mark the quiz. Questions and student answers are presented one-by-one and the the marker is given the choice of changing correct to incorrect answers or vice-versa. The marking program also has options to collect statistics on how students did on each question, e-mail results and statistics to students, and insert the final marks into a spread-sheet. While the marking interface is accessible to the WWW, and several tutors can mark at once if needed, the program is password-protected and can only be accessed by starting a browser directly on the marking-entry page (Unix protections on this page should be set so that only the person marking can read the page). The entry page is generated by QuizMaker with the password and location of the student answer databases encoded in hidden variables. Marking of the example quiz is available [HREF18].

The result is that all we had to do to conduct a quiz was to create the questions and run QuizMaker; after that everything happened automatically. The marking interface enabled us to easily analyse and mark questions.

In CP2050a, we ran four quizzes between fifteen to twenty questions in length. We spent approximately 4.5 hours creating the quizzes and 1 hour modifying the quiz and analysing results for all 54 students. Because it was so easy to conduct quizzes, we were tempted to to run weekly quizzes to train students on every concept covered in class.


A self-assessment is an interactive lesson that a student works through at their own pace, without the pressure of punitive marking, and with the support of immediate feedback on their performance. An example self-assessment is available [HREF19]. For a self-assessment we used the same simple interface that we adopted for quizzes. To keep pages small we presented only one question to a page. We also made extensive use of buttons so that most questions could be answered by a single mouse click. In a self-assessment, a student's answer is is marked immediately and feedback given to the student in terms of a running tally of incorrect and correct responses. We also stored each answer for later statistical analysis to pinpoint which questions students found difficult. The current statistics for the example self-assessment are available [HREF20].

We wrote a modified QuizMaker, called SAMaker [REF3,HREF15], to create a self-assessment from a text file using essentially the same tags as the quiz questions. Consequently we could easily put old quizzes on the WWW as self-assessment. We also had to modify the quiz CGI-bin scripts to mark questions and to provide feedback to the student on the fly. Self-assessment has no real security concerns so we stripped all of the quiz security restrictions from the self-assessment scripts.

Teacher evaluations

On the surface a teacher evaluation form appears to be just a special kind of quiz. Like a quiz it consists of a series of questions to which students give answers. For example, ``Did the lecturer adequately explain difficult concepts?,'' to which a range of possible responses are given. The responses are not marked for correctness since there are no correct answers, rather all the responses are tabulated and, eventually, statistically analysed. But the security issues in implementing an electronic teacher evaluation form are entirely different. In an quiz, each student must be identified and tracked. But in a teacher evaluation, student anonymity must be guaranteed.

The crux of the problem of preserving anonymity is that in order to prevent multiple submissions, a student must be identified as having submitted a form. An easy way of identifying a student as having submitted a form is to ask the student for some personal information, such as a student id. This differs from the in-class method of filling out teacher evaluation forms since no personal information must ever be given to fill out a teacher evaluation form. It is risky for a student to give any personal information. The risk is that the teacher could be the same individual that designs the scripts to handle the teacher evaluations. In such situations, a teacher has the potential to violate student trust and modify the form handler to identify students rather than to protect their anonymity. So for instance, the teacher could tag each submitted evaluation with the student's id.

To preserve student anonymity while preventing multiple submissions, we chose to use an anonymous one-time password scheme. An anonymous one-time password is a password that grants permission to submit one teacher evaluation, but cannot be used to identify a student. For teacher evaluations, we ensure anonymity by allowing students to randomly choose one password from a bag of one-time passwords. The student can then fill out the form whenever they like. The password grants permission to submit a single teacher evaluation form, and it, rather than any personal identification, is used to register that a form had been submitted. Once used, no further submissions using that password are allowed.

The key feature of the anonymous password scheme is that trust lies with the students, not with the teachers. But the anonymous password solution only eliminates some obvious student risks. The chief hidden risk to students is that it is impossible to guarantee anonymous usage with current browsers and servers. Some browsers, e.g., netscape, allow a mail address scam that could be used to identify a student. (The scam is to modify the teacher evaluation entry page so that when the page is accessed, an e-mail message is silently sent from the student's account to the malicious teacher's account.) Another risk is that when a form is submitted it can be timestamped. The timestamp can then be used to (partially) identify the student by examining the HTTPD referer_log and access_log since a student will typically fill the form out in tutorial by starting a browser on their home page and shortly thereafter jump to the teacher evaluation form.

From the teacher's perspective, the primary risk is that a single student could collect and use several passwords. To prevent this abuse of the system, passwords could be chosen and used under supervised conditions, e.g., during tutorials, as is done with current teacher evaluations.

To ease the burden of putting evaluations (and other surveys) onto the WWW, we wrote a tool called SurveyMaker [HREF15], to create a survey from a text file using essentially the same tags as the quiz and self-assessment questions. We also wrote CGI-bin scripts to collect and analyse student responses. An example survey is available [HREF21] as well as the current statistics on the survey [HREF22].

Student access to marks

Providing WWW access to student marks is very beneficial for students because they can see their marks at any time, but WWW access potentially allows others to also view their marks. In providing on-line access to marks, protecting student privacy is our chief concern. Marks security is not a primary concern because the marks are read-only copies of marks. The actual marks are maintained elsewhere. The marks page informs students that the WWW marks are unofficial.

It is common practice at many universities for teachers to post grades, sorted by student id, in a common area, e.g., on an office door. It would be easy to post the entire list to the WWW and restrict access to on-campus machines. However, the practice of posting a list of grades sorted by student id does not go far enough in protecting students' privacy. First, a student id does not provide sufficient anonymity. A parent typically knows a student's id, but a parent should not have unrestricted access to a student's mark. Second, no possible good can come from a student being able to see the ids of other students in the class, especially when those ids are publicly associated with marks, be they good or bad marks. Finally, a student is not given the option of removing their id and mark from the list of marks.

Our solution was to carefully explain, in class, the privacy concerns. Students that wanted on-line access had to sign a release form. On the form, the student chose a password to be used when accessing the marks. To gain access to their marks, the student had to first enter their password, and only then could they see their marks (and class averages). Only the password along with copies of the marks themselves, and in particular, no personal student information, such as name or student id, were stored or presented with the copies of the marks. So if one student guessed another's password, or somehow obtained access to the password and marks file by writing a malicious CGI-bin script (on our system only trusted authors can write CGI-bin scripts), they would only be able to read the marks for an anonymous person in the class, which still represents a substantial privacy improvement on prior practice. Only 60% of students signed the release form initially, and an additional 24% signed on during the term. 23% of those students chose their student id as their marks password. Another 20% chose a proper name (usually a first name)

Our solution has two problems. First, it forces students to choose a password. To avoid having to remember yet another password, the temptation for a student is to use a login password or a credit-card PIN. While teachers are usually trustworthy, it is still a risk. Second, it introduces a new clerical task for the teacher, that of maintaining a list of marks passwords. 28% of the students forgot their password during the term and polled the teacher for it. Our goal is to reduce clerical tasks, not to create new tasks.


In this section we analyse the experimental classroom from both the student and teacher perspectives. From a teacher's perspective, we found that maintaining the WWW classroom was time consuming (we estimate 2 extra hours per week, not including time spent on lecture notes), but it also saved time on a number of tasks. Overall, students rated the WWW classroom highly, but their use of the classroom did not match how we expected them to use it.

Student usage statistics

One advantage to putting a subject on the WWW is that the server access_log contains a wealth of information about how students actually use the various parts of the subject. Table 1 given below shows student usage for CP1500 and CP2050a.

Table 1: Access log statistics
CP1500 (80 students) CP2050a (54 students)
section accesses % relativised % per link % accesses % relativised % per link %
class home page 608 750% 75% 230% 1855 3050% 200% 560%
lecture notes 276 350% 10% 45% 521 950% 39% 80%
on-line marks 222 300% 300% 300% 375 700% 700% 700%
self-assessment 542 650% 65% 75% 730 1400% 100% 100%
copies of assignments 109 130% 45% 45% 283 500% 75% 100%
copies of class handouts 51 65% 30% 18% 81 150% 75% 170%
midterm answers 88 110% 110% 81% 119 210% 150% 150%
pointers to related materials none none none none 278 500% 40% unknown
subject times 19 25% 25% 25% 29 50% 50% 50%

Each class is broken down into sections, and only accesses to the root page in each section are shown (e.g., all lecture notes are linked to a lecture note root page). The first column in the table is the total number of accesses over the entire term to the root page for that section of the subject. The percentage of the on-line class that used that section of the class is shown in the second column, e.g., if there were 80 students in the class and 40 accesses to a root page, then 50% of the class accessed that page. But the total access percentage is somewhat misleading since there are several links within some sections, e.g., there are six assignments in CP2050a so a 500% access percentage means that some students did not look at each assignment rather than that each student looked at every assignment five times. The third column shows a relativised percentage which is the percentage of the total access per link in the respective root page. A relativised percentage of 100% means that there were enough accesses to account for each student following every link. The fourth column shows the actual per link percentage. It represents the percentage of students that followed a link (on average) in the respective section. A per link percentage of 300% means that every student followed each link from the section's root page three times, on average.

The relativised percentage and the per link percentage are related measures. If the relativised percentage is much lower than the per link percentage then students tended to surf to the relevant section and then explore several of the links within that section without reloading the root page (i.e., the root page is cached). For instance, it appears that students tend to come into a class home page and from that page browse three to four parts of the class in a single session. If the relativised percentage is approximately the same as the per link percentage then students tended to follow only one link per visit to the root page. For example, it appears that students will browse to the self-assessments, try a single self-assessment, and then leave, rather than doing multiple self-assessments in a single visit to the class. Finally, if the relativised percentage is much higher than the per link percentage then students tended to reach a section, see little of interest and leave to explore a different section.

The relativised and per link percentages show that students visited pages related to assessment more frequently than those not directly related. Students appear to have checked on-line marks religiously. They also checked midterm test answers and trained on self-assessment, perhaps in preparation for the final exam since the lecturer informed students that some self-assessment questions would appear on the final. We still find it impressive that, on average, each student in CP2050a tried 178 self-assessment questions.

In contrast, and somewhat surprisingly, lecture notes and pointers to related materials appear to have been ignored by over half the class. We expected that students would consult the lecture notes frequently during the term, especially during WWW quizzes and self-assessment (we encouraged students to surf to the notes during quizzes). But students appear to have made more extensive use of the page for the time and location for the subject (which did not change at all during the term!) than they did of the lecture notes. The relatively high per link percentage (in comparison to the relativised percentage) shows that the students who did visit the lecture notes tended to explore several weeks of lecture notes in a single session. We suspect that during these sessions students printed the notes rather than explore them on-line. Access rates on individual lectures vary wildly between 10% and 200%, with little relation to expected study patterns for quizzes and exams. We should note that the lecture notes were also made available in the university library prior to the final exam.

A complete report of CP1500 accesses [HREF23] and CP2050a accesses [HREF24] are available.

Student feedback survey

We also surveyed the students in an attempt to ascertain student perceptions of a WWW classroom. We asked the students to judge how often they used the WWW and to rate the utility of the various sections of the subject. Student perception of how often they used the subject is shown in Table 2 below.

Table 2: Student usage survey results by percentage of class
CP1500 (39 responses) CP2050a (41 responses)
when outside of tutorial overall outside of tutorial overall
never 5% 6% 2% 2%
rarely 31% 10% 10% 8%
less than one hour per week 33% 25% 22% 22%
more than one hour per week 31% 54% 66% 66%

The more advanced students in CP2050a used the WWW to a much greater extent. Student ratings of the classroom are given in Table 3 below.

Table 3: Student survey ratings, scale is 1 to 4 (4 is very useful)
section CP1500 (39 responses) CP2050a (41 responses)
on-line marks 3.12 3.36
lecture notes 3.44 3.34
handouts 3.10 2.82
self-assessment 3.23 3.17

Student feedback was almost entirely positive. The high marks given to lecture notes seems at odds with the relatively low number of accesses to the notes, but may indicate that students found it valuable to check the notes when they missed lecture. Or perhaps, psychologically, it was reassuring to students to know that the notes were available. We were also very concerned with students having difficultly using the WWW since most were novices, but Table 4 below shows that most students found the WWW easy to use.

Table 4: Student ratings for WWW ease of use, scale is 1 to 4 (4 is very easy)
CP1500 (39 responses) CP2050a (41 responses)
computer beginners ease of use 2.36 3.11
computer intermediate ease of use 3.40 3.55
computer expert ease of use 3.83 4.0
WWW beginners ease of use 3.0 3.0
WWW intermediate ease of use 3.66 3.9
WWW expert ease of use 4.0 4.0
overall ease of use 3.35 3.48
adequacy of facilities 2.05 2.36

Teacher perspective

An important goal in the experiment was to determine if the WWW could reduce the clerical load on a teacher. We found, unfortunately, that it actually increased that load by an average of two hours a week. The two hour per week figure is conservative, but does not include the time needed to learn HTML or to create class materials on a word-processor. Using the WWW saved time in marking quizzes, xeroxing (the class was ``paperless''), distributing handouts during lectures, and responding to student queries about marks. But the WWW classroom also created several time-consuming tasks, such as using the tools to put materials on-line, testing that material to make sure that all the links worked, and maintaining the on-line marks password database. Even worse, because the WWW classroom could do more than the traditional classroom, it invented the following tasks: creating self-assessment questions, analysing student performance on self-assessments and quizzes, and responding to student queries on self-assessment questions. Overall, the only clear-cut time-savers were the WWW quizzes and having a paperless class. We did not assess how electronic instead of paper quizzes impacted student learning. The fact that students made extensive use of on-line marks and self-assessment helps to reassure us that the time spent creating and maintaining these aspects of the classroom, which are unique to a WWW classroom, is worthwhile. In future, we plan to scale-back our efforts to create lecture notes and find related materials on the WWW since those portions of the class are under-utilised.


The paper presents the design of several tools that we developed to help teachers put their classrooms onto the WWW and gives a detailed analysis of how students used the resulting classroom.

Our primary goal in the experiment was to reduce the clerical load on teachers by automating the process of putting interactive self-assessment, student access to marks, interactive quizzes, and subject evaluation forms on the WWW. Once on the WWW, the computer, rather than the teacher, assumes the clerical tasks associated with these classroom aspects. Although the tools that we developed made the process of creating the interactive parts of a WWW classroom quick and easy, we ultimately found that they did not reduce the clerical load on teachers since the time spent maintaining and testing the classroom offset any reduction in other tasks. We estimate that we spent an additional two hours each week on a subject because it was on the WWW.

An analysis of the access_log shows that students made extensive use of what we put on the WWW, especially the classroom aspects relating to assessment such as on-line marks and self-assessment. The analysis also shows that students under-utilised on-line lecture notes and did not surf to related materials available elsewhere on the WWW. Our findings suggest that teachers should not invest a significant amount of time in developing these portions of the classroom. The results of a student survey on the experiment clearly indicates that students found the WWW to be very easy to use and thought that the WWW classroom was a useful resource.

We also addressed security and privacy concerns connected with making quizzes, marks, and evaluation forms available in an open forum. Our tools incorporated many security and privacy mechanisms, but current browsers cannot completely ensure student anonymity when filling out subject evaluation forms, nor can students be prevented from cheating during a quiz by looking for answers elsewhere on the WWW.


We would like to thank Dr. Shyam Kapur who was the inspiration for developing WWW subjects at James Cook University. We used his software to report student marks, and the design of our tools profited by discussing techniques with him. We would also like to thank our webmistress Marianne Brown, Tony Sloane, Michael Sharpe, and Trevor Tracey-Patte. Work on an object-oriented extension of the tools discussed in this paper has also begun thanks to a James Cook University Teaching and Learning Grant [REF2].

Hypertext References

HREF1 - Dr. Curtis Dyreson's Home Page.
HREF2 - Omari, A. and Brogan, M., New Directions in courseware delivery - Multimedia, CDROM and the Internet, AusWeb '95.
HREF3 - Alexander, S., Teaching and Learning on the World-Wide-Web, AusWeb '95.
HREF4 - Lai, M.-C., Chen, B.-H., and Yuan S.-M., Toward a New Educational Environment, Fourth International WWW Conference, Boston 1995.
HREF5 - All About LaTeX2HTML.
HREF6 - CP1500, Information Systems Home Page.
HREF7 - CP2050a, Principles of Programming Languages Home Page.
HREF8 - The Tutorial Gateway.
HREF9 - The Review Automated Generation System (RAGS).
HREF10 - Cox, K. and Clubb, O., Formative Quizzes and the World Wide Web, Australian Society for Computers in Learning In Tertiary Education Conference (ASCILITE), Melbourne, Dec. 1995.
HREF11 - Mklesson.
HREF12 - QM Web.
HREF13 - qform.
HREF14 - Byrnes, R., Debreceny, R., and Gilmour, P., The Development of a Multiple-Choice and True-False Testing Environment on the Web, AusWeb '95.
HREF15 - Educational Software Home Page, e.g, QuizMaker etc.
HREF16 - Example quiz.
HREF17 - Goldberg, M., Salari, S., and Swoboda, P. World Wide Web - Course Tool: An Environment for Building WWW-Based Courses, Fifth International World Wide Web Conference, May 6-10, 1996, Paris, France.
HREF18 - Marking the example quiz.
HREF19 - Example self-assessment.
HREF20 - Statistics on the example self-assessment.
HREF21 - Example survey.
HREF22 - Statistics on the example survey.
HREF23 - CP1500 access_log Statistics Page.
HREF24 - CP2050a access_log Statistics Page.


S. Kapur, C. Dyreson, and A. Sloane, A World-Wide Web Classroom Toolkit, CAUT grant application.
S. Kapur, C. Dyreson, A. Sloane, and I. White, Development of World Wide Web Tools for Teaching with an Application to Graphic Design, JCU Teaching and Learning Development Grant.
A. Sloane and C. Dyreson, An Interactive Self-Paced Learning Environment for the World-Wide Web, First Australian Conference on Computer Science Education (ACSE '96), Sydney, June 1996.


Curtis E. Dyreson ©, 1996. The authors assigns to Southern Cross University and other educational and non-profit institutions a non-exclusive licence to use this document for personal use and in courses of instruction provided that the article is used in full and this copyright statement is reproduced. The authors also grant a non-exclusive licence to Southern Cross University to publish this document in full on the World Wide Web and on CD-ROM and in printed form with the conference papers, and for the document to be published on mirrors on the World Wide Web. Any other usage is prohibited without the express permission of the author.
AusWeb96 The Second Australian WorldWideWeb Conference ""