October 1997 // Featured Products
Electronic Resources in the Freshman Seminar Classroom: Promoting the Use of Emerging Technologies
by Randall M. MacDonald and Elizabeth Simmons Watson
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source (http://ts.mivu.org/) as: Randall M. MacDonald and Elizabeth Simmons Watson "Electronic Resources in the Freshman Seminar Classroom: Promoting the Use of Emerging Technologies" The Technology Source, October 1997. Available online at http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=1034. The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

The transition from high school to college is a critical time in the academic career of any student. Freshman seminar courses offer many advantages to new college students, easing the transition to college life while introducing students to the rigors and rewards of higher education. The opportunity to learn at an early juncture about campus resources, research tools, and other facets of college life are central to academic success and comfort in the post-secondary setting. This paper describes the use of electronic technologies in a freshman seminar course for instructional support, student/instructor interaction, and student group projects.


Florida Southern College (FSC) is one of the state's oldest private colleges, with a strong liberal arts tradition and a full-time student population of 1,625. The fall 1996 semester brought two major changes to the campus, both of which enhanced opportunities for library involvement in the college's educational programs. Installation of a campus-wide network for electronic mail and graphic Internet and World Wide Web access brought untapped resources to students and faculty. For the first time, FSC offered ten sections of a freshman seminar class, reaching nearly one-third of these newest students.

Two librarians volunteered to teach sections of the freshman seminar course, intrigued by the idea of incorporating new instructional technologies into the classroom. This teaching role promoted three long-standing library goals: (a) incorporation of technology into an instructional setting; (b) instruction to promote independent use of these technologies to locate information; and (c) increased visibility for the library. The seminar course was an opportunity for these librarians to demonstrate library-based familiarity with on-line resources. While wide-scale access to the Internet and Web is new on campus, FSC library faculty average over four years each of experience with Internet resources and have worked for many years with other library automated systems and electronic resources.

The library's recent emphasis on electronic technologies and resources encourages students to develop proficiencies as they perform library research on any level. Students demonstrate competence with the on-line catalog, CD ROM-based reference and index sources, audiovisual resources, and the campus network, much as students twenty years ago learned to use photocopiers and microform readers.

Setting and Strategies

In preparation for the course, we equipped a library conference room with a network-connected PC running Windows 95, a thirty-five inch display monitor with VCR, and Microsoft Office. Instruction was designed to incorporate several technologies into the lecture and discussion sessions. Various programs were modeled to increase student comprehension and familiarity with resources such as Microsoft PowerPoint, electronic mail, and the World Wide Web (WWW). Early development of competence with these programs places students a step or two ahead of their peers and prepares them to use these resources throughout college.

Operating in the traditional seminar setting, instruction facilitated sustained interaction among class members. One of the two classes had 17 students, the other had 19. For many students this course offered a first look at the campus network and use of e-mail. Only about 20% of these students indicated some familiarity with the Internet, a lower number than anticipated, but this helped justify the emphasis on using technology in the course.

Presentation Software. We used PowerPoint presentations regularly to augment classroom discussions throughout the semester. Students were able to follow the flow of lectures, including notes added extemporaneously during class. Handouts and note pages generated by PowerPoint were available to students absent from class and for study sessions. The instructors used the campus network to e-mail presentations to one another, further engendering a collaborative spirit.

Electronic Mail (e-mail). Students had to understand e-mail, the primary telecommunications medium, to correspond successfully across the Internet. During class sessions, we demonstrated the use of e-mail, including how to send, receive, forward, and attach files to messages. Limited student/instructor interaction occurred via e-mail, including submission of one assignment and assistance beyond regular office hours. A class distribution list broadcast information about assignments. We also showed students how librarians use these lists to distribute information to faculty about new books, acquisitions procedures, and directions for connecting to the library's on-line catalog through the campus network.

World Wide Web (WWW). Early in the class, both instructors demonstrated how to locate Web resources using various search engines and directories and gave students time to search independently for sites related to education. Each student spent time exploring and wrote a summary of the resources located at one site. Students then forwarded the information to the instructor, who assembled links and summaries into a single local Web page. During class, students examined these pages, which generated discussion about the nature of Web-based resources and the appealing features of the sites.

We also used Web resources to supplement instructor's resources provided by the textbook publisher. Class preparation included periodic searches for relevant material to incorporate into classroom discussions; we then printed select pages and shared them with students, to correspond with these lessons.

Group Project: A Class Web Page

A group project one class completed over four weeks during the second half of the semester built upon several of the students' new skills. Working in groups of four or five, students, through the WWW, gathered and prepared information about FSC and surrounding communities suitable for public distribution. The groups examined the academic life, campus social activities, administrative structure, and local setting of the college. The instructor suggested a range of appropriate topics, leaving to students the task of coordinating coverage within each group. This encouraged students to review admissions literature and material presented during the course, and to interview campus personnel and fellow students.

Students e-mailed completed text through the campus network to the instructor, who constructed five pages from the students' work. The students added select local graphics and other images from the Web, and general introductory matter for each page. Class discussion during construction yielded student input, shaping the form and function of the site. The instructor and several reviewers accomplished the final editorial work. Completion of the primary work on the page corresponded to in-class group presentations at the close of the term.

The pages offer a glimpse of the college in the words of its newest students; perhaps not the same impressions they will hold as seniors, but a productive way for these students to become part of the campus community. Others on campus, including other freshman seminar instructors, have received the project well.


Experience with this course has demonstrated that students respond positively to these technologies. PowerPoint gave a bit of polish to lectures and helped students focus on important content. Several students were hesitant to try e-mail or explore the Web until given opportunities during class and outside to receive supplemental instruction. Nearly all met basic course requirements, with many exceeding expectations.

What Next?

Plans for next fall include additional Web-supported instruction and assignments. Development of individual and group projects will include PowerPoint presentations and Web pages. The freshman seminar course should encourage students to develop computer competencies, create computer-based presentations and other projects suitable for a personal portfolio, and raise student expectations for the use of electronic resources across campus. This increased demand for technology has been met by the library, where network and Web resources are now incorporated more fully into bibliographic instruction, which ultimately reaches the most students.

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