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1995-1996 index

Distributed November 1995
Contact: Richard Morin

Moving beyond text-based learning in higher education with CD-ROMs

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- If researcher Liza Bakewell had her wish, the preferred medium for teaching and research on college and university campuses nationwide would change with the click of a mouse.

"Higher education is too text-based," says Bakewell, assistant professor of anthropology. To address the problem, she has founded PROLARTI, the Project on Language-Art Interface, which is dedicated to developing teaching and research tools - currently Internet CD-ROM hybrids - on human behavior that integrate the humanities and the sciences.

PROLARTI's first project is Auroch, an educational CD-ROM about the origins of human communication for undergraduate students. Auroch, which is in the second stage of development, provides "open-ended" materials for both teaching and research.

A prototype of Auroch, developed through a grant from the National Science Foundation, contains an interactive library of course and research materials, laboratories for experimentation, introductory lectures by prominent scholars (many of whom are from Brown), animated tutorials, profiles of the scholars whose work can be found in the interactive library and a large archive of texts, images and sounds. Bakewell is also looking to include debates by some of the leading scholars on communication, and case studies to give students varying perspectives on the origins of human communication.

Unlike traditional CD-ROMs, Auroch will have the added feature of a connection to PROLARTI's World Wide Web site. Users will be able to find an on-line library, discussion groups as well as pointers to additional sites on the Internet with further information about human communication. "Why repeat the work that has been put on the Web?" Bakewell asks. By connecting to the Internet, "Auroch gives professors options to electronically customize their courses."

Brown faculty have been instrumental in helping Bakewell create Auroch. They have provided information, materials, sound bites and on-camera lectures that have been transferred onto CD-ROM. "Brown is the perfect environment for me, because I need to talk to education reformers, language experts and people like Leonard Lesko who know about Egyptian tombs," says Bakewell, who hopes to add an Egyptian segment to Auroch.

When completed, Bakewell envisions Auroch as a teaching supplement that could be used in the classroom or in distance learning. "This is a tool to be used with a classroom; but that classroom doesn't have to have just four walls," she says.