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Spotlight on Departments An occasional column showcasing accomplishments and innovations in sociology

Enhancing the Curriculum through the Web at Rutgers-Camden

by Meghan Rich, ASA Academic and Professional Affairs Program

The Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at Rutgers University-Camden has created an interactive departmental website to promote effective learning and the acquisition of transferable skills. Their “web-enhanced curriculum homepage” holds innumerable resources, which are designed to clearly define departmental expectations, provide tutorials and guidelines for the department’s courses, increase communication among students and faculty, and publicize research and other opportunities for students.

The site has links to specific classes, individual faculty assignments, library, pedagogy, MicroCase, Excel, methodology, undergraduate research, and other sociology related resources, and hyperlinks to journals. There are also innovative streaming audio and video resources on the site, which were first introduced to Rutgers University as a whole by the department. The faculty also have plans to add to this technology by introducing streaming narrated slideshow tutorials for reviewing content and procedures that students are expected to know from earlier coursework.

This focus on a web-enhanced curriculum reflects a recognition of students’ needs. Robert Wood, Chair of the department, states that “by focusing our curriculum more on identifiable and transferable skills, we could both prepare students better for the world of work and at the same time give the sociology major itself more coherence and depth.” Because so many students of sociology are not graduate school bound, giving students exposure to computer and research skills is imperative if students are to move on to a technologically based job market. Rutgers University–Camden is largely a commuter campus, which makes at-home access to educational resources essential. The Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice’s web-enhanced curriculum homepage provides resources for students who cannot be on campus every day or spend time meeting with professors outside of class. Because there are links to resources of almost every aspect of the department and these disciplines (including links to disciplinary associations and academic journals) every student has access to resources that assist in learning and research. Key elements of students’ work, such as a citations policy, are available on the site, so that students can have something to guide them through the process of writing papers. Because the site is both broad and specific in focus, it allows a student to use resources as needed throughout their undergraduate career. It also gives them a larger view of the disciplines through the linkage of outside sources to the site.

Dr. Wood found through informal conversations and a formal questionnaire that as many as 80 percent of the students access and use the web-enhanced curriculum on a regular basis. Almost all express satisfaction with it, and a number are appreciative of the department’s efforts in this area. As one student wrote: “As a sociology major, I have used the computer much more often than in my previous major. I feel that learning how to utilize technology is immeasurably important as we enter into the 21st century. Rutgers-Camden has a great model in the Sociology Department; hopefully, such technological enthusiasm will soon pervade other departments!” While Dr. Wood contends that technology does not automatically make faculty teaching and a department’s curriculum better, the faculty feel that their efforts to move from the web-enhancement of individual courses to the web-enhancement of the curriculum has paid off in many ways. “We feel that it is a relatively low-cost innovation that can strengthen departmental program generally.”

See http://sociology.camden.rutgers. edu/ for the main departmental page and http://sociology.camden.rutgers.edu/curriculum/index.htm for the web-enhanced curriculum page.

For more information, contact: Dr. Robert Wood, Chair, Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice, Rutgers University, Camden, NJ 08102; e-mail wood@crab.rutgers.edu.