Crosswords and cross words on the Internet
Jun 12, 1998
As student numbers continue to increase, academics are having to develop new ways to keep their students interested and their workloads under control. One example of this is an on-line crossword puzzle developed by David Bradstreet and David Steelman of Eastern College in Pennsylvania and Antony Lewis of the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory in the UK. The crossword tests the students knowledge of physics and has been well received by teachers and students alike. Elsewhere, however, university staff are complaining about electronic teaching methods. At the University of Washington, for example, more than 700 staff have signed a letter to Gary Locke, the state governor, to protest about the replacement of staff with interactive computer tools.
The crossword puzzle was created using a software package developed by Lewis. The instructor simply types the clues and their answers into the program, which then creates the crossword grid. Although the students are given a hard copy of the puzzle, they have to enter their solutions over the Internet with a Java capable browser (see, for example, http://deborah.eastern.edu/crossword/crossword.html). The Java program then marks the puzzle and sends the grade to the lecturer. Bradstreet and Steelman hope to make the network programs available at little or no cost to other universities.
However, academics at the University of Washington have called the growth of interactive computer tools in education "naive" and potentially "disastrous". Their letter was triggered by the actions of the 2020 Commission, a planning committee for higher education in the state. Reports from the committee down-played the role of universities as centres of learning and concentrated on the benefits of multimedia education. University staff were angry that the committee did not include any academics. "Distance learning should be a supplement to higher education, not a central feature of it, " the letter says.