TLtC Grant Proposal

S.P.I.D.E.R: Shared Pedagogical Initiative, a Database of Educational Resources for the UC Community faculty/losh/SPIDER.html

Principal Investigators: Michael Clark and John Hollowell


 Our project seeks to expand and enhance successful, local, collaboratively developed, web-based instructional materials for students in lower-division, general education courses, and to develop corresponding web-based faculty enrichment programs for their instructors. By providing templates for coursework making use of the substantial and sophisticated research resources available through the California Digital Library, this project will encourage instructors across the UC community to take full advantage of these resources. Developed in collaboration with experts in writing pedagogy, these materials will serve as a head start for faculty in all disciplines wishing to implement writing across the curriculum initiatives.

Virtual Research I and II (School of the Humanities and the Department of English and Comparative Literature)

 Our project consolidates work already begun on campus with local UCI instructional development grants: "Virtual Research I and II." Virtual Research I developed online instructional material to help a combined total of 6,000 undergraduates in Humanities Core Course (HCC) and WR 39C ("Argument and Research") to improve their research skills. Virtual Research II aimed online instructional material directly at these students' instructors-- graduate students, lecturers, and faculty teaching HCC and WR 39C The results of Virtual Research I and II include over 400 separate instructional web pages that represent the contributions of over 100 different authors, 16 of whom are senate faculty. An essential component of this work to date has been our successful partnership with the Library in order to teach lower- division students basic research skills. This preparation is crucial for academic success and in fostering retention, and serves as foundation for lifelong learning and career success upon graduation from the University.

Our current project proposes design and usability studies that will build on, complete, and regularize this work into stand-alone models for others, as well. UC-wide, the project will create a comprehensive, web- archived array of instructional advice about design principles for classroom instruction and corresponding exercises. This material will provide teachers with a set of efficient resources and techniques that will expand the quality and quantity of instruction for students without increasing the preparation and class-time for the instructor. As such, this resource will coincidentally help accommodate the union contract's 220-hour limit on the training and work of graduate teaching assistants, and will foster common grading standards and pedagogical practices across multiple sections.

Unlike paper manuals, this electronic medium adds unique instructional value and impact. The web offers teachers instant access from anywhere, and "publication" through collaborative contributions that can be easily adapted to various classroom needs. It offers undergraduates convenient and focused learning opportunities through guides to readings, self-correcting quizzes, and submission of assignments at a distance through electronic worksheets. For example, the Discovery Tasks in HCC, a series of online worksheets that guide the thousands of HCC students through library research, have no concrete equivalent whereby so many students could locate and work with the original paper copies of the same limited number of articles. As another instance of unique pedagogical opportunities offered by the WWW, the online hypertextual worksheet forms WR 39C assessment of research sources offer javascript pop-up tips with links to the course handbook as students work through the assignment interactively and then submit it electronically. The web also allows for convenient sharing of material among students outside of class, and even collaborative projects between classes at different sites.


Meanwhile, the Library has developed two models to provide information literacy instruction. As noted above, students in the Humanities Core Course complete a series of online, self-teaching modules, presented as worksheets, that both teach the conceptual framework for conducting library-based, scholarly research and introduce specific information resources such as the online catalog, the selection and use of appropriate subject-based indexes, and scholarly journal collections--all without direct intervention by an instructor at every stage of the process. Students in the Writing 39C course participate in a library instruction session taught by a librarian that introduces them to basic research methodology and the use and evaluation of electronic information resources they use to complete their writing assignments.

These independent, self-guided exercises have been extraordinarily effective in teaching students basic research skills, but such tools are most effective when they can be combined with more traditional, teacher-based learning activities and personal contact between teacher and student at different points in the process. In order to enhance the learning outcome, therefore, we need to make better use of the interactive capabilities that web-based instruction offers. Currently, the instruction provided is text-based and linear. It requires students to read and execute a series of instructions and to record the results of their efforts manually. Feedback and help are delayed and remote, because only completed assignments are reviewed by instructors. In contrast, interactive, web-based tutorials, such as the one on Distinguishing between Primary and Secondary Sources, developed for Virtual Research I html, can be designed to provide immediate feedback and assistance to the learner.

Because UC libraries all provide access to system-wide library resources, these tutorials will serve as templates for other UC campuses in their information literacy programs. Project member Catherine Palmer, as President of the Librarians' Association of the University of California and a member of the California Digital Library Abstracting and Indexing Databases Transition Steering Committee, also plans to link to web- based tutorials at U.C. Berkeley (SunSite), U.C. Santa Cruz (Info-Trail), and U.C. Riverside (Magician) and provide more interactivity

Students and their instructors are clamoring for more of these kinds of online materials, and only such support for release time and technical assistance from a TLtC grant will enable us to create them. 

Nature of the Collaboration

Easily accessible and unified web materials for writing instruction will encourage communication and sharing of knowledge and practices among all the groups responsible for writing instruction at UCI. The sharing will then be extended to the greater UC community, through the dissemination of these materials on the web by means of an archive of instructional materials, to be called S.P.I.D.E.R., or Shared Pedagogical Initiative, a Database of Educational Resources for the UC community. We will promote use of these materials through publications by the participants, teaching colloquies, and workshops on how to use these materials, both at UCI and other UC campuses.

This project will also facilitate more faculty involvement in general education issues. Research faculty have already been integrated into the project during its development phase in the 1999-2001 academic years. Fourteen faculty members with professorial appointments have contributed pedagogical materials to the Humanities Core instructional site. More importantly, as noted in Dean Robert Moeller's letter of support, faculty members are already adapting Core Course web-based materials for use in their departmental courses for majors and Upper Division Writing courses. In the future, as co-PI and Associate Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Planning, Michael Clark will coordinate participation in the project by faculty from across the campus, and will oversee the integration of the new material in writing courses offered by different units. Under the supervision of co-PI and Composition Program Director John Hollowell, the Composition Program will also involve faculty outside the Humanities through greater communication with Upper Division Writing. Finally the web site dissemination of the research and writing instructional materials will provide faculty in all departments and on all campuses with more time-efficient ways of incorporating pre-tested, research and writing instruction in their classes.

In addition to the contribution of faculty in the development of the instructional materials, day-to-day operation of the UCI-based materials will primarily require the services of five academic coordinators (course directors) and one librarian. Librarians on two other UC campuses will also provide assistance with the development, dissemination and assessment of these materials.

Two of the academic coordinators involved in the project have worked over the past two years with the instructional services librarian to produce templates of effective curriculum materials for HCC and WR 39C. Now, their work will be emulated and adapted to UCI's other composition courses (WR 37, WR 39A and WR 39B) and ultimately will be made available campus wide and UC-wide. Moreover, their original work, which grew ad hoc out of local circumstances, will be extended, coordinated, and thereby improved. Faculty and instructors will be solicited for existing exemplary curriculum materials that will be posted on the appropriate web sites, and new materials will be designed in consultation with the two experienced course directors, the primary investigators, additional course directors, and librarians. 

Project Goals

  • To collaborate on interactive, web-based worksheets which will train students in critical thinking and academic research. These worksheets will originally be used in the UCI lower-division writing courses (the 39 series and the writing component of HCC), and will then be made available to the rest of the campus and UC-wide through web dissemination.
  • To develop a parallel WR 39C Essentials site for students to reflect parts of the present Essentials site for instructors. The sites will serve approximately 3,000 students and 100 instructors annually.
  • To develop web sites for students and instructors in UCI's other composition courses (WR 39A/Plus and WR 39B) similar to what has been developed for HCC and WR 39C. Together these courses serve over 5,000 students and almost 200 instructors each year.
  • To collaborate on S.P.I.D.E.R., a database of web-based, research and writing instruction materials with other U.C. libraries, composition programs, and large humanities breadth general education courses.
  • To promote and facilitate the use of these materials through easily navigable web sites, publicity, publications, teaching colloquies, and faculty workshops.
  • To develop a procedure for periodic updating and revision of these online materials in consultation with personnel with expertise in online graphic design and development of instructional technology.

During Year 1, the student and instructor web materials for the 39 sequence and Humanities Core Course will be designed, tested, published on the web and implemented. The materials for 39C and Humanities Core will move through this process more quickly since they will be revisions or new versions of materials already in place for those courses. The key focus for the development of these web materials will be the creation of pilots for interactive, web-based library worksheets based on the Discovery tasks developed by Humanities Core Course. These worksheets will be our focus because they best fit the instructional demands of a system of research universities, and will foster the most widespread UC collaboration in their creation and dissemination. We will also assess the success of the web materials through surveys of instructors and students, group discussions of the materials with instructors and students, statistics on web site hits, and the start of a longitudinal study of students in the two course sequences and graduate student teachers and lecturers trained using the new web materials. These longitudinal studies will continue beyond the scope of this project, so that the students and teachers can be tracked for their whole enrollment at UCI. The larger dissemination of research based on these materials will begin with conference presentations by several of the academic coordinators involved in the project.

During Year 2, we will conduct full-scale implementation of the library worksheets, and continue the assessment and revision of the web materials developed in Year 1. As part of the dissemination of the web materials to ladder-rank faculty, we will adapt the web materials already designed during Year 1 to create S.P.I.D.E.R. This web site will serve as an archive from which faculty from different departments and campuses can draw materials to adapt and use for their courses. To facilitate use of S.P.I.D.E.R., we will conduct workshops on how to revise and incorporate the web materials into different kinds of courses. In Year 2, we will focus on faculty from the Humanities, as the materials will be most easily adaptable to their needs. In the meanwhile, we will develop workshops for faculty in the social and physical sciences for workshops in Year 3.

The work for Year 3 will be comprised of continuing development and assessment of the web materials for the 39 series, Humanities Core Course, and the web archive. During this year, we will revise and publish S.P.I.D.E.R. so that faculty at all the UC campuses can access it. We will continue to conduct workshops on using the archive, expanding them to include faculty in the sciences and holding them on other UC campuses. We also plan to hold a teaching colloquy on the results of the project.

Project Evaluation

The project will make use of both types of evaluation, formative and summative. Formative evaluation, intended to provide constructive criticism for the revision of the materials developed, will be collected through surveys of the students, instructors and faculty involved in every stage of the project. These surveys will be conducted on a quarterly basis and will address the parts of the project then being implemented.

Summative evaluation, intended to discern the overall success of the project, will take place at the end of each year. These summative evaluations will include interviews with representatives from the groups making use of the relevant parts of the project. These discussions will be focused as follows:

  1. Year 1--the student and instructor web materials developed for the 39 series and Humanities Core Course.
  2. Year 2--the revised web materials, S.P.I.D.E.R. and faculty workshops
  3. Year 3--the revised version of S.P.I.D.E.R. and faculty workshops
The summative evaluation will also include two longitudinal studies, following the logic that students and teachers will only be able provide a partial assessment of the educational outcome of these materials on their learning. The first study will track the writing of a group of students as they go through the first-year writing sequences and compare it to the writing done by students in previous versions of these courses. The papers will be assessed using the grading rubrics in place for each sequence. The second study will involve assessing the efficiency and efficacy of training instructors new to UCI and new to writing instruction using the web-based materials. As criteria for the assessment of writing instructors, we will use their student evaluations, observations of their teaching by course directors, and peer evaluations. In order to provide a control group, instructors trained in previous years, without the web materials, will also be evaluated by the same criteria. While these longitudinal studies will be limited in scope, they will provide more detailed information than the surveys. This data can then be evaluated with respect to the more representative information gained through the surveys. 


The budget will be used primarily to fund course release and summer salary for one of the principal investigators and the course directors involved in designing, implementing and assessing the web materials. Another significant portion of the budget will be dedicated to hiring a part-time web designer who can provide technical assistance for the creation and troubleshooting of the web sites and online worksheets. We are also requesting funds for a part-time replacement for Cathy Palmer, so that she might devote a portion of her time to creating the online research worksheets and coordinating collaboration with other UC librarians. Finally, the budget will include funds for the travel, administrative costs, equipment, software, and supplies required for the implementation of this proposal. Both the Composition Program and the Library will dedicate a portion of the personnel time to this project as their in-kind support of this project. (A more detailed description of the budget and an itemized list of costs are attached to the budget form.)

Plan for Continuing Funding

Once the web sites are built, we should be able to maintain them through funds available through our respective departments and the budget of the new UCI Writing Coordinator. Large-scale updates and enhancement of these materials will be covered by future grants.

Posted April 20, 2001 by E. Flesher, E. Losh, and E. Strenski, UC Irvine