Distance Learning: African American Literature (English350/English4680)


The Virtual Harlem Project is a semester-long user study between the Central Missouri State University (CMSU) and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) aimed at establishing a permanent, shared distance-learning classroom.
In spring semester 2001, an English literature course about New York's Harlem Renaissance is being taught simultaneously at CMSU (English4680) and UIC (English350), via multiple-channel communication technologies such as e-mail, discussion boards, chat rooms, audio/video conferencing and collaborative virtual reality technology.
Students on both campuses have direct classroom supervision and instruction, and access to the technology for more interactive and collaborative learning. Furthermore, this study introduces Virtual Reality (VR) to the students as one of the multiple-channel communication technologies.
Virtual Harlem is a virtual reality reconstruction of 1920's Harlem, designed to help students experience the neighborhood's life and culture. First initiated by University of Missouri Bryan Carter as a supplement to an African-American literature course, Virtual Harlem was further developed by UIC's English department, communication department and Electronic Visualization Laboratory.
Supplementing a selection of literary works from the era, the Virtual Harlem prototype allows students to be immersed and engaged in the coursework. Students are able to navigate the environment, hear the city noise and samples of locally written and popularized music, and examine the architecture of storefronts and theaters.
Enhancements to Virtual Harlem include an annotation tool that allows students in both universities to leave voice/gesture notes throughout the environment that can be retrieved by themselves or others in future visits. This note can appear in the form of an avatar (a representation of the person leaving the note), an audio track, or a combination of both. It currently allows students to record a new annotation note, or playback/delete a recorded one.
This study has two main objectives: the first is to determine whether the integration of such technologies allowing remote collaboration is more effective than the traditional single classroom-based teaching model. The second is to investigate any effects of using the VR annotation tool in a collaborative virtual environment.


Discussion Board

Virtual Harlem Note-taking - March 27, 2001

Video Conferencing (Virtual Harlem Experience) - April 3, 2001

Chat Session (possible annotations in Virtual Harlem) - April 11 & 13, 2001

Virtual Harlem Annotation - April 17, 2001

Video Conferencing (Virtual Harlem Annotations) - April 24, 2001

Pre- and Post-course Survey