The First Virtual Department Workshop, June 1996

The Virtual Department Project began this summer with a workshop at the University of Texas during the first two weeks of June. Thirty-five faculty from US and Canadian universities met to plan and develop curriculum materials that can be shared among geography programs worldwide. Enthusiasm ran high for finding the best ways to make it easy for geographers to get started using the Web in the classroom. To do this, participants chose a modular approach to curriculum building with plans to gradually build up sets of high-quality modules in a range of subdisciplines. This way, other geographers can use the new materials flexibly and customize materials to suit their particular needs. The modular approach will also make it easier for all geographers to contribute new materials.

Participants formed working groups that are being sponsored by different departments with homepages developed by the groups' leaders. These include working groups in Cultural Geography (North Dakota State University, Chandra Balachandran); Earth's Environment and Society (Westminster College of Salt Lake City, Robert Ford); Geographic Information Sciences/Cartography/Remote Sensing/Statistics (University of British Columbia, Brian Klinkenberg); History and Philosophy of Geography (Valparaiso University, Jon Kilpinen); Introductory Human Geography (Sonja Duelberg, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis); Physical Geography (University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, John Althausen); Regional and Area Studies (Auburn University, Tom Martinson); Urban Geography (Miami University, Cyrus Young); Virtual Fieldtrips (University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, Mike Ritter); and World Regional Geography (Auburn University, Tom Martinson). Ingolf Vogeler (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire) has agreed to head up efforts to index all new modules. Each working group has developed a plan to begin developing modules in a select range of focus areas. Additional working groups will be established as the project grows.

Among the high points of the workshop were sessions in which participants shared their experiences using Web-based teaching materials as well as materials they developed during their stay in Austin. Discussions led by Sarah Bednarz, Jeremy Crampton, Susan Hanson, David Hill, Karen Kemp, Gail Ludwig, Ruth Shirey, Jim Proctor focused on effective pedagogical strategies, hypermedia design, innovative curriculum projects, and methods for reviewing and testing new modules. During the weekend break, Terry Jordan led the group on a fieldtrip into the Texas Hill Country.

Follow-up workshops are now being planned for the summers of 1997 and 1998. The 1997 workshops will be one week in length and will bring small teams of geographers to develop and refine modules being developing by the working groups. A grant from the National Science Foundation provides funds for participant travel and accommodation. If you are interested in participating, please contact Kenneth E. Foote at the Department of Geography, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309-0260, Phone: (303) 492-3625, FAX: (303) 492-7501, E-mail: All the materials being developed can be accessed in the Web at including information on how to use and contribute to the materials.

Created on 22 September 1996. Last revised 26 September 1996. KEF.