The commitment of prominent universities and professional schools to the development of electronic course material for the World Wide Web (WWW) has stimulated debate about the efficacy of the Web for promoting learning. Some argue that the unique properties of the WWW (connectivity, non-linearity, de-centering, and virtual presence) offer opportunities that a standard classroom could never match. Others contend that hypertext, including visual images, sounds, animations, and videos, merely creates an entertaining on-line distraction.
To help evaluate these competing claims, typical "cyberclasses" were reviewed. The results of the survey support the hypthesis that students in a typical "Webified" course (i.e., a course that has merely converted printed materials into Web documents with little or no interactivity) do not find these efforts as effective improvements in their educational experience. To stimulate student interest in the use of the WWW for course work, innovative applications of Web materials will have to be developed. Examples of such innovations include on-demand videos, links to audio archives, recorded interviews with scholars and policy officials, and live video conferences in the classroom. Furthermore, instructors will have to encourage their students to read, think, and write in hypertext.