VRoma Final Report to the National Endowment for the Humanities

Major Finding  |  Outcomes  |   Problems  |  Future Plans  |  Conclusion

MAJOR FINDING: Crucial Importance of Face-to-Face Contact and Community

In the initial grant proposal to the NEH for the VRoma Project, we wrote the following statement about the goal of the summer workshops: “These workshops will forge a community of scholar/teachers based on common goals and shared technological expertise that will give the project its initial impulse. . . . The workshops will provide, as it were, the will and the limbs of VRoma, animating it with their commitment to employ its technological wizardry in the service of humane learning and enabling it to reach a wide audience through practical applications in classrooms across the country.” After three years of experience with VRoma, we believe this statement is more true than we knew at the time. As the project has evolved, we have come to realize that VRoma is first and foremost a community of teachers and learners, centered upon Internet technology to be sure, but given life through face-to-face interactions. The majority of our funds were spent on bringing people together to create Internet resources and learn how to use them; the project includes teacher training (through workshops and local and regional presentations) and community building (through follow-up mentoring and ongoing reflective conversation). Our experience indicates that this was the best possible use we could have made of our grant money. There are many excellent classics-related Internet projects, but we believe that VRoma is making a unique contribution through its provision of a “social structure” to facilitate the adoption and integration of Internet technology in the classics classroom. Our experience in this project has completely confirmed the following statement by Jan Hawkins; we have added italics to indicate the specific aspects of the statement that characterize our project:

A gap has arisen between the substantial changes in practice that are being asked of the teaching profession and the means and resources that are thus far available to address these changes. To provide even minimal support for teachers during the change process would require: intensive experiences that allow them to be immersed in the new ideas and approaches, including hands-on practice with the activities they will be asking of their students; follow-up mentoring for at least two years that focuses on problems that arise as they try things in their own circumstances; reflective dialogue with others who are doing the same job; and regular opportunities to see how other people and schools work. . . . It appears that people in different locales benefit from these models as images, yet need to interpret how new ideas and approaches make sense in their own heads and their local systems. Conditions that help people take their own small steps of invention appear to characterize places and projects where changes take root. Sustained reflection and critical conversation appear to be basic conditions for reframing, reseeing, and adapting new approaches. There is little tradition of this kind of professional culture and exchange among education practitioners in this country. One important role for technologies is as backbone for an invigorated, vibrant professional community among educators. This will not happen, however, without considerable effort to design the technologies and the social structure of their use with this objective made explicit. (“Dilemmas,” Education and Technology: Reflections on Computing in Classrooms, ed. Charles Fisher, David C. Dwyer, and Keith Yocam [San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996], 43-44; 47-48)

The VRoma core faculty consistently stress the importance of community in VRoma. When asked to list the most valuable features of the project as a whole, 73% of participants in workshop one, 78% in workshop two, and 40% in workshop three ranked “community and collaboration” highest (see the detailed comments on this point from the 1998 and 1999 workshops). Our workshops brought together faculty of different ages (ranging from brand-new teachers to a few close to retirement) and from different levels (1997 workshop: 12 high school, 5 college; 1998 workshop: 9 high school, 9 college; 1999 workshop: 2 middle school, 5 high school, 3 college). Both during and after the workshops, the bonds formed among these diverse individuals have been strong and cordial, resulting in continuing communication and many collaborative projects (see below under Outcomes for more details). As one VRoma core faculty member recently summed it up, “As time goes on, I think that the camaraderie and the quality of intergenerational/intereducational communication fostered by VRoma continues to be one of its most enduring and alluring values.”

Actions speak louder than words, and the core faculty have greatly expanded the face-to-face outreach of the project by their own efforts. Since 1997, 21 different VRomans have made 50 local and regional presentations on VRoma (and these are just the presentations that have been reported to us). Even more significantly, VRomans have been able to convince other institutions and organizations to fund workshops to continue VRoma's work and outreach. Four multi-day advanced builders' workshops have been held to construct new historical sites in the MOO (sponsored by Iowa State University, Cornell College, Hamilton College, and the University of Alabama). One week-long workshop (sponsored by the University of Michigan) and three day-long workshops (sponsored by Skidmore College and the University of Maryland) have been held to introduce VRoma to new faculty. Two more such workshops are in preparation (one sponsored by the American Classical League and one by the Classical Association of the Empire State). This kind of activity is contributing to the exponential growth of the project (there were, for example, 523 registered “characters” on the VRoma MOO as of May 23, 2000).

This finding has significant implications for the role of technology in distance education, demonstrating that the Internet is an excellent facilitator of learning and community but cannot do the job alone: well-planned face-to-face contact is also essential. As one VRoman put it, “It is much easier to work with VRomans that I have met face-to-face through workshops. We understand each other's skills, general framework, and teaching methodologies because we have had time together.” If teachers, strongly motivated adults who already know how to learn, need some personal contact to provide the initial impetus and ongoing support, how much more so young students? This finding of the VRoma Project should insert a cautionary note in the movement to promote distance learning via the Internet as a complete replacement for teachers and classrooms. [return to top]


Project Outcomes:

In 1997 we posted the pedagogical objectives of the project, listing five hypotheses about the role modern information technology could play in facilitating the teaching and learning of classics and projected outcomes that would validate the hypotheses. We will use this list as a framework to discuss the outcomes of the VRoma Project to date; we have recently posted an online outcomes questionnaire based on this list so that we can continue to collect information on this subject.

Hypothesis 1: Technology's capacity for simultaneous presentation of different types of resources promotes effective learning in classics.

Projected Outcome 1a: Students will demonstrate ability to read, translate and discuss Latin literature with accuracy and comprehension using the resources of VRoma (e.g., dictionaries, grammatical and cultural commentaries).

There are many Latin texts links to relevant historical locations in the VRoma MOO. Some of these texts include hyperlinked vocabulary and commentary; most at least include translations. The following statement of one member of the VRoma core faculty pinpoints the important role that the MOO can play in situating language learning: “Students see texts as part of a larger project, not simply texts without a cultural context. Texts do not exist in a vacuum. Letting students visit ancient Rome virtually helps them realize that what they read has a basis in how people lived their lives.” In addition, VRomans have been creating many web-based texts and commentaries that use hypermedia to facilitate language learning; here is a sample list:

These texts are being used in many courses, and the consensus among instructors is that they promote effective translation/comprehension of the language and that they greatly improve the students' enthusiasm and interest in the process of language learning. We recently received a submission from a medical doctor who is using these texts to improve his Latin: “As an autodidact, ready access to the texts and to translations has been very useful to me in advancing my knowledge of Latin.” He lists the hyperlinked texts as “extremely helpful,” and describes their primary benefit as “ease of use at no cost.”

Having seen the benefits for students of using online texts for students, VRomans are now moving into the next stage, realizing that involving students in creating such texts would not only enhance the learning experience for them but would also produce resources usable by other students. John Gruber-Miller's students have been creating commentaries on short Greek passages (see description of his commentary assignment); Alison Barker's students have been putting their Latin commentaries into web pages; Barbara McManus's elementary Latin class just posted in the Bookshop of the Circus Maximus in the VRoma MOO a text of Juvenal 11.193-202 with hyperlinked vocabulary and grammatical aids plus images, cultural commentary, and a translation. As one VRoman high school teacher put it, “We are constantly being asked to individualize instruction, to allow students to create their own knowledge, to extend learning beyond the boundaries of the school, to allow investigation in depth, to encourage collaborative work. A teacher with an on-line interactive text can do all of these.”

Another language-learning benefit that had not been a part of our original projected outcomes but that has proven very popular is the role of the VRoma MOO in fostering communication in Latin. When we were able to create Latinbots by modifying the MOO object called a talking robot, we opened up great possibilities for Latin conversation, as students can write Latin dialogue for these bots or converse with them in Latin; Barbara McManus's 1998 elementary Latin class even wrote a Latin story starring the first two Latin bots, Urbana Mus and Rusticus Mus. John Gruber-Miller and Cindy Benton have also written MOO treasure hunts to be conducted in Latin and MOO games to be played in LatinCIndicium (“Clue” and Quaere (“Go Fish”). These are all posted in the Course Materials Repository so that other teachers can use them. One Latinbot in the Subura section of virtual Rome is the landlady of a tenement; a suggested assignment, related to the Oxford Latin textbook series, requires students to bargain with her in Latin over the price of renting a room (see instructions for teachers. Such interactive possibilities for Latin communication help students perceive Latin as a true language, as a medium of expression and communication rather than simply a puzzle to solve or a passage to translate. The MOO gives Latin teachers and students a way to exploit a benefit that the modern languages have always had a “place” where communication in that language is a natural and appropriate part of a culture. The value of such a virtual environment for language learning is supported by the following comments from elementary Latin students who carried out some of these exercises in the MOO:

Projected Outcome 1b: Students will demonstrate ability to describe and explain a particular phenomenon such as Roman comedy using various types of primary cultural evidence available through VRoma (e.g., literary and documentary texts, visual arts, archaeological remains).

This outcome was demonstrated in the first course we offered using VRoma resources, the collaborative course between Miami University and the Wellington School, when college and high school students together studied Plautus' comedy Aulularia and created a series of web pages containing literary and cultural information on the Roman theater, Roman stagecraft, and Roman society as background and commentary for the play. Barbara McManus transformed one of her courses on Roman history and civilization at The College of New Rochelle (Ancient Rome in Film, Fiction, and Fact) into a course that included training in web authoring and other technological skills along with the classical content. Students produced web pages demonstrating mastery of both the content and the computer skills; their high positive course evaluations indicated that, though more than half enrolled primarily for the technological training, their interest in and knowledge of ancient Rome had been greatly increased through their participation in the course. Both Diane Harris-Cline of the University of Cincinnati and Judith de Luce of Miami University have successfully used the resources of VRoma (and the technological abilities they acquired through participation in VRoma workshops) to enhance large survey courses in mythology and Greek and Roman civilization and culture. Barbette Stanley Spaeth of Tulane University used a student building project on the VRoma MOO in her course Pompeii: Roman Society and Culture in Microcosm as an engaging and effective way for students to demonstrate their understanding of the architecture and social organization of the Roman house. John Gruber-Miller of Cornell College used his VRoma web project on the Riley Collection of Roman Portraiture as the focus of an assignment enabling his students to imaginatively recreate the life of a woman from the time of the Roman Empire and completely redesigned his Latin 102 course to incorporate the interactivity of the MOO.

Very many teachers have used less intensive “treasure-hunt” style assignments on the VRoma MOO as a way for students to explore the topography of ancient Rome, to learn about the social, political, and religious functions of various Roman buildings, and to experience the dynamic role of physical location in Roman culture. These have proven to be effective motivators for students, who enjoy the activity and are generally successful in finding and reporting the information, but several teachers caution that there is a need for classroom follow-up after the MOO activities so that students will retain the information.

Hypothesis 2: Technology's capacity to create a sense of immediacy and intimate contact with the classical world generates interest and personal investment in teaching and learning classics.

Projected Outcome 2a: Students will demonstrate interest in classics through active involvement in VRoma (e.g., connecting voluntarily as well as when required, participating in building projects), through enrolling in more classics courses and/or becoming involved in on-campus classical activities, and through satisfaction reports.

Projected Outcome 2b: Faculty will use the resources of VRoma to create new assignments, units or courses (or to reinvigorate existing ones) and will participate actively in the building or administration of VRoma.

Reports from students and faculty indicate high levels of interest and participation in VRoma. For example, after working extensively in VRoma during their 1998 elementary Latin course, half of Barbara McManus's students enrolled in the next level of Latin even though they had intended to take only the first-year course, and several still visit the VRoma MOO though they have graduated from college. One student decided to attend The College of New Rochelle because she was so impressed by a presentation on VRoma that she had seen during an Open House; she is now a classics major at the college. Again and again faculty indicate that their participation in the VRoma Project has revitalized their teaching and inspired them to create new types of assignments and course materials. For example, a college teacher reports, “The VRoma project has transformed my teaching. I use the Web in all my courses and I am especially interested in making the experience as interactive as possible. That is why I like the possibilities of the MOO. Students can interact with each other as they visit Rome, either in Latin or in English.” A high school teacher notes, “Thanks to VRoma, I have begun to think about teaching and learning in a multitude of new ways. I intend to continue to integrate greater use of these resources into my teaching each year. VRoma has made a huge difference to me, and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to be part of it.”

Two members of the VRoma core faculty have received teaching awards from their own institutions (Barbette Spaeth of Tulane University and Diane Harris-Cline of the University of Cincinnati) and one was nominated for the prestigious American Philological Association's award for excellence in pre-collegiate teaching (Jeremy Walker of Crown Point High School). Ann Raia's work in VRoma prompted her to become involved in another Internet grant project (Intermediate Latin: An Online Supplement, funded by Ameritech); although the project had been floundering, she was able to get it back on track, and it has now been successfully completed. Other VRomans have been motivated to create new materials related to specific Latin textbook series: Ryan Sellers, for Ecce Romani; Larry Martin for the Cambridge Latin Course ; Cindy Benton and John Gruber-Miller and Barbara McManus for the Oxford Latin Course. Margaret Phillips has created an excellent and extensive set of Online Drills to Accompany the Oxford Latin Course. Sylvester Psuty created a series of web pages on Roman inscriptions for his middle school Latin students; by putting them in his VRoma office, he has created a resource usable by many other teachers and students.

Building a virtual Rome has also generated a great deal of interest in Roman topography among VRomans; in fact, one of our core faculty members, Tatiana Tsakiropoulou-Summers of the University of Alabama, applied and was accepted for a NEH summer seminar on “Representing Geography and Community in the World of Imperial Rome,” to be held at the American Academy in Rome from June 12-July 21, 2000. Her previous work in VRoma will enable her to bring a new perspective to this seminar, and what she learns there will enrich our work on the project.

Classicists have always known that visuals are important motivators and tools for engaging student interest in the ancient world, especially in a country such as the United States with no Roman remains that students can visit. VRomans have frequently noted that the image-rich quality of VRoma resources is an important part of their appeal. The VRoma Image Archive has grown dramatically to well over 2000 images, with many more awaiting processing and uploading. We offer these freely for use in web pages; we cannot track the number who have used them because we do not require permission. However, we do require permission for other types of noncommercial use, and our images have been or will soon be used and credited in the new edition of the Cambridge Latin Course, in a three-volume UK Latin textbook published by Wimbledon Publishing, in a book accompanying software on water/sewer systems, on Nova's web site accompanying their documentary on Roman Baths, on a CD-ROM for teaching Latin in Denmark, in a brochure for a college Classics Department, and in a video documentary on Paul's letter to the Corinthians.

Hypothesis 3: Technology's capacity for rapid and efficient communication helps to bridge diversity, develop community, and foster collaboration among individuals in distant locations and different types of institutions.

Projected Outcome 3a: Students and faculty will make regular and ongoing use of VRoma both within and outside the parameters of the funded project.

Projected Outcome 3b: Students from the same institution and from different institutions will meet in VRoma both in and out of course settings and will work together on joint projects (e.g., translations, building, reports).

To give just a few examples of the kind of response that VRoma generates: A number of students have become very interested in our MOO, most notably Asad Sayeed, a Canadian who found us when he was still in high school. Asad, who has studied Latin and Greek and is currently in college majoring in computer programming, was actually promoted to the status of wizard on the basis of his volunteer work in VRoma. He has been particularly helpful to VRomans on programming issues. Another high school student who was introduced to VRoma in his Latin class, Matt Whitlock, has been promoted to the status of programmer. A classics teacher who is excavating an Oscan town in Calabria has expressed interest in building a site in the MOO based on his archaeological research. When Steve Nimis made a presentation on VRoma in the Czech Republic, he received a very enthusiastic response; the faculty at the University of Palacky in Olomouc told him that they want to write a grant to their government to enable their students to work on an area of VRoma. In answer to a request posted on the VRomacore email list, the Latin students of JoAnn Grey, South Glens Falls Central Schools, helped John Bradley to translate Latin phrases on Royal Canadian Air Force badges. John Gruber-Miller offered a one-week, one-credit course to local teachers, Integrating Local Resources into the Classroom, that focuses on using the Riley Collection of Roman Portraiture and VRoma. This course shows pre-college teachers how to prepare their students for a visit to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and local neo-classical sites to help them see how the influence of the Romans continues.

Projected Outcome 3c: Faculty from different institutions (and sometimes from different educational levels) will collaborate on entire courses, course units, or specific educational projects.

We have had one complete course collaboration, involving the Latin classes of Judith de Luce of Miami University and Susan Bonvallet of the Wellington School studying Plautus' Aulularia. Because of the success of this collaboration, the instructors would like to repeat this experience in the future, though the difference in the class schedules and meeting times between college and high school makes the logistics very difficult. Others have collaborated on specific course units; for example, Carl Rubino of Hamilton College and James Ruebel of Iowa State University coordinated a joint activity on Cicero for their respective advanced Latin classes. VRoma core faculty have also collaborated on web-based projects; James Ruebel worked with Michael Arnush (Skidmore College) to create a Roman History Timeline and with Ross Scaife (University of Kentucky) to create an online, searchable database of articles in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt. Carl Rubino brought David Conti (then at the Fenn School, now at St. Mark's School) to Hamilton College to make several presentations to his Latin classes; Donald Jacques of William Penn Charter School worked closely with Barbara McManus when she was designing Latin Sight Translation exams for the New York Classical Club. Further collaborations are discussed under outcome 4a.

Projected Outcome 3d: A community of VRomans will evolve around the site; these faculty, students, and interested nonacademics will participate in background research, building, development of on-line materials, and general site administration.

As noted above, the VRoma community is the strongest and most distinctive feature of the project. This community was initially generated by the workshops and has been fostered by email communication and various types of reunions. VRomans uniformly praise the VRomacore email list through which we share our ideas and strengths and answer each other's questions:

This community is remarkably egalitarian; indeed, in all our academic experience we have never seen such successful bonding and collaboration between college and pre-college faculty. As one college teacher puts it, “I have had a lot of interchange with colleagues at various levels of teaching. I have hopes for the project's potential to break down artificial barriers and undermine hidebound hierarchies.” The technology itself probably contributes to this effect, since it frequently reverses established patterns of expertise, and its “disembodied” forms of communication tend to discourage stratification. It may also be true that projects such as ours attract less hierarchical people. In any case, this project provides an excellent model for the promotion of cooperation between teachers at all levels of our educational system.

In terms of participation in background research and building on the MOO, we have found that many of our faculty seem to need the support of face-to-face interaction in a workshop setting to do their best work. Re-constructing historical sites in the MOO is very labor intensive and requires concentrated research and stretches of uninterrupted time (something our busy faculty rarely have). Hence the need for builders' workshops, something which we did not anticipate but which our core faculty have themselves provided for the project. We have also found that site administration is not something that is easily shared; Suzanne Bonefas has in fact had to do most of the work, with the assistance of Barbara McManus. Since Barbara has just retired from active teaching, she will be able to take on more of the site administration. One of the problems with administering a ambitious project such as ours is the amount of time and the degree of technical expertise that is required to keep things functioning smoothly.

Hypothesis 4: The coupling of cross-platform, time-independent web technology with real-time, interactive MOO technology expedites distance learning and cross-institutional collaborative courses.

Projected Outcome 4a: VRoma resources will enable faculty from geographically distant institutions (and sometimes from different educational levels) to collaborate effectively on specific course projects or to offer successful joint courses.

As mentioned above, we have offered one successful joint course. Other, smaller-scale collaborations have been even more successful. Marianthe Colakis (first at Berkeley Preparatory School and now at the Covenant School) has organized very fruitful ongoing discussions in the VRoma MOO between her Advanced Placement Latin classes and a college faculty expert: with Judith de Luce of Miami University for Ovid, with Sheila Dickison of the University of Florida for Catullus, and most recently with Barbara McManus of The College of New Rochelle for Vergil. The Vergil sessions were the most ambitious, spanning the entire 1999-2000 school year and resulting in the creation of a special room on the MOO, Vergil's Thesaurus, with images, texts, and discussion questions that can now be used by other teachers and classes; all of the sessions were also recorded on logs with copies retained in the MOO and given to the students for review. Barbara and Marianthe also collaborated on an article, “Using Internet Resources in AP Latin,” that will be published this fall in the Teacher's Guide to Advanced Placement Courses in Latin (Educational Testing Service). Ann Raia of The College of New Rochelle and Maria Marsilio of St. Joseph's University plan to use the MOO for joint activities involving their respective elementary Greek classes next fall.

Projected Outcome 4b: VRoma resources will enable faculty to offer successful online courses that enroll students from geographically distant institutions.

This is the only projected outcome that has not yet happened; as yet we have offered no distance-learning courses through VRoma. This is partly because of the complex and careful pre-organization required to mount successful online courses, but is also partly due to our perceptionCshared by our core faculty and strongly supported by our experiences in the projectCthat pure distance-learning is not really an effective way to educate traditional-age students. However, Tatiana Tsakiropoulou-Summers of the University of Alabama is designing a distance-learning course in Roman culture in which VRoma will be a main component of the students' learning experience.

Hypothesis 5: Guided and goal-oriented use of technology in classics courses improves general technological interest and proficiency.

Projected Outcome 5a: Students who are required to use VRoma technology in classics courses will demonstrate increasing ease and expertise with various aspects of advanced technology; they will perceive more ways they can use technology in other areas.

Projected Outcome 5b: Faculty will demonstrate the requisite skills to fully integrate technology into their teaching, to train their students to use technology in discipline-specific ways, and to help their colleagues do the same.

Faculty reports and post-class surveys indicate strong increases in student ease and skill in using technology after taking courses that utilize the resources of VRoma. After participating in VRoma workshops, many core faculty who barely knew what HTML meant have begun using web pages in all their courses and have created excellent and widely-used Internet resources (examples are Alison Barker, Judith de Luce, John Gruber-Miller, Diane Harris-Cline, and Barbara McManus). One high school teacher sums up her evidence for this outcome as follows: “My increased use of technology during the past three years, the materials that I have created and continue to create, the increased willingness with which my students approach web-based learning, and the increasingly positive attitude toward web-based instruction and learning among my colleagues.”

VRomans have become leaders in instructional technology and teacher training at their own institutions. Donald Jacques designed and mounted the web pages for the Classics department at the William Penn Charter School; David Conti has been director of teaching and technology at St. Mark's School and has just been named Director of Studies at the school. Barbette Spaeth has been a leader in Tulane University's Academic Centers for Learning, Research, & Technology and is interim director of the Center for Teaching Excellence. Barbara McManus has been chair of the SAS Technology Committee at The College of New Rochelle and offered five teaching with technology workshops for faculty over the last two years. When Loyola College in Maryland was looking for a plenary speaker for their faculty development day, they asked Barbara to give a presentation to their entire faculty on “Creative Teaching with Internet Technology.” James Ruebel's extensive experience with the VRoma Project and with integrating technology and teaching played a role in his selection as the new academic dean at Ball State University. [return to top]



The two problems reported most frequently to us are related to access/technical glitches and time. Many pre-college and college classrooms still do not have even one computer connected to the Internet for demonstration purposes, let alone many for students to use during class periods. Some schools do not even have computer labs that can be reserved for class use. Many students and teachers do not have Internet access at home. Although the VRoma MOO does not require elaborate hardware or software, it does run better on some types of systems than others. Since the smoothest access to the VRoma MOO “the integrated interface”) requires a Java applet, unimpeded telnet access, and no proxy server, we have found that some school security systems make access to the MOO very difficult. Moreover, the Java applet works best on PC's running Netscape; Internet Explorer and some older Macs can cause connection difficulties. Even with the best of hardware and software, there is always Murphy's Law. In our workshops we always emphasize the possibility of technical difficulties and the need for flexibility, work arounds, and plans for alternate activities; the VRomacore email list also provides answers to technical questions and suggestions for improvements.

Lack of time is without a doubt the greatest problem encountered in this project. We consistently underestimated the amount of time all our activities would require and the steepness of the learning curve for most of our participants. It takes time for teachers to explore the VRoma resources and adapt the posted activities to the needs of their own classes; it takes even more time to create their own activities using VRoma resources; full participation in VRoma building and materials creation takes vast quantities of time. All of our core faculty are very dedicated, committed individuals with many responsibilities beyond their participation in this project. All are very generously volunteering their time and talents to the project because they perceive its value and because they genuinely enjoy it. But they have so many other demands on their time that they can only work on VRoma-related activities sporadically. The beauty of this project is that people keep coming back to work on it when they can snatch the time; in fact, since 1997 only a handful of core faculty have fallen away from the project completely. The difficulty is that many components of the project remain “under construction” for long periods of time. [return to top]


Future Plans:

There is no doubt that this project will continue to grow and flourish. Our most immediate plans involve full development of Eamus VRomam!, a user-friendly “travel guide” to the VRoma MOO that will showcase the types of resources available there; the addition of many more maps and site plans to make navigation in virtual Rome much easier; and the addition of credits and bibliographies to the various historical sites. We also plan to reorganize the organizational structure of the project now that the grant period is over and to redesign our web pages.

Our technological infrastructure is now well established, particularly since the replacement of our original server with a larger and more powerful one and the acquisition of our own domain name (vroma.org), but workshops, the lifeblood of the project, require funds. We do have plans for some low-cost local workshops, and if necessary we can charge a fee for the workshop in order to cover our costs. The fact that participants paid their own expenses for the two workshops offered in June of 2000 indicates that we are providing a service that they perceive as valuable. However, we have found that the most effective format involves nationally advertised workshops of seven to ten days with resident rather than community participants. The extensive immersion experience provided by such workshops offers the best training, enables participants to create the most useful materials and projects, attracts the most diverse audience, and fosters the most bonding and community spirit among participants. Since this type of workshop is also the most expensive to offer, we will need to devote more attention to creative fundraising in the future, though our proven track record should help in this effort.

We will continue our efforts to collect data on the outcomes of the VRoma Project and will disseminate this information through publication on the web (beginning with this report), through regional and national presentations, and through articles submitted to classical and educational computing journals in both print and online venues.

Finally, we plan to submit a proposal to the NEH to sponsor a 2002 Summer Institute for college teachers on the role of physical place, performance, and spectacle in ancient Roman culture. If accepted, this will provide a synthesis of research available on this very au currant topic that has great relevance for our work in the VRoma MOO and will provide many more VRoma materials designed to help teachers use advanced technologies for accessing resources and engaging students in active learning. [return to top]



The VRoma Project has already begun to fulfill its goals and offers a great deal of promise for continued growth. With the help of the NEH, we have demonstrated that a virtual community of teachers and learners of the classics, engendered by workshops and based upon an online place that is an imaginative simulation of the ancient city of Rome, can play an important role in humanities education. The reports of most technology-based projects point to the resources they have created and perhaps to the number of people who use them. The VRoma Project has created many useful online resources, most notably virtual Rome itself and the MOO that contains it. However, unlike these other projects, the VRoma Project's greatest achievements lie in less tangible areas--the creation of community, the transformation of teaching methods, the changes wrought in people's skills, attitudes, and activities. Almost every person who has been involved in the project, from the directors and faculty to the students, can testify to such changes. We believe that the VRoma Project provides an excellent model demonstrating the role that Internet technology can play as “backbone for an invigorated, vibrant professional community among educators.” [return to top]

Legacy Document: submitted July 11, 2000
Stephen A. Nimis and Suzanne Bonefas (Miami University)
Barbara F. McManus (The College of New Rochelle)
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