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An electronic experience
Students experience the world of theater through technology

Feb. 10, 2005

By Emily Mullins

Right here at Ohio University, students can tour the sets of the ancient Greek theater, observe the history of the Elizabethan stage and analyze the plays of August Wilson, all with the click of a mouse. Professor of Theater Paul Castagno and his online Theatrical Experience course, give students an innovative way to experience and interact with the world of theater.

For a course that relies strictly on written communication, Castagno feels that developing a strong sense of community is the first step to a successful class. By breaking students into groups based on a medieval personality test, Castagno is already engaging his class in an interesting and creative way, as well as introducing the first period of theater they will study.

"Separating the 'black knights' from the 'white knights' from the 'benevolent rulers' makes for groups that seem to work well together," he said.

In these "focus groups," students are expected to engage in group discussions on Blackboard, the university's webpage for class participation, based on websites, power point presentations and literature relevant to the current curriculum, as well as to attend and review two theatrical productions or films. As an introductory course, the class covers a wide range of topics about historical and current theater, welcoming students of all majors.

"Conducting the course online is a way to reach students that normally might not take it because they are not theater majors," Castagno said.

Although one might think it would be difficult to teach a course about theater online, Castagno feels it is a revolutionary idea. Working closely with publishing company, McGraw-Hill, Castagno is in the process of creating the first text book to correlate with an online introductory theater course.

"An online course is a huge resource. With the proper equipment, students have access to everything that is happening now and have the opportunity to educate themselves," he said.

Castagno also believes that online classes allow students flexibility to gain credits toward graduation when it is most convenient for them.

"For students who have jobs or other outside commitments, having to attend a class that meets two or three times a week can be a hassle," he said.

This is the second time Theatrical Experience has been offered online, the first being last summer intersession. With students from multiple majors and class standings, living both on and off campus, Castagno is pleased with the interest in and success of the course so far.

"We are opening resources for students to be exposed to the exciting world of theater," he said.

Emily Mullins is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.

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