May/June 2001 // Spotlight Site
Illinois Online Network (ION)
by Stephen Downes
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Stephen Downes "Illinois Online Network (ION)" The Technology Source, May/June 2001. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

Online course developers and teachers looking for resources would be hard pressed to find a more useful collection than the Illinois Online Network (ION). The site is intended to provide a resource for less experienced staff; old hands won't find much new here. But the site serves its purpose clearly and with authority.

The ION home page is a simple, three-column design. To the left is a navigation bar listing the site's major sections. In the middle are articles and updates, where readers can see a list of upcoming seminars and workshops. To the right is an online poll plus several news headline feeds.

ION's two resource listings, ION resources and online resources, are great strengths of the site. The two separate sets would probably work better if covered by a single index, but deep exploration is not necessary to experience the best of both.

The site covers online course design, authoring, teaching, evaluation, and WebCT resources. Each major category is divided into seven or eight subcategories. A direct link would be preferable; as it is, it takes two clicks to access a listing of subcategory resources. The contents are a mixture of ION articles and external resources. In their selection of the latter, ION authors demonstrate a good knowledge of the field, opting for the best and most widely recognized writings. For example, the section on online conferencing features works by Mauri Collins, Zane Berge, and Robin Mason, just as it should.

ION also acts as an entry into the series of Making the Virtual Classroom a Reality (MVCR) courses offered to Illinois instructors. Instructors access their selected courses through a "My MVCR" portal. Ten courses are available, leading to a master online teacher certificate. This approach helps traditional face-to-face instructors become online students, an essential part of the transformation into an online instructor.

Like many sites of its kind, ION offers an e-mail newsletter. ION's is monthly and offers a mix of Illinois events and items of national importance. It is brief, clearly written, and a valuable resource to its readers. Those impatient for more frequent items can simply access the same set of articles from the ION home page.

To a certain extent, ION is unremarkable?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùin a good way. It doesn't try to do a lot, and it does what it does simply and effectively. The overall result is a site without much flash and sizzle. But the site is the best resource teachers could want, which is all the flash and sizzle they need.

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