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A case study using the WWW as the medium for the delivery of learning resources


The main body of this report offers a study of a project that explored a possible role for on-line technology within a university course. It came out of a view that both the availability of computers, their ease of use and the quality of electronic communications have reached a state of maturity that allows their use as an integral means for course delivery, instead of as simply being an additional resource. The participants took the view that (a) for such an approach to be sustainable, it had to be possible for non-technical people to manage the use of technology, both for delivering and accessing materials; (b) that the pedagogical implications of using technology in this way were explicit and had the support of those involved; and (c) genuine educational benefits were indicated from adopting technology based teaching. To explore these issues, the CAL Unit worked with the English department to design a new course, the Classical Literary Tradition, which would incorporate the use of learning technology from its inception. Lecture notes were made available on a WWW server, and on-line discussions between staff and students took place on a local Newsgroup. These were in addition to normal lectures, seminars and tutorials. Apart from the initial setting up of technology and the training of lecturers, secretaries and students in the use of the WWW, the system was managed by departmental staff, including all HTML editing and server management.

The project has made it possible to recommend an approach for non-technical departments to begin to incorporate on-line technologies in their courses, and also to identify next steps for a department that has already begun to do so.

A smaller study of a parallel and similar initiative is also included in this report. This took place in the School of Psychology, where the use of computers has a much longer history, and where technical staff are employed to manage the use of technology. This will allow the comparison between different stages in the adoption of technology, particularly with respect to the questions that emerge.

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