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Editorial: Exploiting Networks

The motivation behind the formation in September 1996 of the Educational Technology Service at Warwick was to create a central point of contact for staff involved in the use of technology in teaching and learning. Furthermore, the ETS unites the current support and facilities provided by Computing Services, Staff and Educational Development and the Multimedia Centre.

The driving force for forming this central support service arose from two basic needs. Firstly, there appeared a need at Warwick to provide a focal point for raising awareness, information dissemination and promoting of good practice in learning technology methods and media. Secondly, a unification of the loose network of learning technology activities already occuring in disparate corners at Warwick was well overdue.

The ETS exists to provide information, advice, support and facilities for the appropriate use, production, implementation and evaluation of technology-based learning materials for the benefit of the University of Warwick.

In creating a more formal structure for a field that touches every academic discipline, the ETS has the potential for promoting a shift in culture and a natural growth in the adoption of educational technology methods and media. In the longer term, this should lead to more effective learning environments and greater cost-efficiency gains and in preparation for the next millenium.

The service aims to help faculties, departments and individual academic staff get started with computer-aided learning as well as put innovative ideas of their own into real practice. By creating a centralised "first contact" for obtaining advice and information on learning technology projects, facilities, contacts and so on, academics can cut out much of the chore in using new technologies in their teaching. Furthermore, the ETS can play match-maker for potential collaborative projects and resource-sharing.

A database of educational technology interests, projects, equipment around the univesrity is being established to preclude departments and individuals reinventing wheels and duplicating resources which swallow large proportions of funding allocations. Information for the database will come from existing contacts, knowledge and teaching innovation awards as well as active data gathering. The more information we have on what's out there, the more we can feed back to you and really build up a network at Warwick for exchange and collaboration.

Both the Innovations section in Interactions and the Case Studies presentations organised for the Educational Technology User Group aim to bring to light new technology methods and materials being used actively in teaching and learning at Warwick. It is hoped that others may take courage in the ideas and experiences illustrated.

The general theme for this first issue is Exploiting networks for teaching and learning. Since most of the information dissemination I do for the Educational Technology Service, ET User Group and many more areas is via the World Wide Web, I feel secure in singing the praises of the network medium in providing an accessible and increasingly versatile medium for getting your information OUT THERE ! Networks provide an environment for sharing - either with the world or with just a discrete few, such as a course class.

The first article in this issue describes the use of Email in teaching while the second gives an overview of the realities of using the Web in education. The third article looks at the general use of IT in an Economics course but cannot escape mentioning the wealth of material available on the Internet. Whether you use local networks for student-student or student-tutor interactions via Email, provide course materials on the Web or set up whole Internet-based courses for distance learning, the authors of these articles agree that efficiency gains to both learner and tutor go UP ! 


Dr Jay Dempster

Head of Educational Technology
Centre for Academic Practice
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 24 7652 4670

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