The world wide web offers information, delivery of courseware and communication all in one neat, accessble, easy-to-use and universal environment. This integrated environment enables provision of information bases and increasingly more interactive learning materials, whilst integrating mechanisms for electronic communication - and all any time, any place to suit both local and remote students. Furthermore electronic resource provision leads to easier management of the teaching materials and the assessment process if handled effectively.
However, technological innovation in teaching and learning is frequently approached as an adjunct to traditional methods and curriculum policy and use of the web is no exception there. Harnessing any technology-based method of teaching and learning should more appropriately be recognised as requiring an often radical rethink of how students learn and the way we teach, leading to curriculum design modification or change. Educators need to learn to embrace the technology, seek out what the web can offer, experiment with it and assess how it should be used in teaching, research and administration.
In dealing with the need to maintain teaching quality in the face of increasing student numbers and a dwindling resource base, higher education is seeing a cultural shift towards more student-centred and collaborative teaching initiatives. In this scenario, the lecturer becomes more of a facilitator, teaching students how to learn. One way of considering the way we encourage student ownership of the learning process is for lecturers to act, not like bankers who fill the students by making deposits of information, but like midwives, assisting students in giving birth to their ideas through knowledge acquisition and creative reflection. Using the web as an access route to well-structured information and well-designed interactive materials, integrated with peer-peer and peer-tutor exchange, students can be exposed to a wider range of views and approaches to a subject than might otherwise be possible. Lecturers can benefit through having more time to concentrate on small group work, more advanced teaching and time for creativity in their research.
In summary, the web offers an assembly of systems for:
- Teaching, learning and assessment
- Computer-mediated communication
- Information management
- Tailorable groupware
The first article in this issue is contributed by Jacqui Nicol, Coordinator of the Computers in Teaching Initiative (CTI) Centre for Land Use and Environmental Sciences (CLUES), one of 24 subject-based CTI centres scattered about the UK. The article summed up so well a variety of examples of good practice in what the web can offer the teaching and learning process, I saw fit to include it in tact with its links to further extremely useful and interesting articles on 'WWW: the new computer-assisted learning environment?' and 'CAL on the web: how you can get up and running'. I hope you find them inspiring !
The second article on resourcing a language course unveils the potential for exploiting the web in providing access to the increasing variety of information required as new dimensions for the cultural context of language learning within a whole range of other disciplines in cross-departmental courses. The strategy can be applied to almost any other subject in organising internet information as a component of course resources: enabling students to keep up with the latest facts and trends, increase their familiarity with the subject and gather IT and information skills into the bargain.
The third article outlines the now well-used programming language of the web, Java - possibly a bit beyond the DIY learning material production, but worth knowing the opportunities it offers as more tools become available to make Java scripting easier.
The fourth article describes the Warwick Teaching Certificate, a staff development programme to give professional development accreditation for teaching competence to teachers, old and new lecturers, full-time academic staff and part-time teaching assistants.
Dr Jay Dempster
Head of Educational Technology
Centre for Academic Practice
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 24 7652 4670