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JILTA 1997 (1) - Australian CAL '96

Third Australasian Conference on Computer Aided Learning

International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives

Ian Wilson
Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law
Queensland University of Technology

Date of publication: 28 February 1997

Citation: Wilson I 'Third Australasian Conference on Computer Aided Learning', Conference Report, 1997 (1) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <>

On Friday 4th October 1996 the Third Australasian Conference on Computer Aided Learning was held at the QUT Gardens Point campus in Brisbane. The conference theme was international and multidisciplinary perspectives. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to fill the roles of program chair and conference chair in what turned out be a very stimulating environment. The 40 delegates who attended included four speakers from overseas and 20 participants from centres in Australia outside Queensland. There was a diverse range of interests from university teaching, publishing, private practice and government.

Prior to the conference, a half day workshop on 3rd October was attended by 16 delegates. The focus of this was on basic skills for building CAL materials. Presentations were made by John Dale (Technical Director, UK Law Courseware Consortium), Donna Buckingham (CAL author, Faculty of Law, Otago University ), Halima Goss (Production Manager, CBE Unit, Queensland University of Technology) and myself as workshop leader. Some of the topics covered in these sessions included:

  • What can be achieved with CAL?
  • Pedagogical issues associated with use of CAL.
  • Working as part of a CAL design team.
  • Basics of CAL design, functionality and delivery.
  • Publication and intellectual property issues associated with CAL.

The keynote speaker for the conference itself was John Dale. His paper was entitled 'The Money Pit: Why Is CAL So Expensive?'. In it, John sought to explore the reasons for CAL development being seen as many times more expensive than traditional forms of teaching and to analyse steps which can be taken to ameliorate the problem. The paper included valuable reference to John's own experience in the LCC. His conclusion was that CAL courseware development is expensive, and that techniques for minimising overheads (including economies of scale, efficient reuse of components and licensing content from other publishers) are by their nature techniques which are most effective when employed in the context of large-scale projects. These projects are difficult to instigate, given the need for extensive funding and cross-institutional collaboration. Even so, John noted that careful selection of development tools, subject matter and expenditure can bring about worthwhile results and avoid the 'money pit' in smaller scale projects with limited resourcing.

Two other international speakers presented plenary papers. Max Young (Head of Department of Law, University of Luton ) gave a paper entitled 'Help With Sale of Goods: Windows Help Files As A CAL Medium'. This described how Max had been able to successfully employ standard MS Windows help functionality as an end in its own right, to deliver primary and secondary source materials to undergraduate students in an interactive way. Despite an unanticipated need to use Windows 95, Max also managed an interesting and entertaining demonstration of his work. Bernard Randall (Lecturer, Department of Accountancy, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore) delivered a paper authored by himself and Ang Hock Mui (Department of Accountancy, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore). This was entitled 'Law, Distance Learning and the World Wide Web'. Bernard explained how the new technology can be used to enhance distance learning, concluding that use of the Web will focus education on learning rather than teaching and that a 'communication relationship' will foster education for distance learners. As he and Ang Hock Mui point out, a student/staff ratio of 16,000:1 must surely bring a gleam to the eyes of any university administrator, yet lecturers will be valued as 'facilitators' of education rather than mere providers of information.

Other papers given at the conference were:

  • 'Rethinking University Teaching: Email, The Virtual Tutorial And Constitutional Law' by Christopher Brien ( Charles Stuart University , Wagga Wagga). This addressed integration of Internet and WWW resources, and use of email, in undergraduate programs.
  • 'Interactive Multimedia Courseware for French, German, Indonesian and Japanese' by Alison Green and Barbara Hanna ( Queensland University of Technology , Brisbane). This looked at interactive video disk technology in the QUT language program, and included a demonstration and 'hands on' lab session.
  • 'Does Technology Contribute To The Acquisition Of Academic Knowledge' by Judith Fox (LBC Information Services, Sydney). This challenging paper exhorted an ongoing awareness of philosophical, cultural and educational values so that technology can serve the educational process and respond to desired pedagogical outcomes.
  • 'Developing A Law Template' by Miles McGregor-Lowndes (Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane). Here, the author drew on his experience as a CAL author to describe and demonstrate how a template for subsequent lessons (at lower cost) can be prepared from the initial design of a new lesson.
  • 'Computer Aided Learning As Applied To Training Accountants' by Sherrena Buckby and Conor O'Leary (Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane). This paper described use of CAL to develop an interactive case study for teaching ethics, and was accompanied by a demonstration.

One of the features of the conference was the number of demonstrations associated with papers, and the increasing technical sophistication of these demonstrations compared to previous years. MS Powerpoint was a tool of choice for many speakers, interactive multimedia materials were demonstrated from CD on the Barco projection facility and Bernard Randall even managed a live Web presentation without anything falling over! Most delegates seemed to think that the demonstrations made the papers even more rewarding.

Throughout the conference a wide range of developed CAL was also available for delegates to use 'hands on' in a CBE laboratory.

The conference concluded with a forum discussion on future management of CAL development in Australia, where it was agreed that some managed framework needed to be put in place to enhance development of what has until now in this country been very much a cottage industry. John Dale and Max Young very kindly offered such assistance as they could in bringing about this goal, including in John's case the prospect of licensing LCC authorware to 'kick start' further Australian initiatives.

After such a rewarding day, many delegates then set off eagerly on the post-conference 'recovery' weekend of sand, surf and sun at Surfers Paradise.

As program chair, I could not have hoped for a more diverse, interesting and challenging conference. Delegates were unanimous in their agreement, with everyone looking forward to what might be in store at the 1997 conference to be held, it is hoped, once again at the QUT in Brisbane. Many delegates saw the conference as having reinforced the collegiality engendered on the previous two occasions in Sydney. I certainly felt a sense of belonging to a group where experiences were shared in a spirit of discovery and creativity.

As conference chair, I would like to record my thanks to the QUT Faculty of Law for hosting the conference, to Rachel Hopkins for her dedication as conference organiser and to all the delegates for making the conference such an outstanding and successful event.

Copies of papers are still available (in printed form only) for AUD$25 per set plus postage; anyone who would like to obtain a set is welcome to email their request to Ian Wilson (

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