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WWW: new opportunities for CAL?

Jacqui Nicols, CTI CLUES, University of Aberdeen

The article in CLUES Newsletter issue 18, page 3: 'WWW: the new computer-assisted learning environment?' illustrates a range of CAL applications currently being used on the web. In the same issue, on page 5 an article 'CAL on the web: how you can get up and running' provides practical advice on how you can integrate on-line resources in your teaching.

The internet has many advantages for courseware delivery. It is now a well supported format which provides access to shared resources independent of computing platform or location. This has obvious advantages for increasing access to higher education for non-traditional students. The development of standard authoring and programming languages, like Java, has established the internet as a potential medium for all the types of CAL courseware currently available for microcomputers. The value added to CAL by web publication is that the courseware can be linked to on-line references, discussion groups, and other resources to support student investigation of resources in an enhanced learning environment.

The internet also provides a low cost means of distributing information and CAL courseware. Web editors and browsers are available at low cost or for free, and impressive publications can be created with little specialist skills.

Three distinct approaches can be adopted to integrating world-wide web resources in teaching and learning. Existing information published on the web can be used for resource-based learning, either under direction of the lecturer or in an investigative fashion by the student, as with any library resource. This currently constitutes the most common use of web resources in teaching and learning. Increasingly however, CAL applications are being designed specifically for the internet accompanied by problem-based learning exercises, presented either on paper or also on-line. Lastly the web can also be used as a student publishing medium enabling students to either organise and publish their own work or to participate in group projects using computer-conferencing systems.

There can still be drawbacks to web publication - it can be difficult to find the information you want, download times can be slow, and as yet there is little guarantee of quality. However, as we become more familiar with the new technologies of the internet and as its functionality and security develops the full educational potential offered by the web will be realised.

Jacqui Nicols
CTI Centre for Land Use and Environmental Sciences
University of Aberdeen

Warwick ETS thanks the author for allowing us to republish this article which first appeared in the newsletter of the CTI CLUES at the University of Aberdeen, January 1997.

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