UniServe Science News Volume 13 July 1999


UniServe Science Workshop: Tools for Flexible Learning

Anne Fernandez
UniServe Science

UniServe Science held its fourth annual national workshop on April 9, 1999, in Sydney. The theme was Tools for Flexible Learning. The workshop was attended by 78 tertiary educators from around the country.

Over the past year we have seen the academic interest in science teaching resources move from individual software packages to tools for improving course delivery, student involvement and communication with students. It is therefore appropriate that the focus of this workshop was on the tools and techniques which best support the learning strategies employed in science teaching rather than a 'show and tell' of the technology employed.

The keynote speaker, Roy Lundin, QUT, gave a very entertaining and informative presentation which addressed the issues relating to the rapid growth in flexible delivery of open learning and teaching through the use of interactive communication technologies. Overseas and Australian examples given indicated that two major developments in this area are the forming of consortia of providers and the use of the Internet to deliver programs. Roy also outlined what appear to be major trends associated with flexible delivery.

The aim of the second session was to familiarise workshop participants with some of the web-based environments available for flexible teaching and learning. This began with presentations from Simon Housego, UTS, Stephen Sheely, UWS Hawkesbury and Lindsay Hewson and Chris Hughes, UNSW, featuring three of the more commonly used tools. TopClass, WebCT and WebTeach were used to illustrate: on-line quizzes; communication of administrative information to students; on-line discussion forums; bulletin boards; on-line brainstorming; on-line delivery of course materials; and more. It is interesting to note that a great deal of the discussion revolved around the pedagogical issues rather than the technology. This was followed by a question and answer session with a panel of experienced academics.

The remainder of the program was contributed papers and posters. There were nine contributed papers, not all devoted to technological tools, thus reminding us that flexible learning means much more than just the use of the web. These papers covered: group learning; laboratory kits; role playing; videoconferencing; collaboration; and much more. There were eight posters focusing on a variety of web-based learning environments. Unfortunately, the way we had structured the program left very little time for participants to view the posters.

As has become tradition with our workshops the day finished with a sumptuous banquet which was an invaluable opportunity for participants to meet and get to know their colleagues in an informal atmosphere.

The proceedings of the workshop are available from the UniServe Science web page

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UniServe Science News Volume 13 July 1999

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