UniServe Science News Volume 17 November 2000


Web-based Teaching and Learning in Science Workshop

Ian Johnston
Director, UniServe Science

In November of this year, the members of UniServe Science planned and delivered a two-day workshop in Thailand, at Mahidol University in Bangkok. The invitation was issued as part of a linkages project between Mahidol University and The University of Sydney, under the auspices of the Thailand-Australia Science and Engineering Assistance Project (TASEAP).

The topic of the workshop was "Web-based Teaching and Learning in Science" and consisted of presentations/seminars by Mary Peat and Ian Johnston on these topics:
  • An Overview of Teaching Tertiary Science using IT and the Web;
  • Pedagogical Issues with Teaching with IT;
  • Evaluating the Effectiveness of Science Teaching with IT; and
  • Student Assessment and Feedback via the Web.
There were also hands-on sessions in the computer laboratory by Anne Fernandez and Kaye Placing on the topics:
  • Familiarization with the Web;
  • Web Resources for Science Teaching;
  • Evaluation of IT Teaching Materials and Web Sites; and
  • Web Tools: WebCT and WebMCQ.

The workshop was organized locally by Chernchok Soankwan, who had been a visitor to UniServe Science earlier in the year, and supported strongly by the Dean of Science, Professor Amaret Phuumirat, and members of the Science Faculty and particularly the Department of Physics. There were 57 registrations from universities throughout Bangkok and all round the country. UniServe Science was particularly interested in this project because of the possibility, which has been discussed with Mahidol University Faculty of Science, of setting up an organization similar to UniServe Science in Thailand.


Workshop participants


Participants in the computer facility

Many of the following observations underline the need for such an organization.

  1. There is a lot of enthusiasm for the use of IT in teaching, and a very substantial knowledge of how to use the Web already exists. However there was very little knowledge of what already exists to support tertiary teaching. There is a real need for some coordination and collaboration between the various universities. A centre where teachers can find out about what already exists would be a step towards this ideal.

  2. Several attendees, particularly from the remote universities, expressed a feeling of isolation - that they are working without any mutual support network. We know that this is a problem in Australia too, and it is very real. The solution lies in establishing some sort of community spirit among teachers with like interests. This can only really be done at senior academic level. One concrete aim, which has been put to Mahidol University, is that there should be a national/international conference organized and held in Bangkok in 2002, devoted to the topic of: "The Use of New Technologies in Tertiary Science Teaching in South East Asia".

  3. However, the single most serious barrier to Thai universities making serious and widespread use of the Web in teaching, is the speed (or rather the slowness) of Internet connections. The hands-on sessions in this workshop were painfully slow, and a workshop presentation which takes 20 minutes in Sydney, was not finished in 2 hours here. Given the interest among the attendees in starting to use these new methods in their teaching, it would be very disappointing if this interest is frustrated because of a mere technical detail. It is obvious, from personal experience, that access to the net is much faster outside the universities - even in hotels. It seems to be a semi-political problem therefore, and it behoves vice-chancellors, or who ever has the clout, to push for much better access to the net for universities.

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UniServe Science News Volume 17 November 2000

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