UniServe Science News Volume 7 July 1997

Jane Williams, Director of the Multimedia Research Unit, Institute for Learning and Research Technology, University of Bristol

Sue Furber, CTI Centre for Medicine, University of Bristol

AAA: Reflections on Australia, Adelaide and ASCILITE '96

Jane Williams
Sue Furber

Our visit to Australia was the result of a number of activities carried out, and contacts made, over the last few years. Much activity is developing within Australia in relation to the creation and network delivery of digitised resources in support of teaching and research. With UK initiatives such as the Joint Information Systems Committee's (JISC) work on the creation of gateways for quality network based resources and the development of digital image based archives, the visit was timely. We were able to visit both UniServe Science (The University of Sydney) and UniServe Health (University of Newcastle). Since these visits we have been discussing the possibility of collaborative developments with both clearing houses on issues to do with storage and delivery of Web-based materials.

During our visits we conducted seminars and workshops and demonstrated and took part in discussions on (amongst others):

  • digital capture of still and moving images;

  • image manipulation and transfer over networks;

  • using the Internet to support the processes of teaching and learning; and

  • building digitised image banks.
The timing of our trip was largely determined by the ASCILITE 1996 conference "making new connections". The conference provided us with an excellent overview of the current status of technology in teaching in Australia and consisted of a well-balanced mixture of educational theory and issues and practical applications of multimedia. It also provided time to renew old acquaintances, strengthen our new contacts and make many more new connections.

From the conference we would highlight two papers of particular interest. The first, from Pat James, Ray Peterson and Ian Clark "Students question the world!: learning with multiple media" discusses how the "new more flexible methods of education are now emphasising the power of the learner's desire to learn" as opposed to the traditional pedagogic approach to teaching designed on "mass output as in a `factory culture'". The authors state that "learning is now being more generally `released from the stranglehold of teaching'" - a phrase already used and quoted on several occasions since returning home to the colder climes of the UK or, as a colleague put it, "Wow I can't wait for an opportunity to use that one"! The paper discusses the changing role of teacher to that of mediator and guide; a change we are referring to as the re-birth of the academic tutor (or Learning Practitioner).

The second paper is that of David Kennedy and Carmel McNaught "Interactive multimedia: educational desert or educational oasis?". The authors refer to Laurillard who argues that learning is an iterative process in which students discuss, interact, adapt and reflect on the knowledge they are striving to assimilate. The authors state that it is these activities that we need to incorporate into the Interactive Multimedia (IMM) design process. They conclude that while IMM is still an educational desert, there are sufficient examples of such software becoming available to indicate that the oasis may be in sight. I was delighted to hear the authors quote an example of such software as being one developed at Bristol by the Learning Technology Support Service and the Department of Professional Legal Studies. In this package the students interact with video clips. The student's progress through the courseware changes based on interactions made with the video clips.

A number of key themes and issues were repeatedly raised throughout our trip and included:

  • the Virtual University - how should we be preparing for this?

  • the International University - higher education has entered a mass market, we are now about to enter a global one;

  • the role of the WWW in the learning process;

  • human issues which will be the rate limiting step for uptake of new technologies to support all aspects of Higher Education;

  • an infrastructure to support changes in Higher Education, both technical and administrative; and

  • collaboration versus competitiveness: Internet versus Intranet: how to share yet remain competitive.
These are all questions currently occupying the minds in higher education within the UK.

We returned to Bristol with a wider perspective on the implementation of technology to support the process of both teaching and learning, a greater knowledge of Australian Chardonnay, experiences of the famous ASCILITE dinner-dances, - and Skippy the Kangaroo! (already making a great impact within the Institute).

We certainly made many new connections and look forward to receiving many visitors from down under during 1997 and beyond to develop collaborative relationships.


James, P.R., Peterson, R. and Clark, I. (1996). Students question the world!: Learning with `multiple' media. In A. Christie, P. James and B. Vaughan (Ed.), ASCILITE `96 Making new connections ... Proceedings of the 13th annual conference of the Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE) (pp.309-323). Adelaide: Faculty of Health and Biomedical Sciences, University of South Australia.

Kennedy, D.M. and McNaught, C. (1996). Interactive multimedia: Educational desert or educational oasis? In A. Christie, P. James and B. Vaughan (Ed.), ASCILITE `96 Making new connections ... Proceedings of the 13th annual conference of the Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE) (pp.347-363). Adelaide: Faculty of Health and Biomedical Sciences, University of South Australia.

Laurillard, D. (1993). Rethinking university teaching: a framework for the effective use of educational technology. Routledge, London.

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UniServe Science News Volume 7 July 1997

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