Conference Report

UniServe Science News Volume 8 November 1997


Third International Conference on Computer Based Learning in Science, 1997

Mary Peat
Co-director UniServe Science, The University of Sydney

The conference was held at De Montfort University, Leicester Campus on 4th July - 8th July 1997. It was the third conference in a series organised by academics with an interest in the use of computer based learning to enhance teaching and learning. The first conference in 1993 was held at the Technical University of Vienna and the second in 1995 at the Silesian University Opava in the Czech Republic. The majority of delegates at the third conference came from the UK, Eastern Europe, and further east (India, China) with a small but vocal contingent from Canada and Australia. Unlike most conferences, there were no keynote speakers. Instead there were 61 scheduled papers in a single stream over four days. There was little focus for the conference and the papers that were presented were of mixed quality. The sessions were mostly devoted to the physical sciences, earth sciences and engineering with a recurrent theme of how teaching could be implemented with the use of the Internet - a bit like using technology for technology's sake and in this case - the Internet. There was an emphasis on "doing things" but with little pedagogical consideration of the materials produced or how they are being delivered or used. Formative evaluation during development had not really been considered by most developers and peer/student evaluation of the product was, for the most part, missing. I felt a sense of deja vu and that Eastern Europe and further east were just getting on the band wagon. Reinvention of the wheel was greatly in evidence and always with an excuse of why it had to be.

Memorable presentations included one by Alan Cann from University of Leicester on the delivery of on-line interactive CAL delivered via the Web as a dynamic open learning resource. The system is being developed to create a virtual teaching environment for medical students and this includes on-line lecture notes, on-line information sources (search engines), video materials, interactive tutorials, electronic submission of assignments, asynchronous communication using email, and testing scenarios.

The social activities of the conference took us on a walking tour of old Leicester and drinks with the Lord Mayor, to Stratford to visit Shakespearešs birthplace, on a tour of the Leicestershire countryside and to many pubs ...

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UniServe Science News Volume 8 November 1997

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