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Future learning in the virtual society


Future learning in the virtual society
Report on the workshop
4th February 2000
London University Institute for Education



The event ran from 9.45 in the morning until 5.30 that afternoon and was followed by a modest reception. Details of the program are available on We endeavoured to create a forum in which delegates could listen and also react - obviously during the breaks for refreshment but also in small group arenas and in brief discussion plenary sessions. This seemed to work well. By the end of the afternoon the discussion had become very lively. Many delegates asked to be sent copies of papers and the feedback was generally supportive and positive. The event ran smoothly - not least thanks to the local management of Harvey Mellor and his team of graduate students and technical helpers. There were no equipment problems, no delays and no obvious discomforts to spoil the academic exchange.

There were over 100 people at the meeting. They represented a broad range of professional interests: including research, software design, staff development, computer services and teaching in all sectors.


"Learning Societies": workshop welcome and introduction
Charles Crook introduced the agenda by reference to a Virtual Society? study of promotional images in undergraduate prospectuses. The mismatches between these account of teaching and learning and accounts based on students diaries made a provocative contrast. In terms of the likely themes for the day, promotional rhetoric was introduced in terms of "community", "authenticity" and "bricks-and-mortar"

Issues in the educational use of asynchronous computer-mediated communication
Three presentations were made under this heading, all concerning forms of text-based computer conferencing.

Andy Tolmie described work by the JISC project team concerned with text conferencing in a wide variety of post-secondary learning situations. Detailed interviews with users of this technology were recruited into an argument about the significance of the educational context surrounding this form of intervention.

Charles Crook summarised a variety of work from their Virtual Society? project (Learning sites: networked resources and the learning community) all concerned with the problems arising when text conferencing is appropriated into traditional teaching courses. It was argued that a raft of broader concerns that drive student participation in any form of educational conversation become visible.

Steve Brown described work from his Virtual Society project (Groupware: computer mediated meetings and the mediation of memory) on the use of email in large commercial organisations. He illustrated how this mode of communication was drawn into modes of organisational accountability.

Learning Relationships: A new conceptual framework to help bridge theory and design
Chris Fowler gave a talk based on his work with Terry Mayes in which he outlined a theoretical basis for conceiving of new forms of learning community mediated by networked technologies.

Re-mediating study on the networked campus
Charles Crook described Virtual Society? studies of how students used networked computers from their study bedrooms. He argued that re-mediation of the macro level campus resources was effected only a little (but in a direction of spending more time in room-based private study). While patterns of study at the desktop were quite strikingly animated by access to the technology

Quality of communication in educational conferencing media
Erica McAteer and colleagues described field work from the JISC project that concerned a variety of communication media in higher educational settings. They outlined how this experienced could be captured as "guidelines" for practice via a distinctive web-based presentation tool for "grounded guidelines"

On-line fireworks for basic skills
Martin Good described a large European-funded project that used CD ROM and internet technology to bring basic skills learning to constituencies of learners in the University for Industry.

Steve Draper summed up the days work in a brief presentation.


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