A recurring theme in the development of technology-based
learning is the need to integrate pedagogical and technological
dimensions of learning. We have adapted a framework used by Graham
Gibbs (1992) to help identify the nature of these dimensions and
the way in which they are related to each other. These dimensions
have the potential to both describe and inform:
The object of a major project being undertaken
by the QUT Law Faculty and the Computer Based Education Department
is to address the issues and needs, as aforementioned, by developing
a set of technology-based materials to assist student learning
in a range of first year units.
This paper addresses the complex issues involved
in any technological development and suggests a simple framework
for dealing with part of this complexity by describing two core
dimensions of learning, identifying the kinds of expertise associated
with these dimensions and reviewing the factors involved in developing
a template project for the Faculty of Law at Queensland University
Computer-based learning projects are always complex.
Biggs (1993, p. 74) has described education as a set of interacting
ecosystems, thereby drawing attention to the range of issues that
need to be taken into account in any educational innovation.
The complexity of computer-based projects arises form the number
of ecosystems involved and the multiplicity of interactions within
and between those ecosystems. This paper suggests a simple framework
for dealing with one part of this complexity by describing two
core dimensions of learning, identifying the kinds of expertise
associated with each dimension, and considering how these dimensions
and areas of expertise have informed a template project in the
discipline of law.
1 Dimensions of learning
Our starting point is a simple depiction by Graham
Gibbs of two dimensions of learning as expressed in his diagram
in figure 1.
We have modified Gibbs's diagram to highlight what
we consider to be two primary dimensions of computer-based learning
(Joughin & Winn 1996). These are illustrated in figure
The horizontal axis of figure 2 focuses on
content or information. It deals with the type and structure
of content and is concerned with how information is stored and
retrieved. At one extreme, resources are essentially didactic
with minimum student control, while at the other, a rich array
of resources are provided, using a variety of media, for students
to explore and even co-construct.
Two kinds of expertise are associated with the horizontal dimension:
The vertical axis of figure 2 deals with how
students go about using the information represented by the horizontal
axis. In other words, it represents the approach they take to
learning in relation to the resources at their disposal. This
relation has been characterised a either a 'surface approach to
learning' where students tend to memorise for assessment and focus
on discrete pieces of unrelated information, or a 'deep approach
to learning' in which students seek to understand, relate what
they are learning to existing knowledge, structure content into
a coherent whole, and focus on the underlying meaning of words
and concepts. (Ramsden 1992; Laurillard 1993).
The vertical dimension requires expertise in learning theory and the design of educational experiences that encourage deep approaches to learning. It also requires a knowledge of how students learn within a particular discipline.
The dimensions of learning noted above therefore allow us to identify three kinds of expertise required to bring about effective computer-based learning:
These different types of expertise are typically focused in different categories of staff, usually located in different functional areas of a university:
As figure 4 suggests, occasionally a single
person will have developed expertise in more than one area. Usually,
however, the organisational structure, and culture, will need
to be such that the forms of expertise can be brought together
in the service of developing new programs.
2 An environment for exploring multi-levelled problems in
The Faculty of Law at QUT has been involved in using
technology to improve student learning for many years. Projects
such as 'The Crimson Parrot' which won the IT&T Award for
Excellence in Education and Training in 1995 have been used with
The project described in this paper is developing
a template for computer-based teaching and learning in law. The
template's working title, 'An Environment for Exploring Multi-levelled
Problems in Law', suggests that we are: (1) generating contexts
in which learning can occur; (2) that this learning is based on
exploration and the application of research methodologies; and
(3) that the template can accommodate a range of problems at different
levels of complexity and challenge.
The template consists of :
The project began with the development of a comprehensive
blueprint that outlined all of the major elements of the project.
Here we will comment only on those two aspects of the project
directly related to the dimensions of learning and varieties of
expertise discussed earlier by noting (1) how we have conceptualised
the dimensions of learning in the project, and (2) how the various
types of expertise have been brought together in the project.
3 Dimensions of learning in the project
The dimensions of learning in the project are represented
by figure 5.
The information dimension is identical to
the horizontal dimension of figure 2, and deals with kinds of
content, forms of media, and issues of storage and retrieval of
The problems/questions/issues dimension is
equated to the vertical dimension of figure 2. The problems,
issues and questions that are presented to students will determine
the approach they take in relation to the information dimension,
and the design of these problems, issues and questions should
be such as to encourage deep approaches to learning.
The tools dimension represents a sort of 'interface'
between the other two dimensions and includes tools for research
(guides or strategies for locating information) and tools for
learning (feedback, hints, notebooks etc).
The project is proceeding by systematically developing
each of these dimensions and the connections that exist between
4 Varieties of expertise in the project
The project has taken particular care to incorporate
the three forms of expertise identified earlier in figures
3 and 4. It has done so in two interrelated ways - (1) through
the project personnel structure, and (2) through each stage of
the design process. These are discussed below.
The integration of expertise in the design structure
is illustrated by the following:
The design process has sought to incorporate the
various kinds of expertise at each stage:
As a result of the integrated approach being taken,
the template that results from the project will have expertise
from all three areas built into it.
5 Outstanding issues
The systematic incorporation of the two dimensions
of learning into a computer-based learning project requires a
concentrated approach to design that places educational issues
to the forefront of the design process. While the conceptual
issues involved are not complex, they do require a process of
familiarisation, discussion and reflection on the part of all
parties if a common understanding of the educational framework
of such a project is to emerge.
The integration of areas of expertise, while considered
by us as essential, is time-consuming and the logistics involved
in simply arranging meetings of a number of disparate staff in
a university should not be underestimated. We note, however,
that unless staff with different perspectives spend time discussing
these perspectives, a common understanding of a project, and a
mutual respect for the different types of expertise required,
can never develop to the stage where staff can work together effectively
While the issues discussed in this paper have been
considered in the context of a specific university project, they
raise issues that in practice need to be addressed at a strategic
level of a university if integrated approaches to technology for
teaching and learning are to be applied on an institution-wide
Diana Laurillard in her presentation at the ALT-C
conference in Glasgow in 1996 presented a strategy for academic
advantage at the institutional level for UK universities to make
best use of the new technology. Her strategy addressed the following
The many dimensions noted here are a useful list that senior managers should address in their planning. Often the big picture planning is left until too late and any projects under development cannot be fully utilised because the institution is not ready to implement them effectively.
This paper has drawn attention to the range of issues
that need to be taken into account in any educational innovation.
The framework presented can perhaps simplify the complexity of
these issues by focusing on the core dimensions of learning.
Biggs, J.B. 1993, 'From theory to practice', Higher
Education Research and Development, 12,1.
Joughin, G. & Winn, J. 1996, 'Dimensions of Learning,
varieties of expertise and organisational structure in technology-based
teaching and learning: a framework for integration ', Paper presented
at ALT-C conference, Glasgow, 1996.
Laurillard, D. 1993, Rethinking University Teaching,
Laurillard, D. 1996, 'How should UK Higher Education
make best use of New Technology', Keynote address ALT-C, Glascow,
Ramsden, P. 1992, Learning to Teach in Higher
Education, London, Routledge, 1992.