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We are pleased to present the following Brief on the use of IT in education, featuring short articles from six teachers who have recently presented at one of our seminars on IT-related issues

October 1998, Vol. 1 No. 2 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Seminar 2
A/P W.A.M. Alwis
Faculty of Engineering

The Global Campus project envisages a network that links teaching staff and students. Two major models for mode of participation appear to have gained acceptance among teachers who lead the pioneering effort. One is the producer-consumer model where teachers provide materials to be consumed by students. The other is the forum model where a platform for discussion among students and teachers is operated. The appropriateness of these models to a system that has to primarily succeed as a network deserves closer examination.

Networks are supposed to thrive by natural means. They succeed by attracting additional users who either see potential rewards or are forced by the desire to survive. Additional users increase the value of the network and it is in the interest of those who are already connected to pull in newcomers (“Get email and we can talk more often.”).

Networks depend on the reality of rewards, not legitimacy or justifiability. As long as memorising essays helps in getting good grades and the network helps students find suitable essays, students will flock to the network, in turn attracting more essay providers. The system may have originated for educational purposes but those who operate from the sidelines would not care as long as they can thrive. Networks reward decentralised creation. Users seek opportunities and unfinished products are continually tried out through the network.

The producer-consumer model will not fit well into the natural self-regulating behaviour of a network. It will consume large amounts of resources if it is to exist meaningfully on the network and externally engineered rewards are unlikely achieve the expected outcomes. On the other hand, the forum model has all the basic characteristics of network-compatible phenomena; it is likely to survive and thrive.

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