Almost by definition, anything involving technology is under constant evolution. Indeed, the possibilities examined by this project represent uses of technology which are not yet available to all because of resource considerations. In time, all staff will have access to networked computers, when required, where required. When this baseline of computer access is achieved, all that will be missing is the lecturer's time
The one thing we can be sure about is that ideas about how to use technology will always run ahead of the general availability of that technology. With this practical consideration in mind, can we make any predictions about how staff development will be delivered in the future?
- For the time being at least, most if not all staff and professional development will retain a significant face to face component. Computer delivery will however play an increasingly large role - especially where there is direct relevance. Outside IT training, computers will be used mainly for delivery of materials and for course announcements via email.
- Training style VLEs (such as WebCT) will be used extensively for the delivery of base level IT skills - courses which can be developed once and delivered many times at different institutions (cf. the Content + Support model proposed by Robin Mason). These materials will be designed and delivered as open learning with only token 'support' - rather like the TALiSMAN Online Study Centre.
- Computer Mediated Communication will flourish largely through informal channels such as mailbase mailing lists rather than formal web based discussion forums allied to specific web-based course materials. There will be little in the way of formal collaborative working, however computers will increasingly be used to facilitate peer review of resources. This will in turn encourage staff to use computers to create and store materials rather than use paper (progress).
- Future versions of Office applications (from MS Office 2000 and beyond) will make the process of web publishing and collaboration as transparent as composing an email or saving materials to a common area of a Local Area Network. Publishing on the web will no longer involve the specific creation of HTML documents (e.g. using a dedicated HTML editor, and with some consideration of how a document will appear on screen). Rather, HTML will be a portable standard for the exchange and distribution of all types of materials. Paradoxically, this may help re-use of materials as well, given that less 'processing' will be performed on resources - encouraging a style of information use which uses original resources. The easy availability of conferencing and collaboration facilities, from the desktop and using a familiar interface (an Office application) will be a key factor in the acceptance of 'networked learning'. The rise of the Intranet, will ensure that when collaboration and communication do occur, it will be at the intra-institutional rather than inter-institutional level.