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'Using the Web to teach' is a vague term, much like 'using books to teach'. Depending on your teaching approach, you might use the Web as an alternative distribution method for documents, a source of supplementary learning materials or an integrated environment for group collaboration. The academic community is still exploring the possibilities step by step (Hinde, 2003). The familiar process of hypothesis, experimentation and sharing results among peers is a long way from its final assessment of the usefulness of the Web for learning. We cannot say which level of Web use is appropriate for you and your students, but we can identify some factors to consider:
Bear in mind two strong drivers for use of the Web in higher education. One is the burden of greater class sizes. Online document sharing and online contact can potentially handle more student queries than office meetings. The other driver is student expectations. Students already use a search engine to satisfy their curiosity on all sorts of topics, and demand a high standard of online resources. They are so used to the idea of a virtual library that part of the teaching challenge will be to show them the value of the non-virtual library.
There is also a danger that lecturers will see the Web as a competitor for the library, neglecting its distinctive advantages. Rather than a collection of resources to be browsed, the Web is potentially a set of tools for research, self-assessment, discussion and experimentation. A page of equations can be a crucial part of learning economics, but the Web can connect you to an actual economic model and to perspectives on this week's economic issue.
5.2 Case study 2: Electronic teaching of economics at a well-resourced institution
7.1 Suggested reading