n Mousaion - Challenges in Web-based teaching of reference work : experiences at the University of Pretoria




A Web-based course developed for teaching reference work at the Department of Information Science at the University of Pretoria (UP) (South Africa) is discussed. The significant impact of technological changes on the scope and nature of reference work, as well as the implementation of a telematic teaching model at UP, served as the rationale for offering the course through WebCT. Although students had positive experiences, a number of unexpected implementation difficulties were experienced. Since the majority of students come from disadvantaged backgrounds, most of these problems can be ascribed to the role played by the digital divide. These problems were identified through focus and chat groups, the lecturer's experiences and informal feedback from students. A framework of instructional design principles for Web-based teaching is suggested based on the basis of the difficulties identified. It allows for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and should be useful for similar teaching situations in both developing and developed countries. Specific suggestions are made for the adaptation of the reference work course at UP.


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