1. Introduction

The Internet and its use in higher education have important implications for archaeology in the UK, especially as more content is released for teaching learning and research. The students who develop their basic skills in this unstable environment, risk entering the research community poorly prepared for their professional lives. While fundamental research values such as peer review, innovation, economy of argument, and empirical observation remain robust, the environment of classroom, archive, library, museum, field and laboratory in which they are embedded is changing.

This article reviews a project that responds to these changes: the PATOIS - Publications and Archives Teaching with Online Information Systems - project. PATOIS is an attempt on behalf of a consortium of UK higher education institutions and allied research bodies to prepare students for the sorts of information tools that are emerging in archaeology, and which are changing the culture of scholarship. Funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and led by the Archaeology Data Service (ADS), PATOIS presents students with these new research tools and novel forms of academic literacy by direct exposure to 'primary' datasets. The PATOIS project is producing a set of Internet-based tutorials that lead students through different datasets and show how they may be deployed in research. This article will describe the institutional and intellectual background to the PATOIS project, and report on the content of the tutorials themselves. It will then look at the process through which PATOIS was developed and the challenges and constraints that the development team faced. Thereafter, we turn to the implementation of PATOIS in real teaching scenarios and look at how and when these have been successful - and the challenges that remain unanswered. The project is not yet complete, so at this stage we can come to no firm conclusions about the long-term impact of PATOIS in facilitating change in undergraduate research training. Nonetheless, from the perspective of development work, the project has largely been completed: so those conclusions that may be drawn are most appropriately addressed to developers hoping or planning to undertake similar work in the future, or academics looking to develop research skills among their students.

One of the challenges facing the use of electronic teaching and learning materials is their relative novelty: few if any of the teaching staff currently engaged by UK universities had experience of computer-mediated learning as undergraduates, and so the role models and instincts upon which we often rely cannot help us judge good or bad practice. Thus, readers will be invited to review their own understanding of the issues in a series of exercises and tasks embedded in the four "appendices", the PATOIS tutorials themselves. Readers are strongly encouraged to explore them, and comments are invited.


Last updated: Mon Sep 23 2002

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