The following is based on an extract from a paper in preparation for “Computers and Education” – “E-learning, Accessibility & Pedagogy: In search of the missing tools of practice” by Jane Seale (University of Southampton) & Martyn Cooper (The Open University) – firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Laurillard Conversational Model
Contemporary accounts of student learning accept that it is an active process and depends on interaction. Laurillard  offers a model of student / tutor / courseware interaction, and this is outlined briefly here. Laurillard offers a classification of educational media based on a conversational framework (after Pask and with due deference to Socrates), which identifies the activities necessary to complete the learning process. She considers the learning process as a kind of conversation, and asserts that this process ‘must be constituted as a dialogue between teacher and student (or student and student), operating at the level of description of actions in the world’. Her classification system is based on the type of interaction between instructor and student when a particular medium is used. She classifies educational media as discursive, adaptive, interactive and reflective, and raises issues about the nature of feedback, goals and control of student learning. Her review of media asserts that currently only tutoring systems and a combination of tutorials and simulations can claim to address the entire learning process as specified in her model. However her conclusion is not that these are the only worthwhile media, but that educators should consider media combinations to construct learning packages that combine complementary features. Summative and formative assessment can form one aspect of the interaction referred to in the model (although the author has predominantly used it when analysing practical work in science and engineering education, which of course in itself can be assessed). The teacher constructs the assessment, the student interacts with it and there is feedback via the marking and review process.
In her 1995 summary of these ideas Laurillard highlights how different modes of learning map onto the conversational model. For example “Learning through acquisition” (teacher as storyteller or lecturer) maps to a left to right arrow in Figure 1 from the teachers conceptual knowledge to that of the students. In assessment teacher can implement a wide range of leaning modes depending on the types of examination and question chosen. This could include “Guided discovery” that requires all the conversational components indicated in Figure 1.
Accessibility and the Laurillard Model
Key in the Laurillard Model are the various conversations it embodies. Laurillard uses these to analyse the use of media in learning. However this can be further extended to analyse the accessibility of all the media used to support these different conversations. One aspect of the Laurillard model points to practical forms of assessment where the teacher sets up something in the “real” world for the student to examine, interact and reflect upon. Practical exams are not specifically a topic of this post however there is a growing trend to make practical available as part of an eLearning context. The author led a major EU funded project PEARL [http://iet.open.ac.uk/pearl/] that argued such remote controlled labs could increase access to practical work, particularly in science and engineering subjects, for disabled students.
 Laurillard, D. (1993) Rethinking university teaching, Routledge, London