Last changed 9 Sept 1998 ............... Length about 900 words (6000 bytes).
This is a WWW document maintained by Steve Draper, installed at

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A brief introduction to ATOMs

An ATOM is a unit of work for learners, typically an exercise (i.e. related to tutorial activity rather than primary exposition). They vary, but most often are intended as one week's work for students in a module i.e. 8-10 hours of work, including perhaps 1-2 contact (tutorial) hours associated with them. Typically the work is assessed and feedback given to the students. Past examples may be available as TRAILS, with examples of any or all of:
  • the same or similar exercise tasks
  • student solutions to the tasks
  • tutor or expert feedback on those solutions

    ATOMs were written in one institution, but delivered (additionally) in others, so there is often a distinction between author and local deliverers, who will be the teachers (lecturers) responsible for giving a course but making use of an ATOM from elsewhere. Many ATOMs are organised to use a remote expert, typically the author of the ATOM, who thus may play a part in the delivery, though without travelling. This may involve giving video tutorials, marking the students' work, or giving other feedback.

    Structure of an ATOM's web pages

    An ATOM is typically presented on the WWW through 4 kinds of web page:
    1. The teacher overview page, intended for teachers browsing for ATOMs they might choose to use in their courses.
    2. Teacher details: fuller notes for teachers, with instructions for them, and rationales for why the exercise is the way it is.
    3. The learner details page: the instructions for learners. This is likely to have the basic explanation and description of the ATOM, and also acts like a handout for students.
    4. The course home page (for learners) for a particular delivery of an ATOM, special to the institution, course, and circumstances. This should have all the links needed for those students, and in turn should act as the entrance lobby, and be pointed to by the course pages, links from the teachers' home pages etc. A sample is included here, but its content and format may vary widely depending on the course within which the ATOM is being used.

    Further information

  • "ATOM" stands for Autonomous Teaching Object in MANTCHI.
  • ATOMs were invented by the MANTCHI project, which authored and delivered a number of them, and also performed substantial classroom evaluations of those deliveries.
  • Some more discussion of the concept of ATOMs is available here.
  • A table of ATOMs is available. (This link, and the tables it might point to, are currently in a state of flux, but will settle down.)
  • Tools to help authors create and maintain ATOM descriptions are becoming available.

    What this page still needs

    I was wondering if you could possibly write a few paragraphs to go on an introductory web page for teachers? Something that will just explain to them the concept of an ATOM, why it would be good for them to try ATOMs and/or write ATOMs themselves, and also how to go about getting permission to use them, that sort of thing. It would be much appreciated.

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