The C & IT Project
This JISC funded English Subject Centre project was designed to determine the extent to which Communication and Information Technology (or C&IT) has been incorporated into the teaching of English. The project was guided by three objectives: mapping the use of C&IT at the subject level; identifying examples of best practice, innovation, and experimentation; and making these examples available by means of a series of free events and an online database.
We took for granted three technologies as entrenched in the life of most academics, regardless of subject: word processing, web browsing and email programs. We were interested, however, in the way in which lecturers used these essential tools beyond their most basic functions — for example, were they composing web documents with MS Word? Were they requiring their students to use browsers to access course materials and resources outside of class? And were they using email to establish group discussion among students as well as for one-to-one correspondence? We essentially wanted to identify pedagogical practices that seemed to flourish across institutions. We also, of course, simultaneously strove to locate those resources that lecturers regardless of their pre-dispositions would readily recognize as useful and valuable applications of technology to teaching English.
The IT Project began in December 2001 with an information gathering campaign during which we wrote to all English departments, describing the project and inviting feedback from lecturers who were using C&IT in their teaching. After gathering the information volunteered by lecturers across the country, we sought to make contact with individuals who were especially active in using C&IT. We subsequently organized over a dozen departmental visits, in which we arranged to cover as wide a geographical distribution and institutional range as possible; for example, we visited and met with colleagues at Exeter, Newport, London Guildhall, Huddersfield, Durham, and Lancaster.
Among the surprises encountered was the discovery that departments are increasingly relying on course management systems (commonly known as Virtual Learning Environments or VLEs) to develop learning and teaching resources. The sheer number of departments currently using or planning to use VLEs provided the impetus to dedicate a thread in our event series to VLEs and English. In doing so, we sought to engage the pedagogical challenges as well as the professional consequences that attend developing instructional materials within such systems.
- to produce a rolling programme of training for English HE staff (realised as a series of C&IT Roadshows)
• to produce an annotated database or catalogue of programmes available with notes on fitness for users (realised as ‘The Learning Link’ database (now incorporated into the new website resource collection).
• to produce a full report on IT developments and their application, and to make recommendations for the future IT policy of the English Subject Centre
Dr Michael Hanrahan
(formerly English Subject Centre)
Mr Brett Lucas
Completed June 2002