E-learning advocates – Dr Christopher Ringrose

E-Learning

University of Northampton

Status: Completed September 2007

Brief description

The English E-learning Advocacy project at The University of Northampton was conceived as a broad initiative to extend and improve the use of IT in learning and teaching at a time of curriculum change and redevelopment. It focused on the BA in English and the BA in Creative Writing. In the course of the project the most significant developments involved the use of sound files, the redesigning and effective use of discussion forums, the use of blogs for summative assessment and student reflection throughout a module, the linking of VLEs (in this case Blackboard) to on-line resources from HUMBUL and JISC, the use of hand-held voting systems in lectures, and the designing of e-journals and websites to showcase student creative writing. A student focus group was used to provide feedback on the design of the e-learning materials and their effectiveness in the learning process. The project proved successful in involving seven of the English staff group of eleven in e-learning activities, and in maintaining a good level student engagement.

Background

English at Northampton consists of a BA programme (70 students in total), Combined Honours (150 students) and two MAs (in Modern English Studies and English Language). It is located in a vibrant Arts Campus alongside Art, Dance Design, Drama Fashion, Media and Music, so there is room to extend current collaborations (eg with Illustration and Media) into e-learning. Both the School’s and the University’s Learning and Teaching strategies emphasise the need to extend blended and distance learning, so that initiatives established by the e-learning advocate in English could be continued through application to institutional funding in 2007 and beyond. The University has two Learning and Teaching Fellows (in Social Sciences and Learning Resources) with e-learning expertise, though this does not always translate easily into the context of English Studies. E-learning in English could perhaps be developed in more thoroughgoing and creative ways. An undergraduate curriculum review and the introduction of a new BA in Creative Writing make this an ideal moment to take a holistic approach to embedding e-learning.

Project design

The progress of the Project was measured in four ways:

  1. In meetings of the staff team, where it is a standing item on the agenda.
  2. In staff development sessions, where the success of the e-learning developments have been shared and critiqued by staff.
  3. The project leader received email comments from staff on the practical issues that arose as the materials and methods were used in the curriculum.
  4. Through a student focus group which has given feedback on past and present e-learning initiatives.

Outcomes

These can be tabulated quite briefly:

Revised and improved for interactivity, time demands, feedback:

  • Level 1 Victorian Literature on-line tasks
  • Level 2 18thC Literature Discussion Board
  • MA Research Methods Discussion Board
  • Sample past student work on-line

New for 2007-8:

  • Level 1 Modern Literature Assessed Blogs
  • Level 2 Modernism Assessed Blogs
  • Level 3 Children’s Literature Assessed Blogs
  • Student on-line magazine for creative writers
  • Alumni creative writing website at: http://www.rippingpages.co.uk/
  • Podcasts in Children’s Literature and Creative Writing
  • Optional blog space for PDP in English
  • Trial use of hand-held voting technology in lectures
  • Level 1 Wikis to record group work in Literary Genres
  • Problem-based on-line research topics at various levels.

In all, these actively involve seven staff out of a team of eleven.

Project report

Project leader

Dr Christopher Ringrose 
Northampton University

Research Period

September 2006 – September 2007