E-learning advocates – Dr Stuart Robertson

E-Learning

University of Central England (UCE)

Status: Completed September 2007

Brief description

In my advocacy I set out to build on existing work integrating e-learning strategies and technology supported teaching throughout our undergraduate and postgraduate courses. In the project proposal I identified three main ways in which this work would be undertaken: I intended to develop a ‘best practice’ example for integrating the use of a VLE in the teaching of our first year Poetry module; I worked to support and enable the creation of resources for teaching in our VLE across all undergraduate and postgraduate courses; and I proposed to assess the success of the best practice example and the experiences of students using a VLE for the first time.

Background

School of English teaching happens mainly on one corridor within the faculty of Law, Humanities, Development and Society, though some classes happen in other buildings. All teaching rooms are wired and wirelessly enabled and all most all include audio-visual projection linked to both video and networked computers. Large computer laboratories are available to be booked on either an occasional or regular basis. A faculty web developed and subject librarian are also available.

Though classrooms have a range of devices to support integration of e-learning strategies a common staff report is that similar equipment located in different rooms is often not commonly configured, so that staff believe that what works in one room cannot be relied upon to work in the same ways in other teaching rooms. School of English staff are fortunate in mostly teaching within a small number of rooms whose equipment is now familiar.

Birmingham City University adopted Moodle as it’s chosen VLE in 2004 with substantial encouragement to subject areas to utilise this VLE coming from the Staff, Student Development Department (SSDD); schools within faculties chose individual ‘Moodlers’ whose role was to support and develop use of Moodle. I was already involved in this work before becoming involved in the e-advocate project.

Methodology

Embedding e-learning in the first year poetry course will be achieved by developing classroom and online activities designed to teach a number of distinct skills and key subject knowledge. Before the module begins in January resources will be created within the VLE which students will access as they begin the course. These will include topics such as poetic forms, examples of close reading, details of available online texts and databases. Staff will redevelop the schedule of the module to include workshop activities which will introduce students to using Moodle. Pre- and post- workshop activities will familiarize students with using features of Moodle. These activities will range from simple exercises to encourage discussion, to more sophisticated discussions between students which will form the basis of classroom presentations. The advocate will be involved in  developing workshop activities, teaching students across the cohort, supporting staff and overseeing students’ online involvement in the VLE.

The monthly workshops will be themed. Possible themes are the uses of discussion fora to involve students in pre-seminar preparation; using digital textual resources to develop students’ analytic reading; and developing content-rich resources. The workshops will involve staff from across the university as well as colleagues from within the School of English. Staff will be invited to demonstrate the resources that they have created or employed, and to report on the problems they have encountered and overcome.

Interviews with staff and students will be conducted throughout the year; semi-structured interviews are a recognized means of assessing the impact and development of new methods in a range of fields. The advocate will organize and lead the interviews and provide feedback to the participants in the first instance and a written report to the Subject centre at the end of the year. The earliest interviews will focus on student and staff expectations of online learning and seek to identify expectations that can be met through the VLE. It is expected that the interviews will guide the development of the project.

Outcomes

My original goals were both general and specific. As I outline above, generally those goals were achieved. Almost all subject colleagues now support their teaching online with some colleagues developing new areas of online activities and collaboration for their teaching. As an e-advocate I am established within the university as a participant in strategy and planning. As mentioned, an entirely new teaching space has been created over the course of the year and links fostered between my own and similar departments within the university.

Project report

Project leader

Dr Stuart Robertson
Birmingham City University