E-learning advocates – Louise Marshall & Will Slocombe

Dramatic arts, E-Learning

University of Wales Aberystwyth

Dr Louise Marshall;Dr Will Slocombe

Project Summary

The advocates aim to:

  • Raise awareness of the potential for e-technologies to increase diversity of learning and teaching opportunities.
  • Facilitate the integration of blended learning at a departmental level.

Their primary activities will be:

  • Creating templates that integrate blended learning at modular and programme level.
  • Consulting teaching teams to develop appropriate learning objects.
  • Evaluating electronic resources that extend teaching opportunities and foster independent learning.

The main outcomes will be:

  • A departmental blended-learning strategy ensuring the acquisition and development of ICT skills, suitable for various types of module, and tied to level progression.
  • A suite of exemplar modules, assessment criteria, and learning objects that demonstrate the application of blended learning, appropriate for Faculty ratification.
  • A project blog, and a series of workshops and videoconferences to disseminate the activities and outcomes of the project to UWA staff, as well as other interested Welsh HEIs.

Background

This project responds to the UWA E-Learning Strategy 2005-2009, specifically Strategic Aims 1 and 2, which address issues of learning, teaching, and student choice. It also takes into account the recent 2007 QAA Subject Benchmarks, specifically §4.2 and §4.8, on the use of ICT in learning, teaching, and assessment. It will build upon an ongoing UWA Teaching Enhancement Fund intervention, which explores the potential for increased use of e-learning technologies within the Department. This project will extend the findings of the initial investigation to examine the role of blended learning by devising strategic and specific methods of integrating e-learning with current pedagogy. Focusing upon the Department’s ongoing curriculum revision, it will develop and implement pedagogic frameworks that will enhance and diversify student learning opportunities across all levels, provide transferable ICT skills through stepped progression, and link such skills to the acquisition of subject knowledge via problem-based learning.

Aims and Objectives

The main aim of this project will be to extend the scope of the advocates’ UWA Teaching Enhancement Fund project to ensure provision of blended-learning opportunities across the Department at all levels. The advocates will achieve this by:

  • Developing a departmental culture in which blended learning is recognised as a valuable tool to increase student choice and accessibility, generate diversity of learning opportunities, and introduce alternative modes of assessment. This will be achieved via consultation with teaching teams across the department and the implementation of a programme of subject-specific staff development activities.
  • Facilitating the integration of blended learning within departmental programmes. This will be achieved via consultation with teaching teams to develop module-specific templates and learning objects designed to enable students to apply subject-specific and ICT skills, and link knowledge across the core modules.
  • Evaluating and raising staff awareness of digitised resources of specific interest and use to the Department’s current and future programmes, specifically with a view to increasing the range of appropriate teaching materials and developing resources to facilitate student-led research.
  • Extending this culture by advocating the use of e-learning to other Welsh HEIs (Bangor, Swansea, Lampeter, Cardiff) through pre-established University of Wales research networks. This will be achieved via videoconferencing, a project blog, and, where appropriate, a workshop session for interested HEIs.

The primary objective of this project is for the Department to have models in place that enable the integration of blended learning into delivery and assessment at all levels. These will be designed to ensure constructive alignment between curriculum delivery, learning outcomes, and modes of assessment. Such models would include module-specific learning objects, exemplar module and assessment outlines, modules ratified for the 2008-2009 academic session, assessment criteria, and a pedagogic strategy. The Department will also demonstrate successful completion of its current E-Learning Strategy and adopt a blended-learning strategy devised to incorporate the project’s goals, and referenced to UWA’s E-Learning, and Learning and Teaching Strategies. This will ensure that current and future programmes offer variety of delivery and assessment to suit individual learning styles, and foster and facilitate independent learning.

Methodology

The purpose of the project is to attain an overview of the potential application of e-learning technologies and then determine how best to fit this into level progression, whilst providing specific examples to enable individual staff members to devise their own blended-learning modules in the future. The advocates will first consult with departmental colleagues and UWA E-Learning Development Officers to produce a draft strategy document that explores the integration of blended learning into existing departmental practice. This strategy will relate to various modes of teaching and assessment suitable for application across all levels and areas of the curriculum. From these findings, a programme will be developed that will ensure stepped progression aligning teaching, learning, and assessment across a variety of technologies, such as wikis, blogs, PowerPoint, and MS Word. On the basis of this programme, module templates will be produced as models for ongoing and future revisions in order to facilitate the incorporation of blended-learning opportunities into teaching at all levels. This will ensure that blended-learning applications are integral to the teaching methods and content of the Department’s modules, and that appropriate e-learning activities will be blended effectively with traditional pedagogy. Throughout the project, the advocates will take into account effective deployment of resources, provide for various teaching and learning styles, identify relevant staff training issues, and address student perceptions by positioning e-learning as an integral, rather than extraneous, element of progress and learning.

Evaluation methods will be in place for both the project and its outputs:

  • The Department’s Director of Learning & Teaching will oversee the project and receive monthly reports.
  • Faculty ratification will be sought for the departmental blended-learning strategy.
  • The impact of the project will be evaluated through the monitoring of staff and student experiences of blended learning in specific modules. In addition to existing module review procedures, evaluations will focus on staff and students’ experiences of progression and development over time, and the acquisition of transferable skills.
  • The tracking of student progress and performance will inform subsequent revisions to both delivery and assessment of programmes, and the blended-learning strategy itself.

Integration

The work proposed addresses the aims outlined by UWA Learning and Teaching and E-Learning Strategies at institutional and departmental levels, as outlined in §2 of this application. The project builds upon institution-led initiatives, such as the forthcoming installation of a CMS and acquisition of a MySQL server, that the Department will incorporate into its strategic aims. The ESC support is particularly timely in that it will allow the advocates to broaden the project funded by UWA’s Teaching Enhancement Fund, that is in itself keyed into the restructuring of the Department’s curricula and programmes. The project will be managed by the advocates, reporting directly to the Department’s Learning and Teaching Committee, and advised by the ALTO (Aberystwyth Learning and Teaching Online) Steering Group and UWA E-learning Development Officers. Initiatives will also be discussed within the broader Welsh HEI community, utilising existing videoconference networks and a project blog.

Outcomes

In addition to reports to the ESC, this project will produce:

  • A strategy document that outlines student progression through integrated blended-learning activities. This will include proposals for learning outcomes, assessment criteria, and delivery methods appropriate to various types of modules (period, genre, theme, or theory-based) and across all Levels (1 to M), and will be drafted in consultation with Department L&T, UWA E-learning Development Officers, and other ESC E-learning Advocates.
  • A set of module templates that integrate blended-learning strategies and upon which colleagues can model future modules, and two specific modules to be proposed for Faculty ratification.
  • A portfolio of learning objects showcasing available digital resources and e-learning technologies, created to meet the specific needs of core teaching teams. These will demonstrate how to align curriculum, delivery, and learning outcomes within activities, and will act as catalysts for future teaching innovations generated by staff and supported by the advocates.
  • A series of staff development opportunities, seminars, workshops, and drop-in sessions relating both to the on-going project and to the specific needs of individual members of staff.
  • A project blog, and a series of workshops and videoconferences to disseminate the project across the Welsh HEI sector.

Expertise

Dr Marshall is interested in increasing the use of e-learning within eighteenth-century literary studies, particularly through the use of digitised resources (such as the JISC Digitisation Programme) to extend and enhance learning activities. She has practical experience of working with VLEs and developing blended-learning opportunities at undergraduate level, and works closely with the UWA’s E-Learning Development Officer on a number of projects. Dr Slocombe is interested in the use of blended-learning to develop modules and learning objects in relation to twentieth-century literature, hypertext fiction, and new media texts. He is currently planning a project on the design of a digital learning game forNeuromancer suitable for English students, and is a member of the ALTO Steering Group. Both have recently been awarded funding from the UWA Teaching Enhancement Fund for a project examining the value of blended learning within the context of teaching English literature.