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January 26, 2011
» Curriculum Design through Technology Enhanced Learning

As indicated in the previous Learning Zone blog, January’s CELT seminar provided an opportunity for members of the TEL group (Trevor Price, Christine Davies, and Steve Woodward) to outline some of the work undertaken on the JISC Building Capacity project, and to highlight technologies that could be incorporated into the curriculum to enhance learning.

The JISC publication ‘Managing Curriculum Change’ makes it clear that curriculum delivery should aim to meet the challenges of ‘responding to changing learner needs, ensuring availability of high-quality learning resources and environments and delivering a more engaging and flexible learning experience’, and the JISC Building Capacity Project should help the University of Glamorgan to meet those challenges.

As indicated in the Introduction to the seminar, the project has several key objectives which are shown in the first figure. The importance of quality resources was the focus of a previous JISC blog, and a review of resources taken place within the project will result in easier staff access to a wide range of open educational resources (OER) and reusable learning objects, including the University of Glamorgan Digital Learning Objects catalogue.

Infrastructure and resources are also a key part of the project, and a survey of classroom technology revealed some really useful technologies as well as some weak points. Some of the characteristics of an effective classroom are indicated in the third figure. Lecturers are at the heart of the project: their usage of technology has a major bearing on the learner experience, and, as indicated by JISC research has a crucial role in guiding learners’ own use of educational technology.

As part of the project, academic staff who are already leaders in the use of technology are being encouraged to disseminate their good practice within their subject areas, and those have started to make progress are supporting each other and sharing their tools and tips. Informal one-to-one interviews are also taking place to identify barriers to engagement with technology, and to find out more about the lecturers’ teaching approaches and the ways in which technology could enhance them (for example, with simple tools to aid planning and collaboration).

There is a great wealth of technology available to support almost all aspects of teaching and learning, much of it free, though lecturers may not always be aware of this. However, the seminar audience had plenty of excellent ideas which were aired in the form of a ‘swap shop’.

Amongst technologies that received special mention were student feedback/voting systems (both using ‘clicker’ devices and websites such as Edmodo ), simulations to give learners a more interactive, realistic learning experience (for example, legal practice simulations from the JISC SIMPLE project ),virtual classroom/webinar tools such as Elluminate to communicate with distant learners; audio feedback using mp3 files; text-to-speech tools such as Orato to provide alternative formats for learners with auditory learning preferences. This last part of the session was not only enjoyable but provided a good source of ideas for the project, and some of the technologies discussed will be used to enhance course curricula within the University.

The full seminar presentation may be viewed here

January 12, 2011
» JISC Building Capacity Project: OER and Reusable Learning Objects

Our first meeting with Professor Tony Toole, ‘Critical Friend’ to the project, gave the JISC Building Capacity Programme team useful insights into reusable learning objects and the educational use of web 2.0 tools that Professor Toole has been developing. He demonstrated web 2.0 based online learning environments that had been created for undergraduate and postgraduate courses at Oxford University and Swansea Metropolitan University and outlined a number of JISC and EU funded projects that he was involved in that were focussed on technology enhanced curriculum design and delivery .

The discussion covered the current JISC Open Educational Resources programme and similar initiatives and Tony described his work on reusable learning objects that involved the packaging of content for import and export between learning environments such as Blackboard and Moodle. His work on web 2.0 based learning environments had identified a range of applications that provided the functionality needed to effectively support online learners. His demonstration of Google sites as a web hosting service showed how, together with applications such as Google docs, Slideshare, Picassa, and Google groups, it could be used as an adaptable and highly cost-effective collaborative online learning environment. An example of how he has been using such applications can be seen at http://sites.google.com/site/mscndt . This work was the subject of a CELT seminar delivered by Professor Toole at the University of Glamorgan on 8th December 2010.

His current work on reusable learning objects is as part of an EU funded project to develop web 2.0 training modules for academic staff that will be used in five different EU countries in the first instance. Reusability in this case includes consideration of language, culture and context in addition to curricular and technical considerations.