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JISC announces a further £11.5 million funding for e-learning at its annual conference

Christina Smart
Last modified 22 Mar, 2006
Published 22 Mar, 2006
A report from the JISC conference held on the 14th March 2006. From the e-Learning Programme there were sessions on the e-Framework for Education and Research, Transforming the Student Learning Experience, demonstrations of Petal and Open Mentor tools and the launch of the Designing Spaces for Effective Learning guide.

Once a year JISC programmes and projects gather at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham to showcase their work to senior managers from colleges and universities across the UK (JISC press release). The theme of this year’s conference was supporting Education and Research and the work of the e-Learning Programme was well represented.

Sir Ron Cooke, Chairman of JISC opened the event by announcing detailed plans of the £80 million Capital Spending Programme. The funding will be spent on six areas, the network, repositories, digitisation, e-infrastructure, user environments with £11.5 million going to e-learning.

Liz Beaty HEFCEs Director of Teaching and Learning gave the opening keynote about the HEFCE 10 year e-Learning Strategy and the important role that JISC will play in linking HEFCE policy with practice, the ultimate goal of this work will be to ‘Embed learning technology inside the experience of every student and teacher’.

The Petal and OpenMentor projects gave demonstrations of the open source tools they’ve developed with funding from the Distributed e-Learning strand of the programme. Petal (aka MyWorld) was developed at Oxford Brookes in association with a consortium of colleges and is a tool for students to manage their e-portfolios. George Roberts demonstrated the tool and discussed some of the results of user evaluations which had been carried out with students at various colleges and universities. OpenMentor has been designed to help tutors give rich and valuable feedback to students on their assignments. The tool was developed by a team at the Open University and Robert Gordon University. The system extracts Track Changes comments from Word and collates them into categories such as positive, attempted, ask questions, negative. Tutors are then able to analyse how well their comments match the marks they give students, and helps tutors to give more positive feedback to students.

In a session dedicated to the e-Framework for Education and Research, Jon Mason the e-Framework editor outlined current developments. On the international front, New Zealand’s Department for Education and SURF in the Netherlands are now interested in joining JISC and DEST in the e-Framework partnership. Jon outlined the guiding principles for the Framework and emphasised that this was a long term approach, adding: ‘the e-framework has legs for the long haul’. Recent work has focused on technical vocabulary, and a new web site which will be available in the early summer.

John Paschoud from the London School of Economics followed this by considering, ‘what does the e-Framework mean for your institution?’ John gave a taste of the real world that institutions are working in. In a rapidly changing environment, institutions are running powerful ICT systems that are big and expensive to change, so it’s not surprising that they tend to focus on getting on with running their own systems. The e-Framework's service oriented approach could help institutions be able to plan and incrementally update their systems rather than updating systems in a mad few weeks at the beginning of September. Institutions would also be able to adapt their systems to their particular needs – but that would mean institutions analysing their own businesses in more detail. He concluded by stressing the importance of getting MIS system vendors involved in the e-Framework initiative.

The e-Learning and Innovation strand launched its latest publication Designing Spaces for Effective Learning which offers senior managers and estates managers examples of state of the art buildings that have been created at learning institutions in the UK, and discusses how different spaces lend themselves to different modes of teaching and learning. The report is based on the work of the JISC eSpaces study.

Another e-Learning Programme session picked up the transforming the student experience theme with examples from projects in the e-Learning and Pedagogy strand, the Scottish Transformation projects and the Distributed e-Learning funded projects with the HE Academy Subject Centres.

The day was brought to a close with a keynote from Clifford Lynch, Executive Director, Coalition for Networked Information, discussing how technology is changing scholarship. Clifford discussed the impact of ubiquitous computing and current and future teaching practise, for example – how will teachers respond to students using instant messenger and other disruptive technologies in the middle of a lesson? He concluded that in the face of these rapid changes in ICT institutions have two options, either to insist on their divine right to exist or to ask ‘how can we help to facilitate and manage these changes?’

A press release gives a report on the funding announcement and of the keynote presentations. All of the abstracts and some of the presentations are also available on the JISC conference web site.


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