Innovative Practice with e-Learning

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John Stone, Principal, Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College.
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Foreword by John Stone

The JISC Learning and Teaching committee launched the e-Learning Programme in October 2003. This has four development strands which together are providing a major impetus for e-learning in UK post-16 and higher education. The programme includes the funding of projects to develop an improved technical framework, support the development of tools for e-learning, encourage regional and subject-based collaboration, and offer opportunities for experimentation with new technologies.

Dealing with pedagogical and technological issues, the e-Learning and Innovation strand of the programme explores ways in which institutions can enhance learning through the design of learning spaces and use of innovative technologies - in particular mobile and wireless technologies such as voting devices, multimedia personal digital assistants (PDAs), mobile phones and stronger wireless networks, and gaming and 'virtual world' simulation software. The aim of the strand is to offer guidance to institutions in making effective and appropriate choices in these areas.

Innovative Practice with e-Learning focuses on mobile and wireless technologies, still relatively new to many institutions but becoming the subject of keen interest in all parts of the sector. As the principal of a college which is now almost entirely wireless-enabled, I believe that mobile and wireless technologies have the potential to transform all aspects of the institution's functions, from learning and teaching to the business and administrative processes.

Imagine how interactions in a classroom change when both practitioners and learners have in their hands, and in their control, real-time and immediate access to information, learning materials and a range of administrative and support functions. Immediate challenges to traditional classroom practice become apparent. Learners increasingly expect to have as much control over technology as they have in their everyday lives, seeking information and communicating with others as rapidly and as freely as they can outside of class time. Practitioners may need to adjust their practice to facilitate this.

The examples of innovative practice contained in the case studies in this guide demonstrate how these changes are already taking place in institutions that have taken up the challenge. They show that institutions are recognising the value of personalised and flexible access to learning and that practitioners are becoming more effective managers of learning. At the same time, they illustrate how learners are becoming more enabled and motivated to learn through their use of mobile and wireless technologies.

The challenge for us now is to ensure that all practitioners understand how to harness the power of these innovative technologies, and can develop confidence in the new pedagogical approaches they will introduce. I hope this guide will inspire you to innovate, whether as a practitioner in the classroom, a learning technologist supporting others in innovative practice, or as a senior manager with responsibility for meeting the fast changing needs of the 21st century learner.

John Stone

Principal, Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College, and Chair of the JISC Learning and Teaching committee.