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The e-Learning Programme gains momentum

Christina Smart & Sarah Holyfield
Last modified 26 May, 2005
Published 18 Apr, 2005
A report from the "Building on success and shaping the future" - JISC e-Learning Programme meeting for the Frameworks and Tools and Distributed e-Learning Strands held in Birmingham on the 5th and 6th April.

All the technical projects funded by the e-Learning Programme met in Birmingham recently to share experiences. The meeting was held over two days and involved some 130 people including teams from the ELF Toolkit projects and Distributed e-Learning Tools for Teachers projects that are coming to an end as well as teams from the new Demonstrator projects, the second phase Toolkit projects, the ELF Reference Model projects and the Distributed e-Learning regional pilot projects that are just beginning. So the meeting provided an opportunity to showcase tools and toolkits that had been developed and pass on experience to the new project teams.

Day 1

The day began with an introduction to the Programme as a whole and its four constituent strands - e-Learning Pedagogy, Frameworks and Tools, Innovations in e-Learning and Distributed e-Learning. Paul Bailey, the Programme Director, introducing the event, made it clear how much the Programme has grown, there are over 120 projects at the moment, with over 60 represented at the meeting, and an annual spend of around £12 million. The Programme has involved a "process of consultation, strategic networking, and review and analysis around a range of short studies, pilots and larger projects" and he explored how projects live in a "changing and complex environment", yet there is a need to identify and focus on key strategic areas. The idea of taking a themed approach has become important, particularly in areas of current interest such as Assessment, Personal Development Planning, Content, and Learning Design, and Collaboration and Discussion. Another approach involves looking at the context in which developments happen such as within an institution, or between institutions, and of increasing importance, outside institutions altogether or "personalised learning".

Paul's presentation was followed by one on each of the strands, and it became clear how interrelated these were becoming and how they were beginning to benefit from each other's work. The Distributed e-learning strand is beginning to link up work that is taking place in the Frameworks and Tools and Pedagogy strands, and is demonstrating how the tools being produced can interoperate and be used in the context of teaching and learning. The rapid development model of project funding is enabling projects to respond to strategic needs and new technological developments, and the Framework for e-Learning (ELF) is moving beyond the boundaries of e-learning to research and administration. It is also becoming part of an international collaboration. The slides for these presentations may be found on the JISC website

The rest of the day consisted of three parallel sessions, including demonstrations of e-Learning tools and Toolkits which took place based on several themes, e-Portfolio and PDP, Assessment, Personalised Learning, Content and Sequencing and Collaborative and Group, and another session which gathered Regional pilot projects and Reference Model projects into clusters. The presentations from all of these may be found on the JISC event page, which has links to the projects themselves.

Day 2

There were two parallel sessions on the second day – one on the DeL regional pilot projects and one for the Demonstrators, Toolkits and Reference model projects. A report from the latter follows.

The Demonstrators, Toolkits and Reference models session focussed on the new Demonstrator projects which plan to take the first phase toolkits and use them in anger in institutions to address real problems that they face. The five minute talks gave a great feel for the wide range of problems that the first Toolkits could be used for. Key questions are being addressed in the areas of assessment, enterprise, learning design, resource discovery and sequencing. All the talks are available on the JISC web site, below is a summary of the new Demonstrator projects.

  • Phil Barker - Heriot-Watt University – Finding resources through a VLE using the D+ and MDC toolkits (Resource Discovery)
  • Sean Mehan - UHI Millenium Institute –Extend Bodington to web service capability using SWEET.net (Enterprise)
  • Jon Rowett - Brokenhurst College – Using SWEET.net to transfer student data between Totton College, Farnborough College of Technology, FD Learning and Capita (Enterprise)
  • Martin Weller - Open University and OUNL – SLED2 a phase 2 toolkit project which will upgrade Coppercore to include QTI (assessment) calls into learning design packages (Assessment and Learning Design)
  • Open University and OUNL - Learning Design using SLED – a demonstrator which will use and extend the SLED wizard and test the toolkit using some of the UNFOLD courses. (Learning Design)
  • Robert Sherratt - Hull University, Cambridge University, ICODEON, Newark and Sherwood – Using ISIS sequencing tool to explore guiding students through paths of resources adaptively to allow self-paced learning. (Sequencing)
  • Kingston University – Using the APIS, SLED and ISIS toolkits (Assessment, Learning Design and Sequencing)
  • Mark Stiles - Staffordshire University – Generating reading lists using D+ through the COSE learning environment (Resource Discovery).
  • Mark Barrett-Baxendale - Liverpool Hope University College –Evaluating SLED for learning designs with lecturers (Learning Design).

There was also a presentation from the Software Evaluator team on the process of evaluating software developed with JISC funding. The take-home message was that it is essential for projects to document and include comments in the code they produce, to ensure their software can be used in the future.

Bill Olivier asked "What is a Reference Model?" and discussed what they are for. Briefly a Reference Model brings together a set of ELF services to solve a particular problem and it adopts a particular specification or standard. He presented a possible format for a reference model and showed an example of a reference model created by Andy Powell on the JISC Information Environment for the Digital Library Federation.

After lunch everyone came back together for a final plenary session. There was an overview for the programme support sites from Sam Easterby-Smith which highlighted the support sites for the programme, the e-Learning Framework site , the e-Learning Developers Forum site , the Test Server and the e-Learning Focus site.

Richard McKenna emphasised the need for quality planning to be included in project plans for the beginning. Finally, Mark Stiles discussed why evaluation (particularly formative) should be an integral part of all projects and highlighted some different approaches that can be used.

It was a busy meeting with lots of projects connecting with related projects and sharing ideas and experiences. The first phase of toolkit and e-learning tool projects have been successful and there is a real sense now that the idea of a e-learning framework based on web services is gaining momentum.

The presentations from the meeting can be found at:

http://www.jisc.ac.uk/progmtgapril05.html

 

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