Learning and Teaching Unit
Editorial: Revisiting the Theme of Information Technology
Three years ago we covered the topic of Information Technology (IT) for the first time, with articles on planning and developing online course materials, introducing IT to students, and the use of the new lecture theatre technology and the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL).
I’m going to use this editorial to look at how things have developed since that previous edition on IT. In an article on WebCT use at MMU, I said :
“The challenge for us now is to integrate online learning as a mainstream learning and teaching activity, to be considered, costed and taken for granted in the same way as we treat lectures or laboratory classes. Watch this space!”(Forsyth 2002)
We haven’t reached the level of integration or infrastructure which equates online learning with lectures (in terms of institutional acceptance), but there has been a big increase in the use of WebCT. In the 2002 article, I predicted that there would be around 750 WebCT areas by September 2005. This is not far off - we have around 800 active courses at the moment, but we expect this to continue to increase rapidly. My prediction of around 400 staff using WebCT was a little awry, as we have 612 people registered as course developers. I’m not convinced that all of these people are actively using WebCT – we are in the middle of auditing our records - but they must have at least dabbled for us to have got them into the database.
I mentioned in the article that from September 2002 we would have all students on the WebCT system, and that we would be linked in to the main campus network as far as using the same IDs and passwords for eLearning were concerned. These were big developments for us at the time but they now seem commonplace (and indispensable). We now have all staff on the WebCT system as well, which has facilitated developments such as the Human Resources learning materials on Diversity which are now available to all members of staff and all students via WebCT. (Digression: If you haven’t yet looked at these, then don’t be put off by that word ‘mandatory’ – they are very well produced and I suspect that everyone will find at least one thing in the materials which makes them pause for thought and challenge an assumption or two).
In that previous issue, Jerry Niman, Head of the Information Systems Unit, introduced us to the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL ) which was about to be piloted. Since the summer of 2002, 461 people have passed at least one test of the seven, and 273 have passed all seven tests thereby being awarded the ECDL Certificate. The scheme now takes on groups of about twenty participants each month. Visit the ECDL website for more information.
The current issue
As you probably know, the Learning and Teaching Unit is fortunate to have frequent visitors from overseas. Kim McShane, Lecturer in the Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Sydney , recently gave a seminar on her current research into teacher identity in an online world. She has expanded this into a paper for LTiA in which she explores how different teaching ‘personalities’ respond to online teaching.
Members of staff from the Faculty of Humanities, Law & Social Science present their experiences of using e-learning. Margaret Kendall and Alicia Prowse have made a case study of their ‘blended learning’ and explained how they finetuned the balance of face to face and online sessions to suit their group. Helen Jones provides feedback from students who have experienced three years using e-learning and talks about how it will affect her future practice.
Moving slightly away from elearning, Liz Marr and Guy Lancaster describe the implementation of an online system for logging attendance at face to face sessions. This scheme is a part of the Faculty of Humanities, Law and Social Science approach to increasing retention rates.
We have a trio of articles on the JISC Plagiarism Detection Service, first encountered in LTiA Volume 2, issue 1. Wm Johnston gives an overview of recent changes to the service. Maria Wowk reports on her use of the service in Humanities, Law and Social Science, and Ian Martin and Mark Stubbs explain how they have used it in the Business School . The overall message is that it can be a useful tool within the context of a broad strategy to deter plagiarism. It’s worth noting that there are now over one hundred MMU staff registered to use the service.
The last article in the issue is placed in that position not so that it is hidden, but because it isn’t actually on an IT subject. However, we wanted to publish it sooner rather than later, as the ideas within it will be of broad interest across many subject areas, covering as it does the development of critical thinking skills: Tom Bell on the PlaySMART research project “Promoting thinking through physical education”.
The next issue of LTiA will be guest-edited by Rob Halsall, head of Widening Participation, and the spring 2006 issue is on Independent Learning. Please contact me at email@example.com if you would like to contribute.
If you haven’t been there for a while, the Learning and Teaching Unit website has been spruced up and we now have our own weblog, the LTU Update, which contains links to articles on current issues in learning and teaching. You can comment on the posts and send us interesting information for inclusion. The site is updated several times a week, so there should be something new whenever you visit.
Forsyth, R. (2002). “WebCT at Manchester Metropolitan University : progress and possibilities.” Learning and Teaching in Action 1 (2).
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