Designing an elearning space to teach about elearning - how hard can it be?

Bradshaw, Pete and Vanhegan, Stevie (2009). Designing an elearning space to teach about elearning - how hard can it be? In: NTU Learning and Teaching Conference, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, April 2009, 2 Apr 2009, Nottingham Trent University, UK.



This paper supports a session given at the annual learning and teaching conference at Nottingham Trent University in April 2009.

It considers the implementation of a Masters-level 30 credit module: PDEP43129 E-learning and teaching in Higher Education.

Our focus here is on the design of a virtual learning space for the module. Our design is informed by the literature and reflection on our own practice. It was implemented under the auspices of the University’s VLE policy and strategy. Both the module and the learning environment in which it was implemented were new in September 2008. This posed some interesting challenges which will be explored in the paper.

The module was developed in response to a perceived need for colleagues to experience, study and reflect on e-learning. Development work was supported by a CASQ secondment. We have now had one complete run through of the module (September 2008 to January 2009) and have started on the second. Together, we developed the module and are the only tutors teaching on it at this time. Much of the development work was undertaken during the academic year 2007-08, but the learning space was set up in September 2008. A unique feature of this module is that, apart from an introductory face to face session, it takes place entirely online.

In this paper we discuss what we wanted to do (content and tools), how we wanted to do it (including layout and tools), the constraints that the new VLE imposed and the opportunities that it offered. We want to reflect on what people have said about the module in their evaluations and also in their formative comments in the orientation unit. We can also draw from many rich sources of primary data, both quantitative and qualitative, much of which derive from the VLE and its associated tools eg document access statistics, copies of Chat sessions, records of Discussions, and Blogs. In addition, of course, we have our own experiences and personal blogs to draw from.

The guiding principle behind the learning and teaching strategy is one of construction of knowledge through discussion. The module uses the discussion forum tool in particular along with other collaborative technologies – both synchronous and asynchronous. The ethical considerations in presenting such a paper will require us to anonymised content or seek permission from participants.

At the time of writing, it is still too early to draw firm conclusions though we can state now that it has been time-consuming, exciting, challenging and frustrating. We have learned a great deal from implementing the module for its first run at the same time as the launch of NOW and this paper will, we hope, inform colleagues on the generalisable aspects of the use of the learning space.

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