E-Learning Strategy Development Framework Distance & E-Learning Committee University of Malta

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1 E-Learning Strategy Development Framework 2012 Distance & E-Learning Committee University of Malta November 2012

2 CONTENTS 1. INTRODUCTION BACKGROUND RATIONALE FOR E-LEARNING THE E-LEARNING STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK ICT INFRASTRUCTURE & PROVISION OF E-LEARNING TOOLS SUPPORTING STAFF WITH E-LEARNING SUPPORTING STUDENTS WITH E-LEARNING QUALITY ASSURANCE COURSE REGULATIONS CONDITIONS OF WORK INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT TOWARDS THE CREATION OF ONLINE COURSES This document has been authored by the Distance and E-Learning Committee. The content and organisation of this document were informed by a review of e-learning strategies, practices and provision at other universities. The Distance & E-Learning Committee would like to thank Prof. Josef Lauri, Dr Johann Briffa, Ms Jo-Anne Attard and Mr Mario Camilleri for their contribution. Distance & E-Learning Committee Dr Saviour Zammit Chairman Dr John C. Betts Dr Michelle Camilleri Dr Maria Cassar Mr James Cilia Ms Joanna Felice Ms Veronica Grech Dr Gorg Mallia Dr Chris D. Staff Mr Robert Sultana Prof. Alfred J. Vella

3 1. INTRODUCTION The E-Learning Strategy Development Framework 2012 aims to firmly embed e-learning as a key element of learning and teaching at the University of Malta (UoM). This framework takes into account recent developments in technology and educational approaches when using technology. The objectives presented in this document provide a framework for the progressive improvement of the e-learning experience of both students and staff at UoM. This draft e-learning strategy development framework is now available for university-wide consultation. 2. BACKGROUND There are many definitions of the term e-learning. For the purpose of this document, e-learning is defined as the use of web-based and networked technologies to enhance and/or support learning at university. E-learning may occur in these modes: Mode 1 - Web-enhanced study-units: in which e-learning supplements face-to-face teaching. The tutor will deliver all lecture sessions in a face-to-face mode and use technology to facilitate the management of the study-unit and resources for learner support. The tutor uses the VLE 1 to provide information and resources to students (e.g. study-unit description as published in the Course Finder, lecture notes, recordings, reading lists, additional web resources, past exam papers and model answers) and to perform basic administrative functions (e.g. announcements, s and assignment submission). Mode 2 - Blended or hybrid study-units: in which some parts of the study-unit are delivered in a face-to-face mode and other parts are delivered online. Technology is used to enrich the quality of student learning experience through interactive learning activities beyond those attainable through face-to-face classroom interactions. The tutor also extends the use of the VLE to support communication and collaboration activities (e.g. asynchronous and synchronous conferencing) for parts of the study-unit. Mode 3 - Online study-units: in which the study-unit is delivered entirely online. Technology is used to support learning and involves the use of interactive and collaborative learning activities for all teaching sessions. 1 The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) provides an online environment to support learning and teaching. The VLE includes tools for content delivery, communication, assessment and student management. The UoM VLE is based on the Moodle platform. E-Learning Strategy Development Framework

4 Over the past years, there has been significant progress in the use of the institutional VLE by academic staff and students. During the academic year 2011/12, almost 45% of academics and 89% of the students made use of the VLE. The University already offers online course programmes including: Master in Early Childhood Education and Care, Master of Science in Strategic Innovation and Future Creation, Master in Contemporary Diplomacy and Bachelor of Science (Honours) Health Science. This data is encouraging given that many academics have never experienced e-learning before, and their first encounter with the VLE was during workshops delivered by the E-Learning Unit. Within a relatively short period of time a significant number of academics started delivering their study-units in Mode 1. Supporting these academics to take their study-units to Mode 2 and Mode 3 delivery is one of the goals of this strategy development framework (see below). The other academics will be assisted in every manner to start delivering their study-units in Mode RATIONALE FOR E-LEARNING The drivers for embedding e-learning at University are: 1. Enhancing teaching & learning Technology has pervaded all aspects of our lives. Students engage with technology to communicate, play, work, learn etc. and therefore they have high expectations in terms of its use in their learning. Pedagogies employing e-learning play a leading role in optimising the educational experience of all students. E-learning enhances face-to-face teaching in a variety of ways. It provides 24 7 access to learning resources in various formats for both on- and off-campus students. It enables students to prepare more effectively for classroom activities and subsequently, to reflect on and learn from these activities. It engages students in collaborative learning by improving peer-to-peer communication. It provides students with timely feedback on their learning e.g. via formative computer-based assessment or by other computermediated methods. In addition to enhancing face-to-face teaching, e-learning will be important in increasing flexibility for students, extending learning opportunities outside the classroom and potentially permitting more flexible patterns of attendance. 2. Efficiency & Management - Over the past years the increase in student population has led to increased pressure on University resources. The University will continue in its drive to improve efficiency and management of administrative elements of learning, teaching and assessment. This is done through integration of the VLE with existing information systems including the Student Information Management System (SIMS), the Library 2 E-Learning Strategy Development Framework 2012

5 Information Management System (LIMS) and the Administrative Information Management System (AIMS). 3. Competitiveness In recent years the higher education sector has become increasingly competitive. Prospective students compare and contrast between courses and services offered by different institutions. It is therefore crucial that the UoM continues to offer excellent teaching and research programmes exploiting the benefits of technology. The University must remain at the forefront of education provision, drawing on innovative teaching and learning, and utilising the best methods of programme delivery. The University shall support in particular, the conversion of some of its niche speciality courses from a traditional to an online mode so that a wider base of international students can follow these courses without having to come to Malta. Given the above drivers for embedding e-learning, the University e-learning strategy is expected to: support the delivery of a better learning experience to the students, our customers; embed e-learning institutionally; enhance support for academics in adopting e-learning in their study-units; exploit and enhance the existing e-learning expertise at the University; ensure optimal academic standards of study-units incorporating e-learning; ensure that e-learning components within programmes are congruently accounted for in the University s regulations and academic staff workload reports; achieve the above through cost-effective measures. This e-learning strategy development framework is guided by the following principles: The development of e-learning will be driven primarily by pedagogical factors, not by technical developments. E-learning will be used where this enhances the student learning experience. The deployment of e-learning, as with other learning and teaching methods, will necessarily and appropriately vary across subject/discipline boundaries. E-Learning Strategy Development Framework

6 4. THE E-LEARNING STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK The success of the University e-learning strategy depends on the following pre-requisites: Provision of e-learning requires an ICT infrastructure that supports the use of e-learning tools and resources by academic staff and students. Academic staff need to be empowered to make effective use of e-learning tools and digital resources. Students need to have the appropriate information literacy and learning skills to engage with e-learning tools and digital resources. Quality assurance mechanisms must be developed and/or enhanced to deal with the distinctive features of course programmes that will incorporate e-learning. Course regulations must be reviewed and possibly revised to take into consideration the e-learning mode of delivering courses. The uptake and sustainability of e-learning at University is largely dependent on the institutional support and recognition of efforts of academic staff adopting e-learning. Significant effort made by academic staff to improve the product they deliver to students. The above pre-requisites will be discussed in more detail in the underlying sub-sections. Each sub-section is followed by objectives and actions needed to implement these objectives. It should be noted that some objectives are already being implemented. 4.1 ICT Infrastructure & Provision of E-Learning Tools A modern ICT infrastructure, along with the provision of e-learning tools and resources, forms the foundation of e-learning at UoM. a. ICT infrastructure and computing facilities backed up by technical support E-learning requires a modern and effective ICT infrastructure that provides a reliable high-speed access to the campus network and to the Internet, including access from offcampus. The network infrastructure should be capable of supporting audio, video and collaborative learning environments. Staff require access to computers and to the digital tools that will make e-learning possible. Consideration should be given to the provision of support services for staff making use of equipment for the production and/or adaptation of multimedia resources, streaming audio and video, and other such technologies. It is important to ensure that all students will be able to benefit from e-learning. Although the majority of students own a computer/laptop with Internet connection 4 E-Learning Strategy Development Framework 2012

7 capabilities, the University will continue to ensure that adequate computing facilities are available on campus for those students who do not own a computer. For those students who use their own portable computers at UoM, there should be adequate provision of wireless access. All lecture rooms should be equipped with appropriate projection equipment. Wireless access should be extended to cover all University campuses. Objective 1: Actions: To maintain an effective ICT infrastructure that supports e-learning IT Services will continue evaluating the capacity of the existing ICT infrastructure needed to support e-learning at UoM; monitoring the use of open access workstations and invest in such facilities as appropriate; with its programme of deploying the wireless network at the various University campuses. b. Institutional VLE, videoconferencing & peripheral technologies In February 2008, Senate approved the adoption of an institutional VLE based on the Moodle platform. Over the years, the VLE has been tightly integrated with existing information systems including SIMS and AIMS. The plagiarism detection software (Turnitin) was also integrated with the VLE. These integrations produce a Managed Learning Environment (MLE) 2. The integration of the VLE as part of the MLE provides users with a single point of access to timely and up-to-date online information regarding their educational progress, learning materials, library resources, etc. The use of the videoconferencing technology at the University has increased in recent years. The University offers room- and desktop-based videoconferencing. Through videoconferencing technology, students based at the Gozo Campus have been able to follow lectures (for some evening courses) delivered at the main campus. Guest lecturers based away from Malta have been able to deliver lectures through videoconferencing. Many academics use the videoconferencing facilities for their research and projects. The University shall (a) continue setting up more videoconferencing facilities at different campuses and (b) support the use of desktopbased videoconferencing for webinars. 2 A Managed Learning Environment (MLE) links corporate systems such as the VLE, the student records system, library management system and other administrative systems so that data is integrated and shared across all systems. This allows for data to be entered in only one place and for it then to be cascaded into appropriate systems. E-Learning Strategy Development Framework

8 Many academics use the standard personal computing facilities to prepare lecture notes and learning resources. Peripheral technologies are used to prepare multimedia educational resources that can be hosted on the VLE. For example, some academics use software to record and edit audio that can be synchronised with lecture slides. Screen capture software on a laptop is used (a) to record audio and video, or (b) cursor movement, typing, or other on-screen activity (a screencast 3 ). Pocket video cameras are used to record interviews, activities during field trips, lab procedures etc. The University shall support academics with the use of these peripheral technologies to prepare digital learning resources. Many universities have adopted lecture capture systems that automatically record classroom based activities including the tutor s audio and video, as well as any visual aids. The digital recording or lecturecast 4 can be edited and linked to the study-unit in the VLE. The University will be evaluating the adoption of room-based lecture capture systems. In recent years, universities have embarked on projects to implement electronic portfolio 5 software. Students and staff use e-portfolios to demonstrate their learning, skills and development and record their achievements over time to a selected audience. E-portfolios have the potential to provide a central, linking role between the Universityled VLE and the students social online spaces. The University will be evaluating the adoption of e-portfolio software. Objective 2: Actions: To support technically the institutional VLE, videoconferencing and peripheral technologies IT Services will: continue monitoring technical developments of the VLE and peripheral technologies; increase the videoconferencing facilities at the different University campuses; support desktop videoconferencing software for webinars; support the use of peripheral technologies for the production of multimedia learning resources; set up and support the use of room-based lecture capture systems; support an institutional e-portfolio software. 3 A screencast is a digital video recording that captures actions taking place on a computer desktop. Screencasts, which often contain voice-over narration, are useful for demonstrating how to use computer programs, or features of a website. 4 A lecturecast is an automated system for recording lectures and subsequently making them available via the web. 5 An e-portfolio is a digital collection of student work, often referred to as artefacts (such as documents, images, blogs, resumés, multimedia, hyperlinks and contact information), displayed for specific audiences and specific purposes. Electronic portfolios enable students to collect, reflect on, and display their work in multiple ways, typically for the purpose of assessment. 6 E-Learning Strategy Development Framework 2012

9 c. Provision of digital resources The implementation of e-learning requires access to digital services and resources provided by the Library. The Library will continue supporting and extending the provision of digital learning resources (e.g. e-journals, e-books and digital archives) accessible on- and off-campus by both staff and students. Adequate funding should be available on an annual basis for the Library to sustain and improve its digital resources. Apart from providing on-line instruction (virtual orientation tours, e-library and RefWorks) about the use of print and on-line resources, the Library will also focus on enhancing information literacies of students and staff. The Library, in collaboration with the Legal Office, shall provide copyright guidance to staff and students related to e- learning. Learning objects 6 are becoming increasingly important in e-learning. The University will be implementing an institutional repository to store digital learning objects, research papers, seminar proceedings etc. produced by staff and students. The University will explore possibilities of collaborative arrangements with other institutions to share digital repositories. The Library will provide a webpage especially designed for distance learners to provide information on the use of services, such as borrowing print items and e-books, renewals, reservations, inter-library loans and overseas photocopying. Objective 3: Actions: To provide digital resources and services via the Library The Library will continue supporting and extending the provision of digital learning resources e.g. e-journals, e-books; will support academics with the preparation of digitised reading packs; in collaboration with IT Services, will implement an institutional digital repository where academics can share learning resources. 4.2 Supporting Staff with E-Learning Adequate support systems must be provided so that staff will develop the pedagogical and technical competencies needed for e-learning. The E-Learning Unit, in collaboration with E-Learning Coordinators (see below), shall assist academics to develop the pedagogical and technical competencies needed for e-learning. DEC will maintain its overall advisory role and provide guidance to the E-Learning Unit. 6 A learning object is a self-contained unit of learning material (e.g. text, graphic, audio, video or interactive file) with an associated learning objective. E-Learning Strategy Development Framework

10 Academics will be assisted in developing the necessary skills for them to be able to produce the digital learning resources and manage their study-units on the VLE. This approach enables academics to retain full control of their teaching even when this involves e-learning. Each faculty, institute, centre and school (referred to as faculty ) shall identify an academic who has a special interest in learning technologies to be appointed as an E-Learning Coordinator. The E- Learning Coordinators shall: assist the E-Learning Unit in implementing the University e-learning strategy; assist the faculty with all e-learning initiatives; advise colleagues on e-learning pedagogies that are specific to the discipline/subject area; liaise with the E-Learning Unit to organise bespoke training for faculty staff; assist the faculty, the Programme Validation Committee (PVC) and the E-Learning Unit with the development, validation and implementation of courses that make use of e- learning; provide assistance to faculty staff preparing funding bids for e-learning initiatives and support for developing successful bids; participate actively in the forum of e-learning coordinators; assist the E-Learning Unit with the dissemination of exemplary and innovative e-learning practices at University. E-learning practices and innovations shall be disseminated through presentations, workshops, newsletters, publication of scholarly articles etc; maintain their own professional development in keeping abreast of and informing their faculty about e-learning developments and research. The E-Learning Unit in collaboration with the E-Learning Coordinators shall support academics as indicated below. a. Organisation of professional development courses As indicated in an earlier section, a significant number of academics are delivering their study-units in Mode 1 e-learning. The E-Learning Unit shall continue offering training courses for those academics who have never used the VLE so that in the near future all study-units will have an online presence on the VLE i.e. as a minimum all study-units will be in Mode 1 Webenhanced study-units. The current portfolio of e-learning training will be extended to include courses that will help academics to take their study-units to Mode 2 and Mode 3 e-learning. The E- Learning Unit, in collaboration with E-Learning Coordinators, will offer a course in learning technologies that will be delivered in a blended mode. This course will focus on the pedagogical aspects of e-learning and provide academics with opportunities to 8 E-Learning Strategy Development Framework 2012

11 engage themselves with different learning technologies. This blended course will provide academics with an experience of Mode 2 e-learning. b. Assistance with the development of online course material The E-Learning Unit, in collaboration with E-Learning Coordinators, will assist academics with the adaptation and development of course material for use in an online environment. One-to-one consultation sessions will assist the lecturer with the choice and implementation of the appropriate pedagogical strategies and instructional resources for e-learning. c. Resolving support queries The E-Learning Unit Helpdesk will continue assisting academics with the day-to-day queries related to the use of learning technologies. d. Evaluation and dissemination of best practices and innovations in e-learning The E-Learning Unit, in collaboration with E-Learning Coordinators, will evaluate existing and innovative e-learning practices/tools and assess their impact on e-learning at the University. Good practices and innovations in e-learning will be disseminated. This will be done through presentations, workshops, newsletters, publication of scholarly articles etc. For practitioners who specialise in e-learning, regular opportunities shall be provided for them to discuss their work in detail and to develop plans for new initiatives. Objective 4: Actions: To support and encourage academics to engage with e-learning by identifying potential uses of learning technologies including effective use of the VLE, use/creation of e-resources, appropriate learning design in a subject area, exemplars of best practice The E-Learning Unit shall work closely with faculties, institutes, centres and schools to facilitate e-learning through the E-Learning Coordinators. The E-Learning Unit, in collaboration with E-Learning Coordinators will: offer technical and pedagogical support; extend the portfolio of workshops on the use of learning technologies. A blended learning course focussed on pedagogy and learning technologies will be organised; make available online self-instructional videos and guides on how to use learning technologies; continue offering one-on-one consultations; disseminate good practices in e-learning through its website, events & seminars; work closely with the Programme Validation Committee. E-Learning Strategy Development Framework

12 4.3 Supporting Students with E-Learning Adequate support systems must be provided to ensure that students gain the relevant skills required to engage fully with the e-learning material. Students who are competent in ICT and capable of independent learning are likely to benefit most from e-learning. Some students, particularly mature students returning to formal education, may not have the appropriate ICT skills to engage successfully with a VLE. Also, students arriving at university may lack the skills needed for independent learning. The E-Learning Unit will support students as follows: a. Resolving support queries The E-Learning Unit Helpdesk will continue assisting students with the day-to-day queries related to the use learning technologies. b. Orientation sessions for students The E-Learning Unit will continue offering orientation sessions at the beginning of each semester for students. These sessions include hands-on training on the use of the VLE and the plagiarism detection software. The E-Learning Unit runs additional sessions for student groups when requested by faculties, institutes, centres and school. Objective 5: Actions: To support students with e-learning The E-Learning Unit will continue: to give support through the E-Learning Unit Helpdesk; to offer orientation workshops and other bespoke training for students as requested by faculties, institutes, centres and school. 4.4 Quality Assurance Quality assurance procedures must be developed and/or enhanced to deal with the distinctive features of course programmes that incorporate e-learning. These procedures should be integrated with academic regulations to ensure that a study-unit or course programme delivered wholly, or in part, by e-learning, is of the same standard as its traditionally delivered counterpart. Quality assurance procedures should ensure that the nature and quality of online learning materials are appropriate to the needs of the learners and that online methods of communication, support and other aspects of the course have successfully fulfilled their roles for the learners. 10 E-Learning Strategy Development Framework 2012

13 Objective 6: To assure the quality of teaching, learning and assessment delivered by e- learning Actions: The PVC will ensure that the quality of the content, delivery and assessment procedures of study-units involving e-learning are up to the same standards as those for courses delivered in face-to-face mode; ensure that programme validation, implementation and evaluation processes accommodate e-learning; collect and analyse student feedback regarding their e-learning experiences. 4.5 Course Regulations The University needs to review its course regulations so that they take into consideration the e- learning mode of delivering courses and student assessment. This would include, for example, extending the definition of ECTS credit to take into consideration courses where students do not attend classes, review of assessment procedures and students' requests for revision of papers, etc. Objective 7: Action: To review UoM course regulations and align them with the introduction of e-learning course components and programmes DEC will propose amendments to course regulations to Senate for its consideration. Such amendments will seek to address the characteristics and challenges inherent in e-learning teaching and learning modes and strategies. 4.6 Conditions of Work The conditions of academic staff at the University hinge very strongly on the concept of contact hours and availability for consultation with students. With e-learning programmes, especially those given wholly in this mode, the definition of what constitutes contact and consultation hours changes. Such courses might not involve face-to-face contact with students, and availability could mean that the lecturer is answering student questions and discussing the course at any odd hour without being present on campus. These issues have to be taken into consideration when calculating an academic's teaching load. Objective 8: Action: To review the manner in which academic staff s teaching load is calculated for e-learning courses DEC will propose to the University a range of strategies which other universities have adopted in order to tackle this issue. In consultation with academic staff representatives, the UoM will determine the value of e- learning activities in academic staff s Academic Effort. E-Learning Strategy Development Framework

14 4.7 Institutional Support towards the Creation of Online Courses Other universities describing themselves as traditional research-based institutions are beginning to give greater weight to the teaching efforts of their academic staff especially to those efforts aimed at innovative ways of delivering courses. This was given importance not only in the career progression of staff but also in the establishment of teaching grants alongside research grants. Objective 9: Action: To enhance the institutional support for innovative ways of delivering courses DEC will present to the University a range of strategies which other universities have adopted in order to support academics who want to transfer existing courses into e-learning mode or to create new ones. 12 E-Learning Strategy Development Framework 2012

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