The University of Manchester elearning Strategy

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1 The University of Manchester elearning Strategy Definition 1. The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) defines elearning as 'learning facilitated and supported through the use of information and communications technology' 1. elearning may involve the use of a variety of technologies. Whatever the technology, however, learning is the primary and overarching element. elearning can cover a spectrum of activities from supporting learning, to blended learning (the combination of traditional and elearning practices), to learning that is delivered entirely online. This document is deliberately formatted to replicate the stands of the 'HEFCE Strategy for elearning' 2 published in 2005 and its 2009 update 3. Background 2. elearning 'has the potential to transform the way we teach and learn'. It opens new opportunities to 'raise standards, widen participation in life-long learning, [and] improve the learning experience' 4. elearning cannot, and should not, be viewed as a replacement or substitute for excellent teachers but, alongside existing methods, it can enhance the quality of the teaching and learning experience for students. The University elearning Strategy intends to set the direction for elearning at The University of Manchester over the next five years and to encourage staff and students to engage in elearning activities, where appropriate, by opening up, supporting, and publicising its possibilities. The strategy outlined below is based on the premise that 'elearning is fundamentally about learning and not about technology' 5. Therefore, this strategy proposes a course of action which is 'based on the needs and demands of learners and their quality of educational experience'. The enhancement of the quality of the teaching and learning experience is one of the key drivers for any virtual learning environment (VLE), but the VLE can also enhance the student experience through the improved delivery of teaching materials and course announcements, improved access to learning resources and better communication. The uptake and use of the VLE in Manchester is now widespread across most parts the University. However, the VLE upgrades that took place in 2009 (to Blackboard 8 vista) and 2011 (to Blackboard 9.1) have resulted in a deal of the institutional effort in this area being focused on technological implementation rather than embedding pedagogic principles into elearning activity. The application of the strategy outlined here will redress this. 3. The strategy described here was formulated through discussions with most Heads of Schools from all faculties of the University, many academic staff involved in the development and delivery of elearning activities, professional support staff from the TLSO and IT services, the faculty elearning managers and a number of students. Scope 4. This strategy assists in the delivery of the Goal 2 - Outstanding Learning aims of 'The University of Manchester Strategic Vision 2020' 6 by promoting elearning as a pedagogically driven initiative to enhance the learning experiences traditionally offered by Manchester. It outlines the future plans and directions of the University's flexible, electronically supported, learning opportunities for all students and staff. This strategy defines a University-wide vision for supporting and developing existing and future electronically-supported Teaching, Learning and Assessment opportunities. While this strategy's primary focus is on learning, it broadly relates to all aspects of the student experience. This strategy should be considered along with the University of Manchester IT Strategic Plan 7. Aims 5. The University of Manchester elearning strategy's aims are to: Enhance the quality of the learning experiences of students and staff Support staff in the delivery, development and administration of elearning Towards a unified e-learning strategy. Department for Education and Skills. Consultation document. July Effective Practice with e-learning. Joint Information Systems Committee

2 Guide and inform investment and deployment of elearning support services, support staff and infrastructure Pedagogy, curriculum design and development - elearning as part of learning 6. The University of Manchester is committed to continue to provide a high quality learning experience and, where appropriate, to enable this learning experience to benefit from electronic learning methods and technologies. The University recognises the potential benefits of elearning as a means to: Achieving a more student-centred and individualised approach to learning Helping students gain greater levels of control in the management of their own learning. 7. To facilitate the continued integration of elearning within the curriculum, the University will explore ways to promote and encourage innovation in elearning and facilitate the dissemination of good practice where these enhance current practice. With the increased integration of elearning into the curriculum, new learning approaches and pedagogy will emerge. Where possible, we will reward excellence to promote and encourage further innovation as well as its dissemination. 8. The University recognizes the opportunities that technology provides for assisting students' independent learning while working both on and away from the campus. Formal learning experiences such as industrial/professional placements, field courses and collaborative programmes can all benefit. In its most basic form this will involve communication technologies (including and video-conferencing), but in the longer term the University will work towards enhancing learning opportunities through electronic user directed and collaborative facilities. Where appropriate, elearning will be used to support distance and distributed learning pedagogies and where these more intense approaches are used the University commits to ensure, via unit/programme approval, that appropriate support mechanisms are available. 9. The University foresees the benefit of elearning to connect students and staff working between Manchester and other locations around the world. The University will continue to ensure that the hardware and software is available to facilitate access to and cross-campus delivery of learning resources, and learning and communication between all members of the University community, wherever they are located. 10. The University will continue to assess how its VLE can be adapted to improve the learning experiences of all students, including those with specific needs. The University will ensure that all staff and students have fair access to elearning technologies and materials, including special consideration for those with disabilities and issues arising for users where face-to-face teaching activity is not the norm. 11. The University commits to expanding the use of plagiarism detection and awareness software and to use the technology as a driver towards plagiarism enlightenment rather than discipline. Learning resources and environments 12. In an increasingly complex electronic environment, three principles will inform/underpin developments in elearning resources and networked learning. These are: Ease of use Integration Sustainability The University will work towards enabling students to discover and access electronic resources with minimum effort and delay, through the integration of internal systems and the adoption of technologies which facilitate external interactions. In establishing repositories suitable for dissemination of a variety of digital objects, the University will make every reasonable effort to ensure that copyright, intellectual property and licensing issues are fully observed, and that longterm storage and preservation is appropriate for the materials. The University will aim to make electronic learning opportunities available to students of all levels and on all units to enable them to develop the information skills that are a core component of the attributes of a Manchester graduate (see the Manchester Matrix 8 ); allow people to operate effectively in a knowledge economy; and enhance employability. Wherever possible, information literacy learning will be integrated with the student experience so that it is both meaningful and effective

3 13. The University will provide technical support for a single VLE only. Schools will be encouraged to adopt the VLE (currently Blackboard) as their primary source of elearning activity. However, the predominant factor governing the choice of elearning environment for a particular activity will be the quality of the learning experience for students. Switching between multiple VLEs can diminish the quality of the student experience, but pedagogy should play a role in the choice of activity-based platforms. The University commits to reviewing the VLE platform on a regular basis. However, staff and students should be cognisant of the disruption that switching between VLEs will cause. 14. Online assessment affords learners a number of advantages, including consistent, accurate results with opportunities to combine human and computer marking; immediate feedback; increased opportunities for learners to act on feedback; innovative approaches based around use of creative media and online peer and self-assessment; accurate, timely and accessible evidence on the effectiveness of curriculum design and delivery 9. Where appropriate, a combination of formative and summative online assessments should be incorporated into the design and delivery of each unit offered across the University. Over the course of the next five years, the University will move towards the submission and marking of all substantial written course material through the VLE. 15. The University commits to providing an appropriate technical infrastructure and physical estate for the deployment of, in particular, summative online assessments at scale. In addition, support will be provided to ensure quality issues in relation to test design and delivery. 16. The University recognises that an increasing number of staff and students access the VLE and teaching and learning materials using mobile devices, and that such use is unlikely to diminish. In particular, as Wifi coverage across the campus increases, the use of mobile technology for the delivery and use of teaching and learning will become greater. The University therefore commits to ensuring that, wherever practical, online resources are available in a form that is compatible to mobile devices. Moreover, the University commits to developing resources specifically to take advantage of the ease of use and functionally of mobile device in learning. Life-long learning processes and practices 17. The University recognises that student support can be significantly enhanced through information and communication technologies. Manchester will continue to develop simple and effective means to direct students to support systems (both online and face-to-face) and ensure that students with specific learning needs can have as many of these as possible addressed through assistive technologies. Manchester's goal is to ensure that student support is simple, accessible and coherent. 18. The University commits to enhancing provision for personal development plans, progression transcripts and Higher Education Achievement Reports. It is recognised that better data and system integration is a clear strategic aim to realise this goal. The University will explore the use of different technological solutions to enable student profiles to be automatically or simply populated with standard data related to progression and achievements and those which would allow collaborative development of profiles between student, school, Faculty, academic tutor and other groups. We recognise how such technologies can support students through University and beyond, into further study and the workplace. We foresee these technologies providing opportunities for maintaining and enhancing alumni relations with the University, School, course and peer/friendship groups. For their success, these developments need to focus on ensuring student engagement with the processes and acknowledge the wide range of collaborative personal tools already in use by students. 19. The University will develop systems to support access for all and ensure that, in particular, any potential conflicts to our commitment to support widening participation are addressed. The University commits to ensure that it is pro-active in addressing students' differing abilities to access technologies, either because of location, special needs or the cost of the technology needed to access the materials. 20. The University recognises the benefits of elearning in the delivery of continuing professional development (CPD) activities. CPD can represent significant income streams to Schools and also provide a mechanism by which alumni relations can be built and maintained. A number of significant barriers need to be overcome before the current VLE can be used to deliver high-quality CPD. These include: 9 3

4 The modification of the student record system to enable registration of students at non-traditional times to non-credit bearing courses The modification of the VLE to allow access to a wider cohort of potential users. Strategic management, human resources and capacity development 21. The University recognises the need to address skills, knowledge and competencies for elearning in training and continuing professional development for staff delivering or supporting learning and teaching staff. Manchester will ensure that appropriate staff resource is committed for the long term to support and develop elearning to meet the needs of both Institutional, Faculty and School strategies and initiatives. A key success factor to maximise the benefits of technology will be achieved by encouraging co-ordinated strategic management approaches to development of elearning including learning and teaching, human resources, IT, Library and estates strategies. To achieve this, elearning initiatives will continue to be incorporated within the strategic planning and quality enhancement processes of the University. 22. To build capacity in, and share best practice across, all areas of elearning the University will establish networks and communities of practice across the institution to develop, share and embed elearning. The University commits to providing high quality electronic learning resources. Through IT services, the Faculty elearning teams and the library it will continue to provide training and support to staff developing resources and to students to ensure that they are able to use the resources most effectively to support their learning. 23. The Faculty-based elearning teams have proved to be very successful in the technological implementation of VLE upgrades in recent years. Concern has been expressed from a number of quarters, however, that this focus has been to the detriment of providing teaching and learning support for the online environment. The support of elearning activities will continue to be provided by Faculty-based elearning teams. The relationship between the Faculty elearning teams and academics in Schools will be strengthened through: The embedding of individual members of the Faculty elearning teams within Schools for at least ½ day a week to provide drop-in support for elearning activities The assignment of an academic 'elearning champion' within each School to act as a formal liaison point for academics and elearning support Quality 24. The University is committed to providing high quality elearning opportunities and resources that are consistent with the quality of its provision delivered by other means. To achieve this, it will ensure that: Its processes for the approval, monitoring and support of provision continue to assure the rigour, quality and standards of material delivered in whole or in part by elearning, where necessary updating these processes to take account of new learning approaches and pedagogy that emerge as the integration of elearning into the curriculum increases; There are clear mechanisms to promote and disseminate good practice in the use of elearning to enhance the quality of the learning opportunities the University provides; The TLSO is kept fully informed of issues of quality assurance and enhancement relating to the use of elearning technologies. Research and evaluation 25. Manchester will strive to contribute to the sector's understanding and appreciation of the wider issues posed by elearning. We will build a national profile through both hosting events and conferences and participating in events and conferences elsewhere. Further, the University aims to encourage more subject-specific research into elearning and its pedagogy by promoting and rewarding excellence and innovation in elearning and facilitating its dissemination. Specifically, we will encourage, where appropriate, cross-school and -Faculty collaboration in the research, development and evaluation of elearning. 26. The University commits to evaluate and disseminate national and international good practices for elearning. With this regard we recognise the specific contributions of organisations such JISC as well as other educational institutions. Infrastructure and technical standards 27. Manchester will continue to monitor its provision of learning technologies to ensure that the University infrastructure is sufficient to support the increasing and more varied demands of students 4

5 and staff. The University will continue to explore the use of new technologies in its drive to enable students to engage in both classroom-based and location-independent learning. This will include facilitating the production of high-quality electronic learning and teaching resources including those created through the increased use of video and audio capture technologies. 28. Manchester aspires towards a seamless integration of existing information and learning systems so will seek ways to support coordinated University-wide strategic management of both data and systems and providers that impact the student learning experience. We will continue to develop a comprehensive and coherent approach towards electronic tools and resources that support learning and teaching. For student-focused systems, this will included the development of the Manchester Learning Environment (MLE) and for staff-focused systems the Manchester Working Environment (MWE). 29. The University will explore new opportunities to enhance the supporting infrastructure for independent and classroom-based learning to ensure that it is fit for purpose, specifically, in the area of mobile learning. Professor Richard J. Reece Associate Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students April

6 Action Plan for implementation of the elearning Strategy Area # Action Responsibility Pedagogy, curriculum design 7 Review strategic funding arrangements for elearning including consideration of: Associate Vice President for and development an elearning development fund to support innovation, Teaching, Learning funding for the development of generic learning materials, and Students (AVP, TLS) funding for the future enhancement the current elearning infrastructure, strategic purchase of digital materials. 8 The roll-out of lecture-capture technologies such that they will be available to, initially, all lecture-based units across /IT services Learning resources and environments Life-long learning processes and practices Strategic management, human resources and capacity development 9-10 Promote the uptake of interactive and collaborative online tools for staff and student taking part in both University-based courses and those in which the predominant form of delivery is online or distributed. 11 The development of an institutional-wide policy on the use of Turnitin that will draw-up best practice recommendations for the integration of Turnitin to student-focused plagiarism education. 12 Continued promotion of the John Rylands library digitization project and the benefits of using of electronic reading lists. Access to these materials should be embedded within the VLE. 13 Work closely with the software providers to ensure that the VLE is fit for purpose as the primary source of online learning at The University of Manchester. At least every three years, a full review of the VLE and alternatives will be undertaken. 14 Promote the benefits of existing online submission and marking tools (Turnitin and Grademark) and investigate mechanisms by which these may be deployed on an institutional scale. 15 Investigate the expanded use of existing computer clusters for use during summative examinations and recommend mechanisms for the larger-scale expansion of these facilities. 16 Ensure that all teaching and learning-related online material is compatible with mobile devices and promote the use of such devices in learning processes. 17 Investigate the most appropriate solutions for the production of populated student profiles. Potential links between these profiles and social media will be explored. 18 Integrate the collection of information for, and the production of, the HEAR into the Manchester Learning Environment (MLE). This should link to both academic (e.g., transcript grades and advisor reports) and non-academic activities (e.g., volunteering). Students will be able to access this information easily as will appropriate academic and PSS staff. 19 Identify and cater for specific learning and other needs for the appropriate use of the VLE and elearning. 20 Develop infrastructure and mechanisms for the delivery of CPD activity using the VLE. 21 The continued incorporation of elearning strategies into all information- and student-based UoM strategic documents and practice. 22 The establishment of School, Faculty and institutional-level forums for the dissemination of elearning best practice. 23 The appointment of School elearning champions and the embedding of elearning support within Schools. 6 Faculty elearning teams Library IT services, Library /IT services IT services IT services DSO Faculty elearning teams/heads of Schools

7 Quality 24 Seamless embedding of elearning teaching policy practice TLSO into all unit/course approval documents and into all assessment procedures. Research and 25 Hosting of National and International elearning conferences. TLSO/IT services evaluation 26 Audit best-practice elearning across the UK and worldwide. Infrastructure and technical standards Approved by Senate 27 June Instigate institutional-wide lecture-capture technologies for all lecture theatres and teaching spaces. Policy for use of this technology and recommendations for best practice. 28 The integration of information and learning systems across the institution. 29 The development and implementation of mobile learning technologies for both classroom and independent learning. and IT services MLE/MWE strategy groups Document control box Policy / Procedure title: The University of Manchester elearning Strategy Date approved: 27 June 2012 Approving body: Senate Implementation date: June 2012 Version: 1.0 Supersedes: n/a Previous review dates: n/a Next review date: tbc Related Statutes, N/A Ordinances, General Regulations / Policies Related Procedures and Guidance: Manual of Academic Procedures (MAP) - Policy owner: Louise Walmsley, Director of Teaching and Learning Support Office Lead contact: Kim Comer, Strategic Projects Officer, Teaching and Learning Support Office 7

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