The University of Reading. e-learning Strategy

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1 The University of Reading e-learning Strategy This strategy has been approved by the University Board for Teaching and Learning and noted by the Information Strategy Committee in June The strategy has been written in accordance with the University s mission for teaching and learning as laid out in its Corporate Plan and in the context of the University s Teaching and Learning Strategy, and its Information Strategy; it also builds on the previous Strategy for the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Teaching and Learning. Further, it takes account of HEFCE s e-learning strategy which seeks to fully embed e-learning throughout the HE sector in a sustainable way within the next ten years. Developed by the University s Sub-Committee on IT in Teaching and Learning, which reports to the University s Board for Teaching and Learning, this strategy has also been created in consultation with a range of staff representing teaching and learning and student support interests within the University. In an increasingly competitive environment with changing student expectations, e- learning has the potential to enhance the students overall learning experience by improving flexibility in learning and increasing opportunities for access; fostering selfdirected and independent learning; providing the opportunity to access information and services otherwise not available; improving communication between staff and students and enhancing transferable skills, and providing more effective management of teaching and learning. Furthermore, it can potentially influence the recruitment and retention of students and help maintain links with alumni, employers and the wider community. At the University of Reading the use of learning technology has developed from a few, isolated, individual adopters to the introduction of a fully supported, campus-wide learning technology service. It is now recognised that this position needs to be further consolidated, with strategic planning and financial mainstreaming of learning technology systems, support and services. Many Schools and Departments within the University are reaching, or have reached, a point where the use of learning technology to deliver their programmes is mission critical, while others are at a more exploratory stage. Underpinning these developments is the need for an appropriate infrastructure and the ongoing, high quality management, support and resources to maintain it. This strategy therefore seeks to ensure that this infrastructure, support and resources are in place in order to maintain and develop an environment which fosters the ability to innovate and move teaching and learning forward, in furtherance of the University s overall aims for teaching and learning. 1. Vision e-learning is used here to describe all the information and communications technologies that support and enhance learning, teaching and assessment. Building on the University s vision for teaching and learning as stated in its Strategy for Teaching and Learning to foster an increasingly diverse student population; enable them to achieve their learning ambitions through the flexibility of our delivery and the support of a

2 strong learning and teaching community; and equip them with the academic and transferable skills necessary for them to succeed beyond graduation; and to become more responsive to student needs, market changes and national drivers, this strategy for e-learning strives to realise the following vision: To use e-learning to enhance the student learning experience and to improve the management and support of teaching and learning; providing the opportunity to create a flexible and accessible study environment focussed on the needs of our learners. We will therefore embed the use of learning technologies into the range of teaching approaches used by academic staff as well as in the learning and student support activities of the University; ensuring that programmes can be delivered utilising the most appropriate teaching methodologies for students to achieve the learning outcomes set; supporting employability and lifelong learning; and fostering an environment in which innovation in teaching and learning is encouraged and enabled to maintain Reading s teaching excellence. 2. Guiding principles 2.1. To ensure that e-learning developments take forward the strategic aims of the University with regard to teaching and learning To recognise the diversity of teaching practice Student learning and pedagogical needs and not technical possibilities must drive the use of learning technology. e-learning must be considered and developed as an integral part of teaching in the same way as other methods are (e.g. lectures, labs and seminars) and therefore linked with learning outcomes, course delivery and assessment aims To use e-learning technologies to produce a more active and independent environment for learners and to help strengthen the links between teaching and research e-learning, like all forms of teaching, should take into account the costs and the benefits. The potential and actual teaching quality gains of any development and enhancement should always be taken into consideration To recognise that e-learning is only one part of the wider university environment and that it must be integrated, both physically and virtually, into all aspects of the student experience, including student support and the management of learning. 3. Aims The University will realise its vision for e-learning and its aims for teaching and learning as articulated in the University s Strategy for Teaching and Learning through addressing these core aims: 1. To ensure that our e-learning infrastructure meets the needs of our teachers and learners, develops appropriately in line with these needs, and is well maintained, so that e-learning technologies and techniques run smoothly and 2

3 further development is supported (in support of the University s Strategy for Teaching and Learning aims with regard to learning resources (section 4.5)). 2. To embed e-learning within the University s teaching and learning activities in such a way that its role is clear and apparent to staff and learners at all levels and to strengthen the link between teaching and research (in support of the University s Strategy for Teaching and Learning aims with regard to programme development and delivery and teaching, learning and assessment (sections 4.2 and 4.3)). 3. To provide adequate and appropriate support and reward for staff involved in using e-learning technologies in order to encourage teaching innovation and ensure the successful implementation and dissemination of e-learning (in support of the University s Strategy for Teaching and Learning aims with regard to staff development (section 4.6)). 4. To ensure that staff and students have appropriate access to electronic teaching and learning tools and materials, including materials stored locally and those held elsewhere. To support the creation of new materials and reuse of existing materials and to ensure that appropriate processes and mechanisms are in place for the management and archiving of electronic teaching and learning resources (in support of the University s Strategy for Teaching and Learning aims with regard to teaching, learning and assessment and student support (sections 4.3 and 4.4). 5. To capitalise on the potential offered by e-learning by extending its role in the support of the wider student experience, the University s outreach activities and lifelong learning. (in support of the University s Strategy for Teaching and Learning aims with regard to access to University programmes (section 4.1) and employability (within section 4.4)) Infrastructure To ensure that our e-learning infrastructure meets the needs of our teachers and learners, develops appropriately in line with these needs and is well maintained so that e-learning technologies and techniques run smoothly and further development is supported. This aim can only be achieved if the University: i) Provides and sustains the technical infrastructure including teaching technologies - both software and hardware - and appropriate technical support. ii) Provides and sustains an appropriate infrastructure to enable reliable and effective access to online information, materials and web resources on all of its campuses; and also provides staff and students with appropriate off-campus access to its network. iii) Endeavours to develop a Managed Learning Environment which will ensure that students are presented with an effective and authoritative system for accessing reliable and timely information and for communicating with the University by unifying the range of its information systems (corporate and academic) that contribute to learning and the management of that learning. iv) Endeavours to provide, sustain and support appropriate and sufficient physical infrastructure (i.e. classroom and learning spaces) to support access to e-learning and to meet staff and student needs and expectations. 3

4 All of the above objectives will require additional resources both to sustain present activity and to develop it further to achieve the implementation of this strategy Embedding e-learning To embed e-learning within the University teaching and learning activities in such a way that its role is clear and apparent to staff and learners at all levels and to strengthen the link between teaching and research. This aim can only be achieved if the University: i) Supports the implementation and mainstreaming of proven technologies through the provision of central technical and pedagogic services and the allocation of adequate resources to fund systems through appropriate budgets. ii) Encourages a more strategic approach to the development and implementation of e- learning at School and programme levels as an integral part of Teaching and Learning plans. iii) Establishes formal mechanisms for the effective piloting and evaluation of e-learning tools and techniques with University-wide application. iv) Uses the e-learning framework as a University-wide model for describing the pedagogic approach when learning technology is adopted, and provides supporting mechanisms to enable Schools/staff/programmes to embed the framework into their teaching strategies and to progress from one level of engagement to the next if appropriate. The above objectives raise a variety of issues including the need for more support staff, and the targeted management of academic staff time in order to develop e-learning Support and recognition To provide adequate and appropriate support and recognition for staff involved in using learning technologies to encourage teaching innovation and ensure the successful implementation and dissemination of e-learning. This aim can only be achieved if the University: i) Provides central support for e-learning through the Centre for the Development of Teaching and Learning (CDOTL), Centre for Staff Training and Development (CSTD), IT Services, the Library and the School Learning Coordinators by strengthening and supporting their resources and function. The overall responsibility for the development of e-learning across the University will remain with CDOTL, with its role to provide coherence and focus in the development of e-learning as well as stimulate and drive such developments. CDOTL will continue to offer advice and support concentrating on the pedagogical issues of e-learning, whilst Information Technology Services will offer technical support in running and maintaining e-learning tools and in creating digital teaching materials. The role of the School Learning Technology Coordinator (SLTC) will continue (and where not incorporated into the role of School Director for Teaching and Learning, the two will work closely together) in order to stimulate, drive and support the pedagogical use of e-learning within subject disciplines as well as to disseminate good practice. CDOTL will support and provide training to SLTCs. 4

5 The Library s role in providing advice and support to staff using online resources will continue to expand. ii) Supports staff to develop appropriate skills in e-learning that will cover both pedagogical and technical aspects. CDOTL and CSTD will continually evaluate training needs and adapt the training programme accordingly. iii) Makes available adequate time and recognises the staff workload associated with e- learning developments and online teaching. iv) Ensures that adequate recognition is given to e-learning development work through the promotion process and other forms of reward. v) Develops, disseminates and shares good practice in the use of technologies in teaching and learning by continuing to support existing mechanisms and establishing new ones as appropriate. vi) Supports students to use e-learning facilities and to develop appropriate e-learning skills as an additional study skill. vii) Encourages and helps staff to engage in the evaluation of and pedagogical research in e-learning. viii) Encourages collaboration between subject communities within and without the University. The above objectives raise issues relating to the need for additional resource to buy staff time, and to the use of promotions, increments and one-off payments Access and management of e-resources To ensure that staff and students have appropriate access to electronic teaching and learning tools and materials, including materials stored locally and those held elsewhere. To support the creation of new materials and reuse of existing materials and to ensure that appropriate processes and mechanisms are in place for the management and archiving of electronic teaching and learning resources. This aim can only be achieved if the University: i) Develops an infrastructure for the curation, deletion and promotion of electronic resources, both internal and external. ii) Manages its own electronic resources by creating an institutional repository for the archive, access and reuse of digital materials created for teaching and learning within the University. iii) Ensures that e-learning developments are taken into account in the University s Digital Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights policies. iv) Provides support and information on the development and use of digital materials and associated copyright issues. The above objectives raise resource issues related to library support staff and advice and information on digital copyright. 5

6 3.5. Extending the role of e-learning To capitalise on the potential offered by e-learning by extending its role in the support of the wider student experience, the University s outreach activities and lifelong learning. This aim can only be achieved if the University: i) Considers the role that e-learning could play in support of its Widening Participation Strategy and other broader outreach activities. ii) Develops the role of e-learning in the recruitment of students and the marketing of our programmes in an appropriate and sustainable way and in line with the development of a managed learning environment and other University initiatives. iii) Develops and/or implements appropriate e-learning systems/mechanisms to support students personal development and planning. iv) Considers the role of e-learning in providing individual feedback and targeted support to students in support of the University s work to improve our retention rates, and the potential development of pre-entry activities and support. v) Supports the development of its alumni relations through the appropriate use of e- learning to enhance these activities, particularly in the role alumni could play in student learning and employability. vi) Considers the role of e-learning in the University s relations with employers in support of the development of our students employability and the services we offer employers. vii) Supports the development of e-learning to enhance opportunities for lifelong learning at the University. viii) Considers the role of e-learning in relation to the external community, particularly in respect of Associate College Network and the potential development of a regional lifelong learning network. The above objectives have implications for resources, and managerial implications in respect of collaboration between different departments. 4. Relationship to other University strategies and initiatives Whilst pedagogical issues will drive e-learning, the creation of an electronic environment for teaching and learning will influence and be influenced by other University strategies (e.g. Teaching and Learning, Information Strategy, Teaching and Learning Facilities, Estate, Widening Participation) as well as University policies in areas such as collaborative provision and disability. As the implementation of this strategy will have funding implications, it needs to inform and be informed by strategies and developments in these other areas. Furthermore, in the context of the University s limited resources and conflicting priorities, Directorates have to work together to ensure that common strategic areas are covered and to understand the funding implications and how these can be supported. However, whilst the University must consider the financial implications of investing in e- learning, it has to think about the potential costs of not investing in it. See Key Risk 3: 6

7 Failure to maintain or improve teaching quality; Key Risk 8: Failure to provide the range, structure and support of courses that meet expectations and needs of students; Key Risk 2: Failure to recruit international students to planned levels; Key Risk 1: Failure to recruit home/eu students to planned levels; Key Risk 7: Significant adverse publicity or loss of reputation (University Risk Register 2004/2005). In an increasingly competitive environment with higher student expectations and increased demand for flexibility in access and delivery, the long term costs of not investing might be greater. Finally, the e-learning strategy needs to develop taking into account the HEFCE strategy for e-learning and to prepare communities within the University to take advantage of any HEFCE funding as it is becomes available. 5. Implementation and evaluation Responsibility for the development of this Strategy rests with the Sub-Committee for IT in Teaching and Learning which reports to the University Board for Teaching and Learning and to the Information Strategy Committee. SCITTL will therefore develop and propose to these committees a full strategy implementation plan for 2005/06 and outline plans for , with target outcomes and clear allocation of areas of responsibility to persons/groups within the University. Thereafter the Sub-Committee will assume responsibility for: Co-ordinating Strategy-related activities by bringing together key members of the University Directorates, including those responsible for resources underpinning University strategies. Recommending target outcomes for the next academic year. Monitoring and reviewing progress made against target outcomes Advising the Board for Teaching and Learning and the Information Strategy Committee of resource requirements for implementing the e-learning Strategy. The Sub-Committee will report annually to the University Board for Teaching and Learning. As both the e-learning Strategy and the Strategy for Teaching and Learning develop over the next few years, it is anticipated that the vision and the aims of this strategy will become embedded in future iterations of the University s Teaching and Learning Strategy. Sub-Committee on IT for Teaching and Learning May

8 Appendix The e-learning framework The Centre for the Development of Teaching and Learning have developed a framework to help clarify the role of technology in teaching and to link this to different pedagogical approaches. The framework divides the wide range of approaches to e-learning into four broad categories: administrative (technology for administration support) e-enhanced (technology as an extra resource) e-enabled (technology integrated with face-to-face elements) e-essential (technology replaces most face-to-face elements) Each approach uses technology for a different purpose but they build on each other, and support a progression from passive to active learning, teacher-led to student-centred learning and the development of basic skills to higher cognitive skills as shown below: Figure 1: The e-learning Framework This strategy seeks to enable staff to adopt technology at any point in the framework and support them as they wish to move through it from administration to e-essential. The full e-learning framework document can be found at: 8

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