Since introducing the virtual learning platform Moodle, we have begun to deliver courses with interactive resources and online assessments, such as the ECDL. Feedback from staff and students has been positive.
But we can do more, to consolidate this investment in change, and further improve learning and results.
This report highlightshow other comparable institutions have successfully innovated by integrating e-learning facilities in their syllabuses; why, for most of them, it was a success; and what kind of improvement they achieved. It concludes with guidance for the development and integration of e-learning in our college.
Delivering high quality lessons with appropriate and up-to-date material is the keyobjective for every teacher. But while chalk and blackboard are still the most commonly used technological tools and face-to-face teaching the usual environment for education, nowadays other instruments and methods are at our disposal.
As Nicholas Negroponte observed, ‘the change from atoms to bits is irrevocable and unstoppable’[i], offering us an avalanche of information that can be turned intotools for better learning, with a quick return on investment in time and money.
The impact of globalisation means schools must now cater for students with different backgrounds, skills and expectations. E-learning is one way to adapt education to the needs of these digital natives.[ii] It also benefits students with disabilities or illness. Computer based training tools can help them to follow aparallel syllabus in the classroom or from home.
To adapt our college to the reality of the 21st century, we must be proactive in innovating to meet society’s and students’ demands, but we must also consider costs.
The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) – a group that evaluates innovative research and developments in this field - has published a reportdocumenting[iii] 37 case studies that show the tangible benefits of e-learning, with students of a comparable age and level of educational attainment to our pupils.
All these projects can be effectively considered as innovative, defining innovation as any new method or tool that changes the teaching context, in order to address a specific situation, improve learning and teaching or increasestudents’ success.
Innovation is not necessarily a synonym for upsetting the apple cart. While the introduction of new paradigms may seem disruptive, the JISC case studies show that evolution can occur without a revolution, if change is supported and effectively resourced.
The report identifies, as the four most frequently cited positive effects of e-learning in its case studies:
• effect on student personal development
• innovation in learning and teaching
• staff satisfaction
Evaluated in terms of their significance, the three effects rated most highly are:
1. impact on learning (81%)
2. student personal development (67%)
3. improved exam results (43%)
Furthermore, the report points out four separate ‘avenues’ of e-learninguse or development: technological tools; resources or activities; assessments; and portfolios.
The cases illustrated below represent how implementing e-learning solutions can combine a low risk with excellent results and open new paths to sustain the development of e-learning supported courses in our College.
e-learning is not necessarily costly
Exeter University has saved money byoutsourcing its e-learning facilities, buying them from educational publishing houses[iv] which offer online resources available through subscription. Teachers also have access to an online control panel, to manage students’ access and monitor their work.
e-learning solutions are adaptable
We already use Moodle in Economics but it could be adapted for other subjects. Glasgow University used...