We’ve come a long way but …

I consider myself extremely fortunate indeed to work within an organisation, JISC CETIS, that is as progressive as it is, one that fosters a spirit of enquiry and in a collegiate environment where open, honest and frank exchanges are encouraged. Our funders, JISC in the words of Chief Executive Dr Malcolm Reed “are there to take the risks (with technology) institutions could not independently”. I’m involved with and support JISC activities that are highly innovative in the application of technologies within educational settings, professional, informed and enthusiastic colleagues surround me and work associates at the “bleeding edge” of education technology.

Independent of (but related to) my work in CETIS I have a senior board role with a large educational institution within the sector; this role exposes me to the “pragmatic challenges” facing institutions at a policy level and the role technology plays is supporting the “business” of the institution. The duality of the roles provides me with insight both into the benefits of the work we undertake for the sector and equally serves to highlight where impact in the sector is limited.

Two recent examples have emerged of the limitation of impact.

JISC recently published the highly regarded Designing Spaces for Effective Learning; which can be downloaded from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/publications/learningspaces.pdf the publication highlights the good work being undertaken within the sector. The institution I am involved with used the principals highlighted to design a new learning space and indeed provided a case study to the JISC, which has been used in other JISC publications. To my dismay after a little over twelve months of usage the builders were in constructing walls and converting a large part of the space into a conventional “Student support Centre”. My initial enquiry as to why was largely treated with derision but further enquiry (Estates usage survey) revealed this (primary) space was not being utilized for teaching and learning.

Ofstead recently published policy guidelines relating to student safety (particularly in respect to the 14-19 agenda) and how these guidelines would be reflected in future inspections, the response of the institution (No doubt prompted by the MIS department) to lock down student (and tutor) access to all social software sites; problem solved at least from the regulatory perspective. Only a number of students had been using social web solutions as integral elements of their e-portfolio and reflective practice, from publicizing events on facebook through to using Blogs (wordpress) as reflective practice covering the period of study. Tutors I spoke to left with the problem of no access to students work for assessment purposes (Yes they could of course access the work via their own personal technology).

We encourage our students to use a variety of tools to support their learning; the concept of the Personal Learning Environment (PLE), has been developed around the notion of students own tools indeed government policy has gone to great lengths espousing the value of personalization as part of a rich learning experience. New work is also emerging around the concept of the distributed Virtual-learning environment.

I shouldn’t be surprised by either example they relate directly to the age-old adage that without supporting professional development and cultural change strategies our interventions, however well researched and intentioned, may be doomed to failure.

Neither am I critical of those responsible for the decisions to take action in either case; in both cases the decisions and action taken can be substantiated with “empirical evidence”.

As I say we have come a long way but…


The IMS Technology Enhanced Flexible Learning project Group

Whilst at the Learning Impact 2008 conference in Austin Texas, incidentally a more pleasent place than I expected, I became more aware of the activities of the Technology Enhanced Flexible Learning (TEFL) project under formation group.


Those educatiors involved in language teaching may get confused over the acronym but essentially the TEFL project group is aiming to develop and promote an “end-to-end” methodology for introducing e-learning students to the online environment, to include best practices drawn from literature, personal accounts and workshops (LTAC and other) for each student Introduction Phase (i.e. Expectations, Preparation and Induction). It is anticipated that this methodology will provide a framework for learning technologists and e-learning faculty and administrators to address the quality and service needs of introductory adult e-learners while establishing a effective practices for recruiting, retaining and supporting student persistence.

This is undoubtedly of significant interest to those charged with the retention of students within HE and FE instituitions and signals a clear intent by members of IMS to move away form their historic areas of focus interoperability and data exchange standards and into the contested area of “qaulity standards” it will be interesting to see how this develops.

Blackboard and Multi User Environment MUVE

Recently anounced at the Blackboard Development conference was a small intiative looking at integrating the functions of Blackboard with theose of MUVE.


There has already been a condsiderable amount of exploratory work undertaken in this area by the the sloodle project

integrating the complimentary features of MUVE and VLE’s (in the sloodle case open source vle Moodle)

On reflection Im wondering if this is something the specifications and standards community should be monitoring closely. There does appear to be a groundswell of practitioners wishing to incorporate the use of MUVE in their teaching activity , weather its ‘flavour of the month’ a ecidence of sustained interest i’m unsure. There is certainly a lot of activity in this space.

Work Week Ending 22/06

Mon 18 Admin (start ALT paper) plus ACE call (JISC project spread sheet)
Tue 19th Management Meeting plus budget work
Wed 20th Meeting with DfES re ISB
Thur 21st WFH Budgets/admin plus paper
Fri 22nd JISC Aadmin (project budgets) plus JISC calls

Work Week Ending 15/6/07

Mon 11th JISC Ops Conference call and meeting with CRA
Tue 12th JISC CETIS Mangement Meeting
Wed13th Writning Paper (Educational affordance)
Thur 14th Attended Bolton Teaching and Learning Conference
Fri 15th Administartion/paper writing and Costing Group Meeting Bolton

Work Week Ending May 25th

Monday – AM Budget discussion/work PM- general admin emails
Tuesday – Admin user survey meeting and evaluation documents Time sheets collation
Wednesday – AM admin MOU/SLA/Budget PM- IIP Meeting
Thursday – AM Conference input /
Friday – AM Evaluation report & admin