Dissemination of Resources — Roger Rist
At Heriot-Watt University, the need for dissemination of results has always been recognised as being of equal importance with original research and development. From the nature of university teaching and learning, much initiative and exploratory work derives from enthusiastic individuals. The priority for dissemination thus reflects appreciation of the need to build within Higher Education a community dedicated to innovative teaching developments, of comparable commitment and impetus to the prevailing subject discipline and academic research communities.
Knowledge sharing and support of other institutions
This was the basis of the successful bid from the Institute for Computer Based Learning (ICBL) to act as the centre for the Learning Technology Dissemination Initiative (LTDI), a SHEFC-funded programme. In the first year (1994/95) the Institute's LTDI staff were directly involved in 92 implementation projects in 20 institutions across Scotland. LTDI has the aim of supporting new learning technology to a point where its effective use is widespread and institutions have infrastructures through which they can provide their own support. A very practical implementation support is provided which ensures that appropriate methods can be introduced into effective use. In addition, LTDI provides awareness and training seminars and materials, has established a large collection of computer-based learning resources representing good practice, and synthesises this expertise in direct support of co-operating groups in Scottish HE institutions. LTDI is wholly based at ICBL but operates across all the Higher Education Institutes in Scotland serving a wide community of lecturers and, through them, students. Publications are also produced including a substantial handbook, and guides for using information technology and networks have been disseminated through LTDI and have been widely requested and taken up by other organisations, beyond Scotland, for further distribution.
The ICBL has recently been identified as one of eight national support centres established throughout the UK. The Teaching and Learning Technology Support Network targets much of its effort on helping higher education institutions which are considering change or which have embarked upon a programme of change. In this way, the experience in areas such as staff development approaches, culture change, restructuring to achieve efficient courseware production, and in the effective integration of materials into existing educational provision, are made available throughout the higher education sector. The Support Network centres are active in promoting the development and use of technology to support learning. For individuals, the Support Network is a front-door to information and guidance, increasing the accessibility of these technologies. The Support Network also co-ordinates with other initiatives such as Computers in Teaching Initiative (CTI), Information Technology Training Initiative (ITTI) and the Learning Technology Dissemination Initiative (LTDI) to provide advice, training and examples of institutional development in practice, drawing together national resources to achieve best effect. This service is similar to that recommended by the Further Education Funding Council's 1996 Higginson Committee report on the promotion of technology to enhance the provision of further education, providing a useful model to guide the expansion into the FE sector.
Computer networks and human networks
Naturally, electronic media and in particular the World Wide Web have become a prime mode of dissemination. In addition to operating a server for itself, both LTDI and TLTP information is provided through World Wide Web servers located at ICBL. The TLTP Central server provides an authoritative gateway to TLTP sites as well as giving newsletter and contact information. At ICBL World Wide Web servers now form a part of many projects from serving of simple information to developing new ways to provide access to computer based learning material.
Without ongoing dissemination activity much of the benefit of specific technology investments and implementation programmes would be lost. This lesson has been learnt and is reflected in the Use of MANs (Metropolitan Area Networks) initiative. Scotland is making a large investment in broadband networking for the Higher Education sector with the recognition that it is not enough to provide the infrastructure investment must also be made in the applications to make appropriate use of the high bandwidth available. A key part of the initiative was the provision of training and support for staff throughout Scotland. SHEFC decided not to award this to a range of proposals but instead to invite the ICBL at Heriot-Watt to operate a programme across all the Higher Education Institutions. This project will start in June 1996 for at least two years.
Summaries and URLs of relevant projects follow:
The Learning Technology Dissemination Initiative started in August 1994 with the aim of promoting the use of Computer Based Learning by academic staff in the Higher Education Institutes in Scotland. To do this LTDI organises workshops throughout the year, produces leaflets and hand-outs and offers direct support by the Implementation Support Consultants. The equivalent of six full time staff are involved in LTDI, although in practice in the last year more than nine staff have been involved allowing for specialised areas to be given appropriate support. Funding is confirmed until August 1997.
The Teaching and Learning Technology Support Network is funded by TLTP as a follow on to the eight Institutional Initiatives supported by Phase 1 of the programme. The project overall intends to offer regional support bases and to allow each site to promote and disseminate the outcomes of their earlier institutional projects. The ICBL also serves as a resource collection centre and the home of the TLTP Central Web and TLT-SN access point. This project has close links to the work of the internal Learning Technology Support Service. Support is for 1 year in the first instance from September 1995 but is expected to be continued for a further year.
MARBLE (MAN Accessible Resource Based Learning Exemplars) is funded under the Use of MAN Initiative. This is a collaborative project between three Universities. The project proposes to develop 10 sub-projects ("marblets") with lecturers at the 3 sites. In each case an element from a course modules is being transferred for delivery using the World-Wide Web. This project is funded until the end of July 1996. In addition to the support work a "marblet" has been developed based on the teaching carried out by ICBL for the MSc in Human Computer Interaction.
The C-Web (Courseware Web) project has two main strands, one is the support of the TLTP Central Web and the network needs for the TLT-SN, the other is development of Web delivery of courseware. C-Web will develop the necessary programs on the server and client side to enable relatively easy transfer of existing CBL packages to run on local machines. This will be piloted primarily with programs produced as output of the existing TLTP. The project is funded to the end of July 1996 and the Project Officer has been employed since December 1995. C-Web will also fund the improvement or replacement of the existing TLTP Web server.
CAUSE Beginner's Guide
CAUSE is a project across seven sites most of which were involved in the Information Technology Training Initiative programme to produce training material. The project aims to collectively produce a WWW based Beginner's Guide to Learning Technology partly building from the ITTI material. The main role at ICBL is to provide the main access point and to develop an introduction to the guide and basic guidelines. There is a small amount of funding in this project to August 1996.
The Interact project funded under TLTP aims to produce simulations for use within Engineering courses. The techniques used exploit the Web for communication and allow students to share information and follow tutorials using the simulation packages. The direct involvement of ICBL is in evaluation. The project is in its final phase of funding and will be followed up with a related project (Multiverse) funded under JTAP.
TALiSMAN is Teaching And Learning in Scottish Metropolitan Area Networks and will be funded by SHEFC from May 1996 to August 1998. TALiSMAN has a training focus and has similarities with LTDI in that it will offer workshops and support but differs in targeting the technology (networking) rather than subject areas. TALiSMAN will carry out a training needs analysis across Scotland and will develop its own training material but may also adapt training material from other projects, in particular the NetSkills project based in Newcastle. TALiSMAN will support a manager, a part-time secretary, 1 Technical officer and 3 training officers, though all will be involved in the training programme. The project also brings an initial start up element for re-equipping a training room, establishing new servers and adding video links at four sites, one in each of the Scottish Metropolitan Area Networks.
This is the Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library funded under the eLib (Electronic Libraries) programme. It is concerned with the classification of engineering resources. Selection is made by qualified staff who filter and index the information.
There is a need for integration of technology and to redesign to enable this.
Evaluation is critical — we need to learn the lessons of when/where things work. 2 useful tools may be:
AnswerWeb for collecting questions and answers, see:
QMWeb for assessment: http://www.qmark.com/index.html
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