ELESIG Meeting – Northampton

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Back in January I attended an interesting regional meeting for the Evaluation of Learners’ Experiences of E-Learning Special Interest Group. The group is supported by the Higher Education Academy, and is an international community of researchers and practitioners from higher and further education who are involved in “investigations of learners’ experiences and uses of technology in learning.” The Midlands regional group of ELESIG is running two regional meetings to enable people involved in e-learning to meet up and share experiences. This was the first of these meetings and took place at the University of Northampton, in the Library ‘T-Pod’ (Technology Pod).

A range of different people from a variety of different backgrounds attended the meeting. Some were involved in managing and developing VLEs, others were independent commercial e-learning practitioners. Several colleagues were from JISC, and others worked on developing e-learning tools for various HE institutions. Overall there were 12 of us present from 8 different institutions based in the Midlands.

Warwick Presentation

The meeting began with an introduction to the group. This was followed by the opportunity to share experiences about e-learning projects. A colleague and I presented our experiences of several e-learning projects at Warwick, including a summary of an online tutorial, and an account of the potential role of videos and web 2.0 in the delivery of information skills. Our session did generate some questions such as whether or not third-party platforms should be used to reach students in places that they may already be familiar with. In addition the concept of enabling students to share and collaborate using web 2.0 tools was discussed in further detail, including the potential of tools such as delicious, diigo and other reference management websites.

Capturing Student Experience

Our presentation was followed by a presentation from Rachel Fitzgerald entitled ‘Capturing the Student Experience.’ This initiative took place at Dublin Institute of Technology, and involved looking at the student experience through the learners eyes. Video was used to capture the student feedback on their memories of transition in the first few weeks through to assessment in the first year, and their continued experiences.

This project is going to continue at Northampton, where they also want to capture staff experiences specifically related to e-learning. These case studies will be subject specific showcases and will enable staff to talk through their experiences. The work for this project can be seen on the University of Northampton Bite pages, and demonstrates subject specific pages with ideas for staff on how to incorporate e-learning into their work.

Enhancing the Learning Experience Journal

Lunch was followed by a demonstration of the new ELESIG open access journal.

Sharing Experiences

The remainder of the meeting focused on sharing experiences from various institutions. There was a lot of discussion on the importance of face to face work and how e-learning is a good supplement. The “hub and spoke” model of support focused on the delivery of e-learning initiatives at a more generic institutional level. Interestingly the discussions came back to the need to talk to the community and find out what user needs are. Focus groups appeared to be a popular tool with all institutions. In addition a number of JISC projects were also highlighted that looked into the Learning experiences of e-learning.

Whilst the majority of people present came from a mixture of different backgrounds the concept of elearning as a supplementary tool to enhance accessibility to teaching and learning was something that was shared and discussed in detail.

Following the meeting

Throughout the meeting colleagues present had been Twittering their experiences, so upon my return to the office it was interesting to reflect on some of the discussions from the day. (#ELESIG)

In addition a number of discussions were generated on the ELESIG (Midlands) Ning website following the feedback via some of the Tweets. The event hopes to be followed with another regional meeting in May. It was a useful opportunity to share experiences, and ideas relating to e-learning, and to network with colleagues from other institutions and sectors within HE. The use of Ning enables conversations to continue following the meeting, and further ideas shared.

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