4. The Learning Technologies Group

The Learning Technologies Group (LTG) was formed in April 2002 carrying on a 12-year tradition at OUCS of being one of the major centres for IT in teaching and learning at Oxford. The restructuring of OUCS involved the merging of all training and teaching under the LTG as well as the increased focus on both researching and advising on the effective use of Communications and Information Technology (C&IT) in teaching and learning.

As a result of the merger the LTG now consists of 21 members of staff. Most importantly it is now able to cover all the areas one would associate with a major e-Learning centre, providing expertise to the University, and raising Oxford's profile in e-Learning on the national and international stage.

4.1. Remit of the LTG

The LTG is charged with delivering the following for all academic disciplines, covering the main areas of an e-Learning centre:-
  • Developing computer-based teaching and research packages in collaboration with Oxford staff and external bodies as appropriate;
  • Researching the latest developments in the use of C&IT in traditional university teaching and student learning;
  • Providing all training for staff and students in IT literacy skills offered by OUCS, plus courses on how to use C&IT in teaching and research effectively;
  • Disseminating information about the use of C&IT via its website publications, workshops and conferences, and acting as OUCS's formal liaison and point of contact in such matters;
  • Providing user facilities for staff and students to work on projects;
  • Providing access to specialized learning and teaching applications, especially multimedia equipment;
  • Providing tools and materials for staff adoption and use.

It seeks to do this also by working in collaboration with other groups in the University, notably the IT Officers, the Institute for the Advancement of University learning (IAUL), the Director of Online and Distance Learning (DODL), Technology Assisted Lifelong Learning (TALL), the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), and the Oxford Digital Library (ODL); see below.

4.2. Structure of the LTG

To reflect the objectives above, the LTG has four sections: the Academic Computing Development Team, the IT Learning Programme, the Learning Technologies Services Section, and Administrative Support. Each section has a specific role:

4.2.1. Development Work

The Academic Computing Development Team undertakes projects in collaboration with an academic department, college, or individual, with mutually agreed deliverables and timescales. The academic member of the collaborative team has authorial control over the academic content of the resource. The Development Team supplies consultancy about the technical methodology adopted for the development of the resource, and provides the technical input needed for the development of the project.

4.2.2. Research and Advice

The LT Services section undertakes the main research and advice activities of the group. The focus is on working with individual academics and units within the University (such as the Institute for the Advancement of University Learning) to explore and foster best practice in the use of C&IT in teaching and learning. The LT Services section also provides specific expertise in the development and use of multimedia in teaching and research covering a range of subjects: image digitization, authoring, multimedia tools for the web, and digital video.

4.2.3. IT Learning Programme and Courses

Another major section within the LTG is the IT Learning Programme. This covers all courses offered by OUCS ranging from introductory sessions, through training graduates in information skills, right up to advanced courses for lecturers on how to integrate C&IT into their teaching.

4.3. Achievements August 2001-July 2002

4.3.1. Integration and Restructuring

LTG staff have been heavily involved in the restructuring exercise at OUCS, and in particular the merging of all training activities to come under the LTG wing. In addition to building up networks within the department, the group has proactively begun to establish networks of contacts with the divisions and colleges, and with other relevant bodies within the University (see below). Nationally, we have made contact with all the Learning & Teaching Support Network (LTSN) centres and continue to work closely with the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), Research Councils, and the British Computer Society.

4.3.2. IT Learning Programme

Since April 2002 the whole of the IT Learning section came under the wing of the LTG. This presented an opportunity to streamline the booking for courses, create a cohesiveness to the whole programme, and plan for new courses to directly meet the needs of the faculties and departments.

The figures for the new IT learning programme for the 2001-2002 academic year follows:-

Total Number of Courses335
Total Number of Teaching Hours1,859
Total Number Attending Courses7,768

N.B. This shows an 18% increase on attendance compared with 2000-2001. Working on the figures available attendance by Division can be broken down as follows (in terms of percentage of the number of attendees):-

Academic Services8.4%
Continuing Education2.0%
Humanities13.3%
Life & Environmental Sciences13.7%
Maths and Physical Sciences16.2%
Medical Sciences21.8%
Social Sciences17.2%
Other(Central Admin etc)7.4%
Moreover the training programme has been proactive in expanding its subject specific courses to include sessions for:
  • Social Sciences
  • Materials
  • Education
  • Zoology
  • Plant Sciences
  • Integrated Biology & Neurosciences

Many of the above have been provided in collaboration with the libraries, and we aim to build on this collaboration.

Considerable effort has also been given to developing the European Computer Driving Licence courses (ECDL). This allows staff and students to obtain an internationally recognised qualification in basic IT literacy skills. OUCS is now seen as a national centre of expertise in this and runs weekly drop-in sessions and intensive training weeks. In particular the ECDL staff have been involved in:
  • Running six Advanced ECDL sessions;
  • Preparing some diagnostic IT Literacy tests for Michaelmas term (see below);
  • Assessing and procuring online ECDL Web-based training software;
  • Negotiating with Oxford Brookes University and Thames Valley police to offer paid-for training and testing in the ECDL over the vacation periods.

4.3.3. ACDT Projects

Throughout the year the ACDT has issued two calls for projects, and these have all been assessed by the Project Review Group (now covering all divisions). In response to these calls there were 102 expressions of interest over the period in question (emails, phone calls, letters). This resulted in 43 proposals, of which 13 were undertaken, and a remaining 9 were offered substantial help and support from other arms of the LTG (i.e. over 50% of all projects proposed were offered some sort of help). For many of the remainder, we have been able to pass them on to other useful groups, contacts and consultants through our role as part of OUCS, and partly through the spread of people in the review group. A breakdown of these replies by Divisions is given in Figure Figure 25, ACDT project breakdown by division.

ACDT project breakdown by division
Figure 25. ACDT project breakdown by division

4.4. Major Strategic Initiatives

4.4.1. IT in Teaching and Learning Strategy for the Medical Division

LTG staff have been heavily involved in the IT in Teaching and Learning Strategy for the Medical Division. This has emerged in two stages but has occupied the LTG since October 2001.

4.4.2. EPSC/ICTC IT in Teaching and Learning Working Group

LTG was represented on the joint EPSC/ICTC working group investigating the use of C&IT in teaching across all divisions. This involved a lengthy series of meetings with divisional representatives and has resulted in a joint report and series of recommendations which have now been submitted to both committees.

4.4.3. VLE Working Group

The LTG has been spearheading the drive towards procuring a Virtual Learning Environment for the whole of the University. In particular this has meant researching into the applicability of VLEs for Oxford's teaching, monitoring developments elsewhere, liaising with JISC, and above all co-ordinating meetings of the VLE Working Group. This consists of academics within the University, developers of in-house VLE systems, IT Officers, MIS/Project ISIDORE representatives, and other stakeholders. Documents related to this can be seen at www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ltg/reports/.

4.4.4. Multimedia Work

The LT Services section of the Group has been taking forward work in the field of multimedia, especially digital video. OUCS is developing a centre of expertise in this area to reflect a growing demand from departments. Workshops have been conducted throughout the year and a system has been developed to allow student and staff easy access to cameras and digital editing equipment. Specifically the LTG's multimedia expertise has been used to support projects and courses in the Oriental Institute, Oxford University Veterinary Services, Anthropology, the Ruskin School of Fine Art, and Chinese Studies.

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