5. Learning Technologies

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 LTG covers all the training and teaching activities, develops e-learning projects with academics, and researches into recent developments in the use of ICT and teaching and learning.

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.

5.1. 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.

5.2. 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:

5.2.1. 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.

5.2.2. 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.

5.2.3. 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.

5.3. Achievements August 2002-July 2003

5.3.1. Responding to University Strategies

LTG staff have been heavily involved in furthering University strategy with relation to e-learning, and responding to it. In response to recommendations from the EPSC/ICTC Report on IT in Teaching and Learning the LTG has launched a series of initiatives to deal with IT literacy, including a set of online tests, and a survey of computer literacy levels amongst students. More importantly the LTG has been taking forward the VLE pilot project (see below).

5.3.2. 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 2002-2003 academic year follows:-

Total Number of Courses 427
Total Number of Teaching Hours 1,568
Total Number Attending Courses 10,714

Compared with 2001-2002 this shows an increase in the numbers attending by 2,946; 92 extra courses; but at the same time a reduction in the number of hours teaching by 291. This demonstrates that the courses are more targeted, matching the needs of academics and students, and above all are being taught more efficiently. Working on the figures available attendance by Division can be broken down as follows (in terms of percentage of the number of attendees):-

Academic Services 13.9%
Continuing Education 2.0%
Humanities 12.0%
Life & Environmental Sciences 14.1%
Maths and Physical Sciences 20.3%
Medical Sciences 16.4%
Social Sciences 16.0%
Other(Central Admin etc) 5.3%

Many of the above have been provided in collaboration with OULS, and the intention is 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;
  • Assessing and procuring online ECDL Web-based training software;

5.3.3. ACDT Projects

This year the ACDT has issued one call for projects, rather than the usual two. This was a repercussion from the huge demand during the 2001/2002 period, where it was decided to take on as many of the best proposals as possible, rather than turn away projects rated highly by our Project Review Group. Over the period since the last report in 2002, there have been 48 expressions of interest in the services (emails, phone calls, letters). This resulted in 16 proposals, of which 5 were undertaken, and a remaining 3 were offered substantial help and support from other arms of the LTG (i.e. 50% of all projects proposed were offered some sort of help). For many of the remainder, it has been possible to pass them on to other useful groups, contacts and consultants through other parts of OUCS, and partly through the spread of people in the review group.

5.4. Major Strategic Initiatives

5.4.1. Virtual Learning Environment

The LTG has been leading the VLE Pilot Project. In Michaelmas Term 2002 the Bodington system was chosen as the central VLE, and was launched in Hilary Term within Oxford under the title WebLearn.

5.4.2. Institutional Audit

The LTG provided input into the preparations for the Institutional Audit. This has involved detailing the actions arising from the EPSC/ICTC report into IT and Teaching and Learning, and feeding into the Revised Teaching and Learning Strategy. In addition the LTG is supervising an ASUC funded survey into IT literacy amongst the student body which will be conducted in Michaelmas Term 2003, reporting back in Hilary Term 2004.

5.4.3. E-learning Research

The LTG has been continuing its work in researching into, and disseminating information on the latest developments in e-learning. A series of reports have been mounted on the LTG web site, and a range of talks, workshops, and conferences have been conducted throughout the year.

5.4.4. Open Standards

The LTG has been heavily involved in promoting the use of open standards in e-learning. This has arisen from its involvement with the ISIDORE project and has led to a series of reports on the standards that should be employed in Oxford's developing MLE. In July this year the LTG appointed its first Educational Interoperability Standards officer who will be leading these activities.

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