In this third issue of BeJLT, we include a collection of papers that reflects the breadth of developing practice in the use of e-learning at Brookes. Practice Papers from Alison le Cornu, Annie Haight, Samia Kamal, and Hilary Rollin capture some of the rich and varied developmental work in this area that can now inform our approaches to learning, teaching, and assessment and our future planning. Ways of using learning technologies are tried and evaluated, and BeJLT provides a vehicle for sharing emerging evidence of effective practice. These papers grew from contributions to the ‘E-Learning Here and Now’ conference at Brookes last year, where the ‘e’ was said to stand for embedding and enhancing. The papers reflect this theme. E-learning at Brookes should be about enhancing learning and should be firmly embedded in the staff and student experience at Brookes.
Two academic papers are included in this issue and one of these, from Rhona Sharpe and Greg Benfield, also features e-learning. Too often developmental work in learning and teaching can be fragmented and dispersed, located in particular departments or course teams or with particular individuals and it is important that the lessons learnt and issues which require further attention are synthesised from reported work and disseminated. The paper demonstrates the value of such reviews to future developmental work. The new Higher Education Academy is commissioning such synthesis reports in a number of areas of learning and teaching and this is a welcome contribution to evidence based practice. Rhona Sharpe, GregBenfield, Richard Francis & George Roberts have been commissioned to undertake a review of the literature on blended learning.
The history of developmental work in learning and teaching is littered with reports which gather dust on shelves or, more recently, websites which are not maintained as current resources and of wheels sometimes re-invented several times over! It is essential that we reflect on the work of others to inform our own practice and as the basis for future developmental activity.
In the Perspectives section of this issue an e-learning focus is maintained. Richard Francis and John Raftery look at the impact that the incorporation of new learning technologies to enhance the student learning experience must have on our future use of buildings and space. The notion that universities must be more that simply collections of lecture and seminar rooms and other facilities is an important one. We must provide environments in which students can take part effectively in a range of learning activities, independently or in groups, formally or informally, face to face with lecturers or at a distance. At Brookes, long term plans for the development of our estates are emerging and it is essential that they are informed and influenced by our understanding of what constitutes effective practice in learning and teaching. Approaches to learning and teaching will be different in different subject areas and this too must be reflected in planning. Both the Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs) with which Brookes is involved are making substantial investment in developing space which can promote and facilitate effective learning. It will be important to learn from their experiences.
This issue of BeJLT is not only about e-learning. The second, thought provoking, academic paper is from Glauco Da Vita. He reports on work which he has undertaken as one of the first Brookes Teaching Fellows, on the progression and achievements of students from different backgrounds. It points to the difficulty students experience in moving from the first to the second year of undergraduate studies as requiring more of our attention, in addition the care we give to the induction and orientation of new students. We look forward to academic papers in future issues of BeJLT from the increasing number of Brookes Teaching Fellows now engaged in developmental projects.
Finally in this issue, our journey around the academic schools at Brookes reaches the School of Biological and Molecular Sciences. The School has particular issues to address, not least the changing patterns of recruitment to science programmes and strong competition with other institutions but also achieving an appropriate balance between further enhancement of its experience and reputation in research and its concern to enhance the student learning experience and develop innovative approaches to learning, teaching, and assessment. It was, of course, from innovation and radical thinking in this School that our undergraduate modular programme originated in the 1970s. The rest, as they say, is history!
Chair BeJLT Editorial Committee
Head of Learning and Teaching Development