Vol. One - Issue Three - Oct 2005

Published: October 2005

Editorial: Learning from Experience

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!

Clive Robertson
Chair BeJLT Editorial Committee
Head of Learning and Teaching Development

September 2005

From this issue:

Learning and Teaching Approaches in the School of Biological and Molecular Sciences

David Thurling   Background Why call it the School of Biological and Molecular Sciences? Why not use something shorter and simpler for a name? After all, how often have I had to spell ‘molecular’ over the telephone to someone requiring

Posted in Misc

Blended Learning Landscapes

This paper is reflects current concerns about trends in learning and teaching and their implications for the development of university campuses, the design of buildings, and the use of space to support learning activities. It looks at current and likely future needs of learners, and reflects on developments at Brookes and at other universities and organizations which can help to inform our future planning.

Posted in Perspective

Can E-Learning Foster Intercultural Competence?

This article focuses on strategies and materials devised to enable students both to approach their period of residence abroad in Spain with greater confidence, and to make best use of time spent there. The basic premise is that students risk denying themselves the full potential benefit of their period of residence abroad by not appreciating the need to prepare themselves adequately in advance for the tasks they may be expected to carry out, and for the culture in which they will be operating. Materials were devised for students to access independently in WebCT to help address this deficiency in provision.

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Posted in Practice Paper

Crossing the E-boarders: The Road to Developing Online Courses

The story that follows is about the development of an online module. It is a story of how the module has evolved over the years to be successful, the lessons learnt, and a reflection on the development process of designing online courses.

Posted in Practice Paper

Investigating a Classroom Management Approach in a Computer Suite

This paper describes my experiences, as a ���new��� lecturer, with aspects of classroom management in a computer suite. It takes as its starting point the differences between teaching ���through��� computers and teaching ���with��� computers, and suggests that students��� experiences of using computers as personal learning tools have implications for their behaviour in collective teaching environments where computers are used.

It outlines some negotiation strategies I trialled to agree on behavioural ground rules for teaching and learning in a computer suite, discusses an approach using musical cues to retrieve student attention, and offers some possible techniques for optimising student attention and cooperation in computer-based sessions.

Posted in Practice Paper

Baptism of Fire: Introducing Brookes Virtual to Theology Distance Learning Students

The electronic environment is perceived to offer a potential enhancement of the learning experience not least within a traditional paper-based distance learning context. This paper outlines the rationale behind the introduction of Brookes Virtual and a heightened ‘electronic mentality’ into a theology paper-based distance learning programme of long pedigree, through a targeted activity at a Residential School. An important dimension was a high level of team work, combining the skills of academic, administration, and learning technologist staff (and significantly blurring the boundaries between these in so doing). In order to achieve an ambitious set of goals, the resulting activity required students to engage with the virtual environment in such a way that it contributed directly to their learning and was not simply a support tool. The advantage of jumping in at Mode 2 of Brookes’s Modes of Engagement (a “baptism of fire!” lay precisely in the fact that students quickly saw the benefits for their studies and acquired the necessary skills to incorporate these once they had returned home. Emphasis was also put on group work in order to facilitate peer-to-peer discussion at a distance. The project was ambitious. While one or two aspects left room for improvement, overall it achieved its goals at a wide range of levels and we anticipate greater exploitation of the electronic medium in future assessed work.

Posted in Practice Paper

Tracking the Academic Progression of Home and International Students: An Exploratory Study

The paper investigates the learning achievements of home and international students by focusing on the dynamic construct of academic progression, rather than relying on the typically adopted performance measures of final achievement. Our data have confirmed that, on average, UK students outperform international students. The observed differential is particularly pronounced with respect to the academic achievements of home students vis-��-vis students from China. This is the case in terms both of the average marks in each year, and the overall average over the three years of the programme. The analysis of the full dynamics of performance also shows that following a moderate to substantial decline in average marks from the first to the second year of study, all sub-groups examined display a significant rise in their average marks from the second to the final year of study. Our results cast doubt on the generally held view that international students, especially those from China, tend to under-perform in their first year of study. On the contrary, we find that the greatest difficulties faced by these students occur during the transition from the first to the second year of study.

Posted in Academic Paper

The Student Experience of E-learning in Higher Education: A Review of the Literature

This paper reviews the student experience of e-learning in higher education in order to identify areas worthy of future investigation. This review highlights some common themes in the student’s e-learning experience and recommends implications for practice arising from these, particularly the emotionality of the student experience and a concern about time and time management. E-learning developments based on changes to traditional pedagogy evoke the most inconsistencies in student perceptions and it is here that individual differences emerge as possible success factors. The review concludes that future research should investigate how students understanding of the teaching and learning process impacts on their study strategies and perceptions of online learning.

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Posted in Academic Paper

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