January 2012, saw the launch of the eLearning Unit’s Winter School workshops. Five workshops over three days drew together a variety of techniques that staff could implement within their University roles. With over 50 places taken up, the Winter School was very much a success. As a new member of the eLearning team, this proved a good introduction for me to discover staff needs in relation to available technological resources. Attracting over 30 participants, the workshops ran as follows:
- An introduction to VITAL
- Creating electures and podcasts
- Creating and managing efeedback
- Inclusive learning resources
- Working with groups in VITAL
VITAL, the University’s Virtual Learning Environment, provided a basis for the Winter School’s content with a few introductory sessions to help users navigate and build content. The podcasting workshop proved popular, with members of staff aiming to use short podcasts as instructional video/audio, to help provide students with short snippets of information. I noted how the creation of such video content would help one member of staff to tackle some of the regular general queries he received from students. Having visual content easily accessible in his VITAL module meant he could direct students to the appropriate information, freeing him up to deal with other demands. Suggestions were also put across about the potential use of student use for podcasts to provide assessment content that can be uploaded and viewed within VITAL.
“I was pleased with the informal but instructive format, with excellent tutors and realistic learning environment”
Also demonstrated was Turnitin, a plagiarism and assignment marking tool that gives teachers an opportunity to provide clear electronic feedback to a student’s work. The software was received warmly and its glossy look proved favourable over other alternative feedback tools. Turnitin also contains a degree of easy to use drag-and-drop features that make it a very easy piece of software to learn and adapt to.
A key feature that became apparent to me during the workshops was that each session provided a suitable ground for testing and trying out, bringing thoughts and ideas to a discussion. Part of our work here is to let staff know that they have a supportive team willing to help them navigate their ideas to combine pedagogy with technical developments. Having the Wednesday afternoon drop-in sessions, within the eLearning Unit, allows us to extend that invitation to staff, improving relationships with staff and empowering them in their technological teaching endeavours.
by Philip Walker