Solstice Conference at Edge Hill University – Day Two

I attended the second day of the Solstice Teaching and Learning Conference at Edge Hill University. I’m not sure why I haven’t been to this conference for a number of years, I guess sometimes you overlook things because they are on your own doorstep. I’ll make sure I don’t make that mistake again. The topics discussed on this day admirably represented the current state of play in educational technologies, academic development, as well as the condition and purpose of the “University” at this tumultuous time. The notions of openness and space recurred throughout the day’s presentations. Beginning with Dr John Cater, Vice Chancellor at Edge Hill, addressing the audience with – as he described – his musings on the possible changes to the trajectory of Higher Education after the general election, it was great to see him pull up a table (no lectern or chair) and begin to share and respond to views about the responses around TEF and why we are at this point. He also did a little bit of future-gazing, sharing his ideas about the possible impact that a likely Conservative win would have on the Higher Education sector in general. This was an absorbing, passionate and inspiring talk and one I suspect doesn’t happen in other teaching and learning conferences around the country. Great start to the day.

The theme of openness continued with Prof Keith Smyth’s presentation on the ideas and approaches around the Porous (or leaky) University. Many will be familiar with his previous work and approaches to open practice via the 3E Framework and the Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice. The ideas around this talk weren’t unfamiliar to me. I’d been made aware of them through colleagues Mark Johnston and Sheila McNeil sharing their thoughts on Twitter. As I understand it, the Porous University is an exploration of openness and place – in particular third spaces as described in Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place, the idea being that large amounts of learning can and does (and should?) take place in other spaces beyond the traditional classroom environment. With the increasing commercialisation of Higher Education in the UK, these ideas tend to be in tension with view of universities as a civic good and education as a mission, rather than a marketplace.  Keith went on to share a range of examples from across the country which look at alternative models of higher education as well as challenging the ideas of the current curriculum. What I found valuable about this work was the focus on connecting the University to local communities and other discrete groups in ways that would impact positively on both, becoming valuable to people in the activities it pursues and not just the revenue it generates.

The use of institutional tools came under scrutiny as being potential barriers for collaboration across modules, groups, interests and countries, suggesting that social media spaces are in a better position to encourage sharing and openness, while traditional VLE spaces are bound by transactional delivery of information. This theme was also picked up by Simon Thomson Head of Digital Pedagogy at Leeds Beckett University with his presentation “Disrupting the ownership model of educational technology”.

He has recently begun a project, supported by JISC, which pushes the idea that our digital spaces can be provided by the institution but the ownership, control and the data ultimately resides with the student. Working with his current VLE provider Blackboard, he is exploring ways to allow students to share from their social spaces into the VLE.  Taking IFTTT as his model, where you use existing parts of the web to plug into and connect services and profiles to be able function more effectively.  They are currently testing a product called Pulse which I’ll be keeping an eye (and finger! Boom boom!) on.

With a greater shift into digital spaces, there appears to be an increased level of questioning directed at educational technology providers. I’m sensing that people are no longer willing simply to accept what is presented to them, and adapt. Rather, interrogation of fitness for purpose appears to be becoming the new normal. Perhaps this is not too surprising when you consider that a number of universities in the UK are reviewing their digital spaces by undergoing or planning a VLE review. Continuing this theme was a presentation from Claire Moscrop entitled “Digital Accessibility in Higher Education: a Model for Improvement”. Set against the backdrop of changes to DSA support the talk highlighted a growing number of students that would need further support in the coming year. This context provided the basis of their research study looking into ways to provide guidance to create accessible content for adding to the VLE that would benefit all students.

It was not just the digital space that was being considered, the physical was also under discussion.  Federica Oradnini (University of Westminster) and Prof Peter Hartley (standing in for Prof Gunter Saunders) shared the substantial work being undertaken at Westminster to update and change a large number teaching rooms into effective learning spaces. The presentation highlighted a range of examples across the Higher Education landscape citing examples by Northampton, Leeds and Nottingham Trent Universities.

This project saw investment of £10 million over five years that would develop 260 standard teaching spaces at the institution. They are now in year three of the project and will have completed 100 rooms by the end of the summer. They presented pictures of the 5 different room types that emerged from discussions with staff. I would have liked to have spent a little more time in the session discussing these as a group as it seemed some of the choices were more geared to interactivity than others. Westminster had already adopted a number of in-class engagement tools to make the best use of these spaces including Poll Everywhere, Reflector and Padlet.  To help academic staff make the best of these new spaces Federica and her team created an online module to share good practice and ideas from within the institution.  The early stage feedback from staff and students who had used the room was positive but will be interesting to revisit in a year or two. Peter wrapped up with some considerations about the conditions and good practice needed to develop spaces like these. Key in this appears to be implementation “based on pedagogy not just capacity or efficiency”.

All in all this was a stimulating event with a great mix of workshops and presentations covering many of the key considerations of teaching and assessment in higher education at this current time. They also have ducks wandering around their campus. What more could you ask for? See you at Solstice 2018.

Alex

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Report – Social media round table May 2017

When King Arthur sat with his knights in Camelot around his round table, would technology have impacted on the stories that make up his legend?

Round table meetings being arranged on What’s App, pulling Excalibur out of the stone captured on Periscope, the Holy Grail quest having a hashtag on Twitter and Arthur’s relationship status with Guinevere being updated on Facebook.

These were the strange images I was conjuring up when I was invited to the first Social Media round table, hosted by my eLearning Unit colleague Alex Spiers. Having worked alongside him, absorbing his knowledge and enthusiasm for mobile technology within higher education, he was a worthy Arthur to lead this session. My role felt like Arthur’s follower in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, running alongside and banging two coconuts together.

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Our Camelot was the Central Teaching Hub and our round table was a series of them in the GFlex. The worthy knights appearing for this summit came from a variety of backgrounds in the University.

The Library was well represented, digital leads from communication teams, teaching staff, PhD students, Education developers, study abroad, marketing and alumni staff.
This was all found out by our introductory task of going round the table and introducing ourselves to the group, with a description of why we were there. My own use of social media has been driven by my professional work.

I’ve never been a user of Facebook, but do use Twitter to keep connected to news and colleagues in eLearning and higher education. I also use LinkedIn to keep connected with people I’ve worked with in my career.

The reason I attended was to see how people were using social media in their own teaching, how it affects their own professional lives and to see if anyone was carrying anything new that I wasn’t aware of.

My reasons were echoed by everyone in the room and it seemed Twitter was the preferred tool of everyone when using social media. Hashtag for the day was #LIVUNISOCIAL, which helped keep us all connected in the virtual world of Twitter. We were all well fed with a selection of Tunnocks biscuits provided by Alex and Joanna from Education Development.

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Alex presented the group with a nice exercise of using our mobile devices in using Slido, which required us to login to a website, input a unique code and start using our mobile devices as a clicker and answering questions on our social media usage.

With Alex leading the pace and topics of discussion, it emerged that many people were using social media for communication, in particular targeting students. Whether it’s the whole student body, a group such as a class, or even potential new students – people put a lot of thought and effort into communicating.

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Twitter was the highest percentage from the Slido poll, followed by Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and LinkedIn. I was shocked that there were no users of Periscope, considering the high percentage of Twitter users, that nobody had used the video streaming app which complements Twitter.

slido pool types of sm
But that’s the point of this session, in time we will probably identify or see the opportunity a technology like Periscope can be used in higher education. The same can be said about other emerging apps like SnapChat and will be interesting to see in the future if these apps are used more widely.

For this session, the discussion revolved around mainly Twitter, how people were in control of departmental accounts and evaluating the pros and cons of communicating this way. Staff were sharing a department account under one name, yet to their audience the students see it as one unified voice, which was interesting to see how it was maintained.

The famous ‘laminated tweets’ provided by the library were fun to read and analyse too.  Some users used Canva to design their tweets which I hadn’t come across before and instantly bookmarked.

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Voices from marketing and communication raised interesting concerns about associating social media accounts to the university and what staff should be aware of publishing. In general, people were focussing on the fears of how they are perceived on social media, mainly by how students view them.

The emergence of new apps such as SnapChat was an interesting discussion. A member of the library suggested that as they were not a user of SnapChat, the use of it and language can come across as forced to the audience which were students.

With further sessions planned later in the year, attendees will be invited to hear people present case studies and their own experiences in using social media. But for this session, I enjoyed the open discussion of people sharing stories, ideas and networking.

It was opened up to the group of what they would like to cover in the future, again we used Slido to comment and then it was displayed to the group.  Common themes were understanding institution policy, how to implement social media in teaching practice, how to generate consistent content and how to share good practice.

I did feel the session met my needs, I made some good connections across the university and gained a better understanding of how colleagues were using social media in their own working lives. It was fun afterwards to check out the #LIVUNISOCIAL on Twitter afterwards to see how others felt the session went.

I’m looking forward to the future social media round table session and investing sometime in the emerging social media apps our future students will be using. Hopefully I can see my role change from coconut banger to possibly Galahad.

Ben McGrae

Twitter Moment

Slides

Social Media Roundtable #LIVUNISOCIAL

#LIVUNISOCIAL presentation slide

Social media in education expert Eric Stoller has suggested that “from student recruitment to alumni relations, social media has a place at every step of the student journey” https://www.jisc.ac.uk/news/why-educators-need-social-media-07-jul-2015  

We couldn’t agree more. At the University we have some fantastic examples of using social media which need to be disseminated more widely across the campus. So following a chat on Twitter (see below), staff from the e Learning Unit in the Centre for Innovation in Education (CIE) and colleagues in the Central Teaching Lab (CTL)  decided to set up a social media meeting together. The meeting will take place on Tuesday 2nd May 3pm – 5pm. For more details and to register contact eddev@liverpool.ac.uk 

I should also mention that this idea and name was inspired by the excellent work going on at my alma mater: University of Glasgow.

This inaugural round table event is aimed at University of Liverpool staff using social media to support and enhance the student journey. We’ll bring together examples of good practice and also explore new ways these tools can be used. Bring an open mind and a creative approach.

If you would like to book a place contact eddev@liverpool.ac.uk

Places are limited. There will be cakes.

Follow online #LIVUNISOCIAL.

Telling Stories: ULMS Social Media and External Engagement workshop

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Supriya Garikapti attended one of the eLearning Unit’s CPD sessions on the Use of Twitter in Higher Education. She contacted me soon after and asked if I’d like to share some of my work at an upcoming Social Media and External Engagement impact workshop in the Management School. I was only too happy to oblige. You can view my presentation here which is entitled Twitter Top Tips.

The basis for the workshop was to share a wide range of good practice from colleagues across the school. A great deal of work is already underway regarding maintaining the excellent standing of the school in the upcoming REF assessment in 2021. It is with the knowledge that Lord Nicholas Sterns’s recent recommendations look likely to guide the shape of the next assessment exercise that I’ve highlighted the three impact recommendations below:

Recommendation 5: Institutions should be given more flexibility to showcase their interdisciplinary and collaborative impacts by submitting ‘institutional’ level impact case studies, part of a new institutional level assessment.

Recommendation 6: Impact must be based on research of demonstrable quality. However, case studies could be linked to a research activity and a body of work as well as to a broad range of research outputs.

Recommendation 7: Guidance on the REF should make it clear that impact case studies should not be narrowly interpreted, need not solely focus on socio-economic impacts but should also include impact on government policy, on public engagement and understanding, on cultural life, on academic impacts outside the field, and impacts on teaching.

There is increasing evidence of the value of blogging about your work and sharing it to wider audience via social media channels such as Twitter. There are also plenty of handy tips to get you started and help you effectively promote your work. The eLearning Unit regularly run sessions on social media such as An Introduction to Twitter and Getting more out of Twitter. Get in touch with the eLearning Unit in the Centre for Innovation in Education to find out more. Right, that’s enough advertising!

HSS Press Officer Matt Hurst kindly didn’t speak to a PowerPoint presentation which allowed my #LIVUNISOCIAL event advert to gain maximum exposure! (I promise that’s the last advert!)

#LIVUNISOCIAL presentation slide

Matt informed the audience about the role of the Press Office in supporting staff to make the most of their press contacts, brokering relationships with major media outlets, providing media training for academic staff, as well as providing useful advice if things go wrong on social media. In the context of the events theme, visibility on news, radio and television is considered a pathway to impact and may be looked on favourably in the REF submission. To that end, they are in the process of setting up a state of the art broadcast suite in partnership with Globelynx.

Following on from this was Paul Sapple, Public Engagement With Research manager for the University. He impressed upon the gathered attendees the importance of impact and the support he provides in helping staff along that pathway.  He shared with us some of Supriya’s recent research its impact. The case study focused on empowering young girls in India to understand and manage their fertility.

Jennifer Johns shared her experiences of writing about Brexit for the online publication the The Conversation. For those unfamiliar with the name, it is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and is publicly accessible online. Contributions from the University of Liverpool are high with over 130 academics and researchers. Publishing in this way opened up opportunities to further increase impact as it led to work on BBC radio and Slovak TV. The article was widely shared across blogs and Twitter and while this was a pleasing when looking at the analytics (1700 views), she stated that once published here it’s no longer in your hands. The drawback to wiring a piece on a contentious topic is the comments she received on the site. Comments on websites sometimes bring out the keyboard warriors and trolls who are only in it for the “lulz”.

My knowledge of the intricacies of the tariffs applied to the sale of alcohol in Canada increased tenfold after hearing about the internationally recognised work of Andrew Smith. He didn’t seem to need to use social media for impact, as his work was widely reported in the Canadian press as part of a major legal case. However, he continued to help keep the story alive on his regularly updated blog https://pastspeaks.com/

As the audience dwindled due teaching commitments, many people will have missed  what was certainly my favourite presentation of the afternoon. Nick Papageorgiadis shared how he used the openness and immediacy of Twitter to promote the research in his subject area: research on national Intellectual Property (IP).  He developed a new index that measures the strength of patent systems of 49 countries, annually, for the years 1998-2015. The index was published at the Journal of World Business and the scores and latest updates of the index are available on this website. His approach to using Twitter was very focused. He identified a clear audience for his work, only posted and responded to questions on his research and when retweeting the work of others, he always posted a short comment about the article. In particular, certain retweets of his work have driven traffic to his patent systems website, significantly so in Australia and Finland where his work has informed governmental reports. Summing up he suggested there are many pro’s to using Twitter. It’s very useful to share the work you have done and if used alongside a website, you can easily track the impact of your tweets. Having it all online aids the evidence collection process. According to Nick, there is a price to pay for working in this way. He states that it took some time to get started and maintain a presence on Twitter, and that the workload allocation model does not distinguish this activity as teaching or scholarship. This begs the question when will we get to a stage where our work activity on Social Media is recognised and supported?

Alex

Travelogue – Reflections on ePortfolios in Professional Development event

Measuring the distance travelled is a phrase that is often associated with the use of portfolios in education. In many ways my attendance at the Pebblepad “ePortfolio in Professional Development event at Sheffield Hallam was a little like time travel. I have traveled some distance but I’m also travelling back, way back, back into time.  My first role at LJMU in 2006 was to support the wide scale implementation of the Blackboard ePortfolio tool to support student Personal Development Planning and assessment. ePortfolios haven’t enjoyed the same uptake as VLEs within Higher Education and tend to be described as ‘troublesome knowledge’.  Even the term ePortfolio isn’t widely agreed upon and PebblePad no longer use it to describe their product, preferring instead Personal Learning Space. That said,  many Higher Education Institutions now require, broadly speaking, some process or tool to evidence staff and student progression. So it is with many hats on I attended this event. Part of my current role is to look after the upgrade to Pebbleppad V5 this summer, so I was keen to hear more about how this area of learning developed. In particular, how Pebblepad could potentially be used to support HEA Fellowship application and Professional Development Review.

While the topic was familiar, the environment for the day certainly wasn’t. Andrew Middleton introduced us to their SCALE UP room and how this environment would shape the activities for the day, but also connected the space to Pebblepad’s online learning space. SCALE UP stands for Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Upside Down pedagogy. I was unfamiliar with the term but recognised the flipped classroom approach. SHU and neighbours NTU have invested in this approach as it supports the flipped classroom methodology, and student as partner approaches, encouraging more active group working in a technologically rich environment.  The aim is to remove passivity in the classroom and engage in higher domain learning accordance with the Bloom’s Taxonomy approach. Lectures are replaced by problem solving and enquiry based activities carried out in strategically-assigned groups.

The event was hosted in a large room and was divided into 7 round tables which could comfortably sit 9 staff or students. Each table has a laptop to capture work on that was connected to the LCD displays surround the room. Also in the middle of the table was range of power sockets and USB inputs for power-hungry working. Each table also had a 6 foot portable white board which Andrew stated was an integral part of the approach. He also suggested that the set up afforded structure and flexibility to the teaching experience, and the fluidity to remove the hierarchy of one central speaker but devolve it into the “spotlight” groups. This layout supported the structure of the day. Short presentations from experts, round table discussions, writing up ideas and feeding back to the group. I really enjoyed the social element of this approach, as well as white-boarding ideas and sharing. If I’m being a little critical (and selfish!) I would have liked to have the opportunity to do that with all the speakers for the day, as there were so many interesting topics.

ePortfolios in Professional Development

I was fortunate to spend the most time in a group with Dr Karen Ford at University of Sheffield. She detailed the work done at the institution over the past few years in using Pebblepad to support flexible pathways to HEA recognition. With the help of Pete Mella from the TEL team, they created self-contained workbooks for each of the different routes to recognition. The workbooks act like mini websites packed full of contextual information to help the applicant submit statements at the appropriate level. The workbook acted as a scaffold to allow individuals to provide evidence that allow them to meet the UKPSF criteria. Pebbelpad also doubles as an area where individuals can store evidence, reflections and artefacts privately, before electing to share or add them to the application. These methods were backed up by face-to- face explorer events, mentoring and successful writing clinics throughout the year. She commented that the new version of Pebblepad has made the process and usability much easier. The technology, support and tailored design process has been a success. Over the past two years there has been increase in applications across the board, including a significant rise in SFHEA applicants – from 6 to over 100.

Here is a link to Karen’s presentation. Pebblepad have collated  all the other presentations from the day on their website.

Alex

“It won’t take too long” – eLU presentation on developing online learning

Recently, Liverpool’s Hope University got in contact with Glenn Godenho, an academic in Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, to ask him if he would deliver a CPD presentation about online / blended learning courses. Glenn was happy to take up the offer and quickly extended the invitation to me to help bring the holistic message of eLearning to his session. I have worked closely with Glenn over the last few years to develop and deliver a MOOC through the Future Learn platform,  as well as a designing a series of Continuing Education courses. We felt our experience had dealt specifically with the tensions of translating traditional forms of teaching face-to-face into the ever changing online environment, tackling the popular ‘It won’t take too long’ attitude, that can creep around such developments.

Our message was simple – don’t let content dictate how an online course should be designed and delivered. It seems obvious, but you will be surprised how even the most adept users of technology in teaching easily fall into this trap. I’ve known countless academics that try to convert their subject expertise into online course content only to be faced with more questions and troubleshooting issues, particularly issues about the deeper design and pedagogical structure of their course. In the digital domain this is not an easy task but it’s an important stage to understand, within the framework of an institution.

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I always point staff to the TPACK model of education. TPACK is a model that states the need for equilibrium between content-knowledge, pedagogical-knowledge and technological-knowledge. The centre of that model is an environment that is ripe for online learning to take place. The principles behind the model seem straight-forward enough when designing courses in practice I really notice how each of these features needs to work together.

 

Overall the session was an exposition of our thinking and the developments of guidance materials that enable online course delivery to be more streamlined within the institutional processes of UoL. Hope University are not currently producing MOOCs but they have a good awareness of the pedagogical tensions within traditional modes of teaching. It’ll be interesting to see how they develop over the years ahead. They certainly have some great facilities, including their flexible learning laboratory (which won an AV industry award last year and you can read a case study with more detail here) designed for collaboration in several group areas with screen sharing technology to pass group material to the numerous displays inside the space.

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We hope to visit Hope again at some point. Networks in Higher Education become more valuable as we tread more on new ground, whether that be in the online classroom or within carefully crafted learning spaces like this one.

 

Philip Walker | Learning Technologist

The eLearning Network meets again!

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The first eLearning Network meeting of the new academic year continued the traditions of last years gatherings: an encouraging and engaged interest group; sharing and discussion of practice from all areas of the University; a look at new services and software applications in development; standing-room only! Increasingly people are also staying on after the main meeting to continue the discussions sparked in the room and to catch up with colleagues from other schools and departments, which is another real strength of this network. Join us! Here’s a flavour of what we covered this time.

Lu Mello and Pete Alston – supporting internships and placements

Whilst this was the final presentation of the meeting it was a great example of what the network meetings do so well, sharing practice and exchanging ideas around how technologies can be deployed and their value in different learning and teaching contexts. Lu discussed how, working with Pete Alston, they had looked in Life Sciences to PebblePad as a way of a) more effectively managing the administration of the ever-increasing number of their students on one year placements or six-week internships abroad and in the UK, and b) more importantly they were looking to formalise and improve the quality of the reflective report writing and associated evidence-gathering required of the students.

With smaller numbers in previous years much of the administrative and student reporting and reflection on placements and internships had been handled through emails. This was leading to too much variety in the reports and sometimes poor reflection, and email was not a strong evidence-gathering tool. PebblePad offered a means by which to build a far more structured environment for the students which demanded quality reflection on the skills they are learning. PebblePad also formalised deadlines for students reporting and the feedback they could expect. Students really valued the system as they felt looked-after whilst away from campus but Pebblepad by itself was not enough and a good deal of preparatory work with the students and the staff was needed. All of this contributed to students feeling very positive with high engagement in the process, every single student completing their reflective reporting every week within the context of other close support mechanisms from Skye calls and emails to site visits.

Gordon Sandison – Library Copyright Guidance – Digitisation

Gordon, the University library’s licensing manager, started off this term’s session with news of a just-published online resource from the library on copyright (and click here for the Information for teachers page which includes VITAL and lecture capture advice). This is very searchable, thorough and includes advice on many aspects of copyright, with extensive help on digital resources, including lecture capture.

Gordon also highlighted that the library’s new digitisation service has been formally launched. If you have a journal article or extract from a text that you want to include on VITAL for example, and if it doesn’t exist electronically in the library, then rather than scanning this yourself and going through the CLA process to make sure it clears our copyright requirements, simply ask the library to do this for you and include it on your Reading List @ Liverpool list. There’s plenty of guidance on the digitisation service here, it will save you a lot of time so please do use it.

Duncan Brown and Alan Brown – a view of VOTA polling app

Classroom polling technologies have been high up on many people’s teaching wishlists for a long time. There are lots of services out there from older-style clickers to web-based systems like Poll Everywhere but nothing is currently provided by the University centrally so schools and departments have been purchasing and subscribing to services as needed. Encouragingly Duncan and Alan from CSD gave us a look at and a try out of a beta version of a polling application, VOTA, currently in development. The project has come out of the team’s interest in exploring the potential of HTML5 websockets so is more of a technology-led than a learning and teaching led development at the moment. Once it’s ready, and further features will include embedding live polls into PowerPoint slides, it will be made available as a simple polling tool that will scale up to use for large cohorts so will be a fantastic entry-level tool for someone to try out this kind of technology in their learning and teaching. Given that there are other more sophisticated polling tools that exist there are no plans to develop VOTA beyond the simple tool we saw in the session. However there was a lot of interest in the prospect of a centrally-available polling system and the discussion in the room was around whether the basic system could be developed in time to do something different to that which Poll Everywhere etc could do and model some different interactions that would be directly relevant to Liverpool staff. A very positive discussion and there is exciting potential here.

Duncan Brown – Stream Capture feedback

Duncan has been the lead developer of our Stream Capture system and we had an informal discussion with him around its development which was an excellent opportunity to feed back on our experiences to date and have an influence on the direction in which the system is being built. An extremely useful tip worth sharing here on how the Stream Capture settings are managed (recording preferences, save to drive etc.) is that your account settings follow you around rather than you needing to reset them whenever you are in a different room.

That’s a very quick round-up and we hope that it persuades you to come along, so we look forward to seeing you at the next meeting which will be on Thursday 28th January 2016 and you can book here nearer the time. We also hope to hear from you and what you would like bring along so if you want to join the mailing list and be notified when the booking opens please contact the eLearning Unit.

Dan