Delving Into the Archives

As part of a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) project creating online learning resources with the Centre for Archive Studies Paul Duvall and Phil Walker, from the eLearning Unit, captured a series of archive images in a specially arranged photo shoot.

Access was granted to the Special Collections & Archives section of the Sydney Jones Library at the University of Liverpool. The collections include manuscripts and archives, medieval to modern; early and finely printed books, and science fiction collections. The Archive of the University includes administrative records, personal papers of former staff and students, photographs and objects relating to the history and function of the University of Liverpool. Some of the oldest manuscripts even date back to the 12th Century! Here is a highlights gallery illustrating some of the more unusual and colourful items in the collection.

The purpose of the photo shoot was to capture any relevant and appropriate images that could be used throughout the online CPD content. Showing the realistic conditions and environment of a current archive will hopefully provide a more stimulating educational experience for the CPD participants. Still images were taken in the Reading Room, which allows up to 18 readers to view materials on request, and the archive which is only accessible for certain staff.

The eLearning Unit capture high quality still images (and video) as part of CPD projects or as a stand alone request. If you would like to know more about eLearning Unit activities in this area or have any other enquiries related to producing online CPD please contact us at

If you have any questions about the Special Collections and Archives please get in touch with the relevant member of staff from the library.

A selection of the photos taken on the day are presented below. Click on the thumbnail images to view a larger version in a new window/tab.

Paul Duvall.

E-learning: The Future of Education in Pakistan

On a recent trip to Pakistan, contributing to the INSPIRE project, I delivered a series of e-learning workshops and talks across a section of the Punjab (a province with a population of over 80 million people!). The participants at these workshops were primarily young doctors and medical educators from throughout the region. The workshops considered the past, present and possible future of education and technology. The sessions were designed to show the current situation in the UK, and particularly in Liverpool, related to education and technology. We then moved into group discussions considering how Pakistan could develop in this area. The day’s activities ended with a practical hands on session where software, introduced earlier in the day, could be experimented with. This section of the workshop included products such as Google Docs, Prezi, Dropbox, Polleverywhere, Ning and many more.

Despite issues such as regular power cuts and a limited technical infrastructure, in some regions, the doctors were very enthusiastic about the use of technology in their teaching and were very keen to learn and explore new opportunities.

Following on from the visit, participants were asked to produce some evidence highlighting effective use of technology in their own teaching. Once demonstrated they will gain a certificate of attendance for the workshop. An online environment has been created for this purpose and several blog posts have already been posted indicating a strong belief that technology plays an essential and integral part of medical education in Pakistan.

It was an excellent visit from my point of view, fascinating to experience a different culture and hugely rewarding to work in a new environment. I would also like to think the visit was well received with colleagues in Pakistan. Our activities attracted some local and national attention, culminating in newspaper articles and an invitation to speak with the Punjab chief minister. The welcome we received, everywhere we went, was incredible and the hospitality of the Pakistani people, during our visit, second to none.

Further developments currently underway, as a result of the visit, are a project to create a VLE for the University of Health Sciences (UHS), Lahore, using a Google Apps for Education domain and the potential creation of PhDs and further significant training opportunities between Pakistan and the University of Liverpool. Exciting times!

Paul Duvall.

Visit by José Chamizo – Universidad Internacional de Andalucia

25th October 2011

The eLU was pleased to welcome José over lunchtime for an informal chat and exchange of ideas. José wanted to understand the work of our team and how learning technology is facilitated and utilised across the University of Liverpool. In turn we were extremely interested to learn about José’s role in maintaining Moodle as the basis of the Universidad  Internacional de Andalucia (UNIA) VLE across their multiple sites and over a wide geographical area in Andalucia and internationally.

L-r: Dan Roberts, Debbie Prescott, Jose Chamizo, Nick Bunyan

José was over in the UK on a staff Erasmus Scheme visit, primarily based in the University of Salford. Thanks to our contacts with Salford José was keen to visit the eLearning Unit to get another perspective on UK HE learning technology. (José was also delighted to be in the home of Liverpool FC, until recently the home of a phalanx of Spanish footballing talent!) UNIA is an interesting body in that it offers graduate and postgraduate-level programmes, and CPD and professional qualification programmes in variety of contexts. They have a very strong international set-up, encompassing Morocco and South America, and they develop and run programmes within a network of Latin American universities.

Sede Málaga

José works at the Malaga Technology Campus of UNIA (above) and it was useful to hear that whilst the decision to use a free, open-source VLE (Moodle) was a financial one, the system has run relatively hassle-free for them out of the box, and has been very easy to configure and adapt for the range of needs they have at UNIA. We look forward to further exchanges with José in the future. José kindly extended an invitation to the eLearning Unit to go and visit him in Malaga, which we are somewhat eager to take up…

Dan Roberts

Visit to the “Media Zoo” and Prof. Gilly Salmon at Leicester Uni

On 3rd November, Alan Southern, Lisa Anderson, Craig Marsh and Debbie Prescott visited Leicester University to meet with Prof. Gilly Salmon and her Beyond Distance Research Alliance team. The meeting was motivated by the “Benchmarking Project” that Alan is working on with Gilly, but it was also a good opportunity to find out what the team there is doing.

They have developed the concept of the Media Zoo. The idea behind this is to much like that of an animal zoo. It is a “safe” (i.e. the animals are in cages) place where staff can go to find information about, gain experience of, and get support with e-learning tools and concepts without fear of the “scary animals” (or e-learning) biting back! Without meaning to be rude, this concept seemed a little uurm, “basic” at first so we asked about how the concept is perceived by staff at Leicester. It seems that it is very well received and very successful. This is backed up by the discussions I have heard at different network meetings and relevant journal papers and the simplicity of the concept is definitely one of the Media Zoo’s strengths! Keeping an idea and concept simple clearly has advantages and something we should recognise at Liverpool.

Like all good simple ideas though there is usually a significant substance lurking in the background and this is certainly the case for the Media Zoo. Each “part” (pets corner, breeding area, safari park and exotics house) of the zoo is backed up by either research projects or case studies which make the zoo an excellent resource. Access to these resources and support from the team really seems to help to give staff the confidence to try different e-learning approaches.

Another of the initiatives from the team at Leicester is the Carpe Diem process. Here a programme team takes part in a series of learner-centred e-learning design and assessment activities (a pre-workshop meeting, a two-day workshop and a follow up meeting). It seems that the Carpe Diem approach is also well received and successful and we are currently investigating how we can adopt aspects of this approach at Liverpool.

The team at Leicester have more staff than we have in the eLearning Unit at Liverpool but this is because they have built up the team by successful research bids and clever “marketing” of their activities. Plus, the appointment of someone like Prof. Gilly Salmon to lead the developments has had an enormous impact. Where they are now in terms of the projects they are involved with and their strategy for e-learning is where we are aiming to be soon – I suspect they are a number of years ahead of us in terms of the development of these e-learning activities.

All in all it was a very useful day and good to make contacts over in Leicester. There is a lot that we can learn from the Beyond Distance Research Alliance and I look forward to further discussions they might have.


Visit by Christina Costa – ALT Learning Technologist of the Year 2010

The eLearning Unit were delighted to welcome Christina Costa to their office today. Christina is the Association for Learning Technology’s 2010 Learning Technologist of the year. The burning question on our lips was “How do we get to be next year’s winner?” (!) but we were more polite in the end and quizzed Christina on the kind of work she did, how she was supported in the University and whether and how we might collaborate in the future.

Christina Costa - ALT learning technologist of the year 2010

Christina is based at the University of Salford (in the Research and Graduate College) and won her award for her work developing staff and student use of social media (blogs, wikis, Twitter, Facebook, etc) for teaching, learning and research. Christina is particularly interested in utilising new media for the promotion of collaborative research and for dissemination of research activity, and we spent a very useful hour in discussion with Christina.

You can read Christina’s Postgraduate Research Team blog here and find her web presence here.

Read about the other winners and runners-up in this year’s awards here. (The eLearning Unit hope to meet up with the Oxford TALL team this year to learn from this award-winning unit).

Read more about the Association for Learning Technology here.

Oxford visit – Sakai factfinder

Paul and Dan recently visited the University of Oxford Computing Services Department to have a look at their installation of the Sakai system, an open-source “Collaboration and Learning Environment” (similar to a VLE)  which is deployed in some major UK institutions, including Oxford and Cambridge.

They were the guests of Adam Marshall, a one-time employee of the University of Liverpool. Adam very generously gave his time to talk through the experience at Oxford of running an open-source VLE, of the transition from one VLE system to another, broader issues of staff support, and he gave a guided ‘tour’ of the University of Oxford Sakai installation WebLearn. We were also treated to a very fine lunch!

Some key findings and resources from the day included:

  • Sakai allows you to create structures that suit your programme, rather than being tied in to an annual ‘modular’ system.
  • University of Hull’s resources on institutional VLE  migration from Blackboard to Sakai (includes very useful information on testing and migration of BB tests to Sakai)
  • Only the medical faculty are currently allowed to assess students formally online at the University of Oxford, this being done in specially built facilities.
  • Also seen was the open-source Mobile Ox developed by Oxford, a student information service for mobile platforms.

Paul and Dan also brought back a wealth of information and contacts which will prove an extremely resource to draw on should there be a general review of the systems offered at UoL in the future. Do leave a comment or email the elearning unit to find out more about Sakai,  elearning systems and support structures at Oxford, or even about the Oxford Sausage!

Further to this, Nick will be visiting the Oxford team on December 9th 2010 for an open day workshop on the latest version of Sakai currently under development, the Sakai Open Academic Environment: