Friday, 12 December 2008

University of Warwick - e-learning strategy - 2002

A while ago, I was asked to select an e-learning policy and critique it. Ever since I’ve done this, I’ve pontificated about the e-learning strategy of the University of Warwick, and earlier today thought what a good idea to post my discussion posting about the policy on my blog so that those who are interested can take a further look.

The original document has been removed from the universities web site, but thanks to an internet archive (The WayBack Machine?) it can be viewed here:

Warwick University elearning Strategy Document, May 2002

Subject: University of Warwick - e-learning policy. Message no. 783 Author: David Callaghan (10133721) Date: Monday, October 23, 2006 9:43am

The policy I have selected is by the University of Warwick Information Technology Policy Committee, e-Learning Steering Group (2002).

* Summary

The strategy bowled me over in many aspects, in particular:
- University centric – looking at e-learning in the context of teaching and research at the whole university;
- Suggesting lobbying of funders to help with funding and steering their policies;
- ‘Soft’ targets, not the standard tick boxes I have been led to expect;
- Extensive realistic expectation embedded throughout the policy, especially with reference to encouraging staff to adopt the technology.

1) How was the strategy formed? Who was involved?

The strategy was formed by the e-learning steering group of ITPC at the University of Warwick. It appears to be a result of meetings of the e-learning steering group supported by wide consultation with many university departments; there is no mention of policy or guidance from any external agency.

2) What does the strategy set out to do? What are its aims?

The document articulates a framework for extending e-learning in ways consistent with the University's overall strategy and the e-strategy produced in 2001, and outlines the provision that the University would need to make to facilitate its implementation.

It is extremely comprehensive, covering an extensive field of e-learning issues, addressing positive aspects and problems, and suggesting ways of overcoming them. For example, from section 5.3 that is addressing how to encourage staff to develop e- learning in their departments: The rewards for staff and departments involved in this work should be tangible to encourage it, and might be collective (in the form of enhanced teaching research rankings, recognition by peers, etc.)

3) How practical is the strategy? Is it mainly a set of guidelines; or are there specific recommendations?

The strategy addresses a multitude of specific issues with recommendations or suggestions for most of the practical problems envisaged in enhancing the e-learning experience at Warwick. All of the suggestions seem eminently practical and reasonable.

4) Are there resources available to back up and develop the strategy?

As recommendations are stated, existing funding streams or resources are identified that to some extent financially support each recommendation. One of the exceptions is the financial provision for support staff is referred to in 5.1.2: Appropriate plans and bids would need to be developed.

5) Can you make a judgement as to how helpful the strategy is for:

(a) managers and (b) staff

It puts clearly into context what the universities desire for e-learning is and what activities the university would support to meet those aims. Managers and staff would be able to create their own priorities and policies in their areas to support the overall strategy. It clearly indicates technical issues, funding streams, and new areas to explore, such as the sale of lectures via streaming technologies.

(c) clients/patients/pupils/students?

Students may not find the strategy especially useful since they have a relatively short career at the university and the policy is addressing a 5 year + timescale. However, medics and other students envisaging a longer stint may look at this to support lobbying for this at later stages.

6) What is your overall feeling about ‘strategies’?

I am suspicions of ‘strategies’ as they can be used as a fig leaf to hide poor practice and reluctance to change (Collinson, Knights, and Collinson 1990). They have been used by many organizations to pontificate about what they do or are going to do, and then get on with the status quo, or even use the policy to enable them to do differently. Notably, in the university sector this can be done with great style and flair.

However, I have to say I am very impressed with the Warwick strategy, and having read this one would suggest that this be a first port of call for anyone thinking of developing their own. I have read many policies from the DfES which are embedded with rhetoric and hard targets seemingly plucked out of the air. The Warwick document is, in my opinion, vastly superior because:

* it contains little rhetoric;
* its recommendations are founded in a pedagogical view of learning combined with a realistic expectation of staff;
* targets are soft – such as
'Widespread' (used by >50% of staff);
'Medium' (used by 25- 50% of staff);
'Low' (used by approx. 10% of staff);

Further reading: The Edge Hill e-learning strategy. I know there is at least a draft in existence which is being championed by M Schofield, but that’s where the trail ends. Can someone post this please?


Warwick University, Information Technology Policy Committee, e-Learning Steering Group (2002) elearning Strategy Document Version 2.1 [20.5.02] Accessed 22 October 2006

Monday, 1 December 2008

Table one
This is a test

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Amazon "having problems" with their systems ...


I'm trying to buy an xbox for my kids for xmas - and have found an offer on which looks too good to be true ... a 360 (£159), plus a FREE wireless entertainment pack (two games and a wireless controller) PLUS two games for £10 - all with free delivery!  Too good to be true?  Nearly.  Here's the amazon link (which probably won't work now):

I did get the offer, but it too two 20 minute phone calls and the operator had to manually adjust the total - but I did get it for the £170 promised.  How many other people would have given up and gone for the full price?

Saturday, 21 June 2008

I'm often asked what it is that I do ...

I am often asked what is it that I do? I wrote this to help me answer the question, and refer other people to when I see them drifting off…

I currently help lecturers in higher education with e-learning and related issues. Areas include:
• Strategy
• Awareness
• Training needs analysis
• Training provision
• Consultancy
• Co-operative design of courses
• Review of online curriculum

All of this work is underpinned by a wide and deep reading of literature, conference presentations and cutting edge implementation, review and discussion in my workplace. I draw from internationally recognised experts in e-learning, pedagogy and curriculum design. Authors include: Biggs, Bonk, Brabazon, Laurillard, Littlejohn, Goodyear, Kirschner, Nicol, Oliver, Papert and Salmon and Smith. I also draw from colleagues in my department and teaching staff that have expertise in the e-learning area.

To expand with more detail, here are some of the main characteristics of courses that I have created or that I have heavily influenced:

  • Modules (courses) are split into “units of learning”, similar in size to one lecture or face to face session.
  • Materials are time released, to maintain pace and user engagement
  • Background reading is released prior to the main materials being released
  • Each unit of learning is presented with natural language structures, making the learning accessible to a wide audience, highly readable, and engaging.
  • The text is permeated with pauses for thought and reflection – consistently distinguished with colour or location to orient the learner.
  • Relevant links to internet resources are limited to those that are a major contribution to the learning outcomes – and never jeopardise the completion of a unit within a two / three hour timeframe.
  • One activity presented at the end of each unit of learning – usually involving discussion of the topics presented with other students – often asking the student to recontextualise the theory presented in their own practice or anticipated practice.
  • With low student numbers the tutor is expected to read and moderate every posting. Each posting is not graded. In small groups formative feedback may be given by the tutor, often commenting to the whole group.
  • Feedback in large groups is facilitated by sub groups, peer feedback and quantitative monitoring of students contributions by teaching assistants. The quality of a student's contribution to the discussion is sometimes assessed, though often on a pass/ fail grading structure to reduce tutor workload.
  • One assessed exercise at the end of each unit – usually involving a patchwork of their and others contributions to the discussion board generated by each units activity.
  • Sometimes the assessed exercise includes a discussion of their contribution to the online discussion – giving the lurkers their chance to discuss how lurking affected their learning.
  • Support giving encouragement and formative feedback must be present.
  • Usually an assessed reflection on their contribution to the discussions.
I recommend that contributions to the discussion board are graded pass / fail at a very course level – the reflection can be graded (this method has been through university validation panels)

I am gratified to see elements of my approach being espoused at international e-learning conferences by leading figures in the field such as David Nichol (Strathclyde), George Siemens (Manitoba) and Peter Goodyear (University of Queensland).

Perhaps one example of recent work would be a suggested assessment exercise in a health module. The teaching staff had transferred much of a unit online, but were unable to transfer the assessment because it involved the student interacting with the tutor in a role-play situation. I suggested a video be made using actors playing the roles of practitioner and service user, embedded with a number of errors and good practice. The student was asked to view the video and then identify and discuss at least three elements of good and bad practice. This idea was welcomed not only by the academic staff, but also the academic management at the university.

Perhaps you think I could help you with your course …

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Settings for exporting Adobe Premier Pro 1.5 to a streaming server:

Go to Adobe Media Encoder from the File -> Export menu. The screen shot shows the options I chose.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Database: Create, Tables and Relation.

Here are five short videos showing you how to create a new Access database, two tables, and then relate them. The final video gives a quick demo of a query taking information from the two related tables. Each video will open in a new window, and will start automatically, so DON'T click on them or else you'll get loads of youtube windows up... be patient ...

  1. Create new database file

  2. Create a table - with a primary key

  3. Create a second table, with a reference for the others primary key

  4. Relate the two tables

  5. Introduce a method of displaying data from two related tables

Support documents:

Friday, 2 May 2008

Embedding Real Video into a web page:


Just some technical stuff today - how to embed Real Video into a web page:

Here is what I wanted to achieve - (OK the left hand column is too narrow - but hey, it's a start ...), and the code is listed underneath:

Self Harm - Conflict (BBC / Sarah Curtis 2005)

"Sarah Curtis from Southampton has been self harming since she was 11 years old. It's a personal battle between wanting to stop and getting relief through self harming. Sarah hopes her film will help others understand how self harm affects people's lives. This is her story... " (BBC 2005)

Now click the image on the right to watch a short video from Sarah Curtis ... (You will need RealPlayer installed to watch this - look for the free version):

Launch in external player

Here's the code:
<table width="100%" border="1" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0">

<td valign="top"><p align="center" class="style1"><strong>Self Harm - Conflict</strong> (<a href="" target="_blank">BBC / Sarah Curtis 2005</a>) </p>

<p align="left"><em>&quot;Sarah Curtis from Southampton has been self harming since she was 11 years old. It's a personal battle between wanting to stop and getting relief through self harming. Sarah hopes her film will help others understand how self harm affects people's lives. This is her story... </em>&quot; (<a href="" target="_blank">BBC 2005</a>)</p>
<p align="left">Now click the image on the right to watch a short video from Sarah Curtis ... (You will need <a href="" target="_blank">RealPlayer</a> installed to watch this - look for the free version):</p>
<p align="left"><em></em></p></td>
<td valign="top"><table border='0' cellpadding='0' align="center">
<!-- begin video window... -->
<td valign="top"><object id='rvocx' classid='clsid:CFCDAA03-8BE4-11cf-B84B-0020AFBBCCFA'
width="320" height="240">
<param name='src' value="" />
<param name='autostart' value="false" />
<param name='controls' value='imagewindow' />
<param name='console' value='video' />
<param name='loop' value="false" />
<embed src="" width="320" height="240"
loop="False" type='audio/x-pn-realaudio-plugin' controls='imagewindow' console='video' autostart="False"> </embed>
<!-- ...end video window -->
<!-- begin control panel... -->
<td><object id='rvocx' classid='clsid:CFCDAA03-8BE4-11cf-B84B-0020AFBBCCFA'
width="320" height='30'>
<param name='src' value="" />
<param name='autostart' value="false" />
<param name='controls' value='ControlPanel' />
<param name='console' value='video' />
<embed src="" width="320" height='30'
controls='ControlPanel' type='audio/x-pn-realaudio-plugin' console='video' autostart="False"> </embed>
<!-- ...end control panel -->
<!-- ...end embedded RealMedia file -->
<!-- begin link to launch external media player... -->
<td align='center'><a href="" style='font-size: 85%;' target='_blank'>Launch in external player</a>
<!-- ...end link to launch external media player... -->

Thursday, 28 February 2008

How to enliven an on-line course:

This is what I think you need for an on-line course. Unless you can tick ALL the boxes, you haven't got true learning 2.0:

  • Topics
  • Text
  • Video / Audio
  • Links - > Journals, games
  • Thougts/activities
  • Discussion

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Ideas for a conference submission ...

E learning - a review of the literature and some pragmatic suggestions for the HE teacher.

In this discussion I argue that people have always exercised freedom and imagination in how they learn. I draw from debates around writing and literature, research methods and education theory to highlight the multi-faceted ways in which individuals approach their learning.

E-learning is becoming embedded in teaching and learning in UK HEI’s - institutions are looking for higher quality, wider access, elegant scalability and intrusive monitoring.

Meanwhile academics are coming under increasing pressure to incorporate online support, activities and discussion into their teaching. What I believe is lacking is a pedagogic AND pragmatic model which can be used to inform the teacher as they are designing an online environment. In particular, we are strongly encouraged as teachers to adopt a constructive approach to teaching – but where is the evidence to suggest that this is the best approach, in which context, for what learners, for what age group?

In this debate I propose that the social constructivist model has been stretched beyond breaking point, and that a more balanced and pragmatic ‘blend’ of pedagogy be used to inform the design of the online environment. I am also looking for generic principles which can be used throughout the lifetime of a course, and especially during critical points, such as the design of a first online discussion and a tutor’s
feedback to students – such as the decision of whether to feedback individually or in a discussion group.

I believe that ICT has a central role to play in the university of the 21st century and that this role will grow for both students and academics. I think (and include evidence to support) that its impact will work best when it is engaged to work with not instead of other methods, together not apart from the more traditional approaches. At the end of a debate I am looking for a model which will enable the hard pressed academic to better select and design ICT objects to support their teaching and learning objectives.

Friday, 8 February 2008


Any comments about the following books, as recommended by alpercelk - YouTube - "These are the books that we use in The Royal Institute of Technology/Stockholm".

I strongly recommend to ICT entrepreneurs to read these books
1- Crossing the chasm (Geoffrey Moore)
2- Blue Ocean Strategy(W.Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne)
3- Red Ocean Strategy
4- Inside the Tornado (Geoffrey A. Moore)
5- Good to Great (Jim Collins)
6- Art of the Start (Guy Kawasaki)
7- Rules for Revolutionaries (Guy Kawasaki)
8- Made to Stick (Dan Heath & Chip Heath)

Some great links about e-learning ...

Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us

Connectivism - Presentation by George Siemens at Educause, Jan 2008
Presenter(s):George Siemens, Associate Director, Learning Technologies Centre, University of Manitoba.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Hybrid Learning

Current use of Hybrid Learning is a term used by some US academics with an intended identical meaning to blended learning. There are a couple of alternatives emerging from the UK – here's mine:

An Alternative Definition

Hybrid Learning is delivered using a combination of approaches to teaching and learning, ranging from short synchronous face to face sessions to asynchronous online sessions lasting many weeks.

Contents (for the wikipedia entry)


I stumbled upon this method when teaching in a UK high school in 2006 - much of the content of the course was delivered on-line – during usual lesson time. I noted the benefit of face-to-face delivery of some, and on-line social constructivist delivery of the majority of the course.

Naming Rational

Blended learning is characterised by a variety of delivery mechanisms, but the term ‘blended’ implies a lack of lucidity in the selection of the mechanism – like mixing different colored play dough together, you might end up with a bit of a mess.

Hybrid learning is characterized by the selection of an appropriate delivery mechanism for different learning components based on sound pedagogical practice. Hybrid has been chosen as it implies a conscious choice of the ‘stronger’ method, therefore giving a stronger ‘Hybrid’.

Thus Hybrid Learning is a subset of Blended Learning – moreover, an improved Blended Learning. It follows that many courses using Blended Learning may more accurately be described as using Hybrid Learning.


The rational behind Hybrid Learning is to select the best tool for the job. Some tasks are best delivered using face to face [ref] or 1-1 sessions [ref]. A major factor of the success of the Hybrid method is the ability of the tutor to select the best method of delivery.


Tutor selection of the delivery mechanism makes the Hybrid method more applicable to captive students such as those in secondary education, undergraduates, and commercial training.


(more referenced required)