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The role of virtual learning environments in the online delivery of staff development

The role of virtual learning environments in the online delivery of staff development
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  The Role of Virtual Learning Environmentsin the Online Deliveryof Staff DevelopmentReport 1: Review of Experiencesof Delivering TALiSMAN Online CoursesColin MilliganInstitute for Computer Based LearningHeriot-Watt UniversityNovember 1998  JTAP-573Review of TALiSMAN Online  Page 2 Colin MilliganInstitute for Computer Based LearningHeriot-Watt University,Riccarton, Edinburgh, EH14 4ASemail: URL: JISC Technology Applications Programme is an initiative of the Joint Information SystemsCommittee of the Higher Education Funding Councils.For more information contact:Tom FranklinJTAP Programme ManagerComputer BuildingUniversity of ManchesterManchesterM13 9PLemail: URL:   JTAP-573Review of TALiSMAN Online  Page 3 Table of Contents 0 Overview41 Background51.1 Introduction51.2 The Scottish MANs and UMI Projects51.3 Other Relevant Studies71.4 TALiSMAN Online Activities82 Our Approaches82.1 The TALiSMAN Online Course92.2 Academic Subject Focus Courses102.3 The Online Study Centre122.4 Structure of Materials for WebCT Delivery163 Course Review163.1 Online Course Feedback173.2 Expectations for the Online Course183.3 Participation183.4 Technical Considerations203.5 Online Study Centre Feedback203.6 External Evaluation214 Findings and Lessons Learned234.1 Expectations234.2 Tutor Support244.3 Assessment254.4 Format of the Course255 Synthesis and Conclusions275.1 Considerations for Online Delivery of Staff Development275.2 Conclusions326 References347 Appendices35  JTAP-573Review of TALiSMAN Online  Page 4 0 Overview Computer networks provide the flexibility necessary for successful delivery of education andtraining in a learning society. Exploiting these networks with new communications technologiescan enhance the quality of network based learning, if properly conceived and implemented.Learners can study in their own time, at their own pace and choose their own course, whilstfeeling part of a virtual learning community rather than isolated learners.For two years, the SHEFC funded TALiSMAN project has provided a programme of trainingand awareness to enable staff at Scottish Higher Education Institutions to benefit from theMetropolitan Area Networks which link them. A significant part of this programme (>600training places) has been delivered online.Here we describe two alternative approaches to delivering online staff development which wehave followed. The report will discuss our experiences of these two approaches and highlightissues inherent in the design and delivery of staff development programmes online. We willrecommend ways of maximising the learning experience whilst retaining a flexible and scalabledelivery structure.A second report of this project will extend these findings and discuss the suitability and potentialrole of commercial and freely available Virtual Learning Environments in the delivery of onlinestaff development programmes.  JTAP-573Review of TALiSMAN Online  Page 5 1 Background 1.1 Introduction  The use of computers to support teaching in Higher Education has increased dramatically inrecent years. Network infrastructure improvements and technology developments, (in particularthe World Wide Web (WWW)) are providing exciting opportunities for the use of computers inall disciplines. These developments have coincided with an evolving role for education as morestudents wish to study part-time, at a distance, or wish to integrate their education with theirprofessional career. In addition, the creation of a learning society , where individuals areencouraged to continue to learn throughout their life demands new models of teaching, which donot rely heavily on face to face teaching or strict progression schedules. Universities haverecognised this changing need for educational provision and are investigating more flexibleteaching methods to enter new markets such as distance learning, work-based learning and part-time study. Within Higher Education, there is a movement towards greater formalisation of staff skills and it is anticipated that new delivery mechanisms will be exploited to achieve this. Thecombination of new technologies and network delivery is ideally suited to provide flexibleprovision and also establish distributed learner communities to support the learning process. Inthe context of staff development, such a combination provides: •   Flexibility: allowing material to be delivered on demand, enabling learning independent of time or location constraints, •   Economy of Scale: allowing delivery of learning programmes which might not have beenpossible within smaller institutions, especially those specialising in a single field such as artcolleges, •   Extensibility: allowing the development of banks of modular materials for curricula, whichcan be tailored to specific staff needs over a specific period of time, •   Co-working: extending the scope for collaboration (and sharing) with others in similarpositions at different institutions, enhancing the learning experience, •   Standardisation: enabling the adoption of recognised qualifications across the sector. 1.2 The Scottish MANs and UMI Projects  As an example of the improvement in IT infrastructure and its impact on staff development,consider the developments in Scottish HE. In 1995 and 1996 the Scottish Higher EducationFunding Council (SHEFC) funded the creation and installation of a high speed, reliable network 
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