HEA Senior Fellowship Case Study Series: 1 – Creating a public-facing e-learning environment
By Matt Jenner, on 12 August 2014
As a four-part series I am openly publishing my case studies previously submitted for my Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. I submitted my application in February 2014. If you’re interested in this professional recognition programme, please visit their webpages and look through the Professional Standards Framework (PSF). UCL runs an institutional model for fellowships called ARENA, your institution may run one too – speak to people!
Case Study 1 – Creating a public facing e-learning environment
With 10 years’ experience, I joined UCL’s central e-learning team in 2008. My role requires me to advise a diverse academic community traversing a diverse technological landscape. I build strong relationships with colleagues and contribute to technical developments and institutional strategies. My specialisation is distance education, an area experiencing accelerated growth across the sector due to demand for flexible learning, increasing technological grasp and the questionable future of Massive Online Open Courses.
My activity focuses around UCLeXtend – a new public-facing online learning environment offering free and premium courses. I advocate open education and am passionate about the opportunities universities have for social enterprise, global impact and widening participation. A core component of our institutional e-learning strategy is to “raise UCL’s profile as a global education leader”; by opening the rich and varied corpus of UCL to a wider audience I am enabling this reality.
UCLeXtend is built on familiar and established e-learning software which eases the transition for staff (K4). Staff leave their comfort zones when developing distance learning so I mentor them throughout the process. Course development approaches are less familiar; so I encourage course teams to follow a customised course development framework based on an existing model named ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation) (K5). I facilitate open discussion of ideas and assimilate their subject material from the outset, advising on suitable development approaches (K1).
I struggle with the demand for ‘rapid’ (i.e. quick and cheap) course development, some colleagues need convincing that high quality interactive and engaging learning is not guaranteed by nice fonts and shiny graphics. I adapted the ADDIE course development framework to focus on the needs and approaches of individuals’ learning, tailored for the appropriate market and teaching style (K2). I encourage good practice and make recommendations for course design and structure, especially factoring in learner’s who are going to “consider the potential educational benefits” of each resource or activity (K3).
Creating courses open to the public exposes UCL, so to protect our brand and standards I developed and lead on integrating quality assurance processes. All courses are scrutinised via an academic and rigorous review process (K6). Initially this was too much like a ‘course approval’ system, creating unnecessary pressure on both sides. I therefore matured it into a critical friend review. One academic commented they were “really pleased by the positive reactions and by the very useful suggestions we got from the panel” and another noted it was “a very constructive meeting”.
In eight months UCLeXtend has nine live courses and over 2000 learners from 68 countries. Although the evaluation phase has yet to commence, one learner commented “how fantastic the better conversations tool for aphasia is […] and has so many benefits”. In the longer term, UCLeXtend will become positively disruptive to UCL. I have senior level support and interest across the university; my challenge now is to lead UCLeXtend into a sustainable model and integral to future institutional priorities. For me, the strong start was critical to success; my on-going leadership in this area will ensure the initial quality sets the baseline for future growth.
- K1 The subject material
- K2 Appropriate methods for teaching, learning and assessing in the subject area and at the level of the academic programme
- K3 How students learn, both generally and within their subject/disciplinary area(s)
- K4 The use and value of appropriate learning technologies
- K5 Methods for evaluating the effectiveness of teaching
- K6 The implications of quality assurance and quality enhancement for academic and professional practice with a particular focus on teaching