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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


TLN – David Emmett – e-learning challenges and self-test learning initiatives in a multi-site Australian medical school

By Matt Jenner, on 2 February 2011

David joins UCL for this Teaching and Learning Network session from University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia where his role is Senior Lecture in e-learning within the Medical School.

David Emmitt speaks at the TLN

The Medical School has 1,700 students and 10,000 alumni and a staff to student ratio of about one to ten. Their MBBS course is structured with sessions which are based around Problem Based Learning scenarios which are split into several weeks. Sessions support the students, give them advice and help the groups to set up their own infrastructure/roles within their groups. The students were given interactive whiteboards but they actually wanted just pens as the whiteboards didn’t offer them anything and were instead a barrier. The PBL scenarios also made use of video to highlight specific areas of the scenario to help break down the problems for the students.

They have been trailing the use of videoconferencing but this is still in early developments. They also are using Adobe Presenter to record voice over PowerPoint (so you record your presentation in the office and then distribute to your students) and this sends a package which can be read as a .PDF file of comparable size for sharing electronically.

The Medical School used an internally built VLE (virtual learning environment) but have this year have moved into the University of Queensland’s Blackboard VLE. This expanded the opportunities for online learning but also brought along many challenges too. With financial restrictions the University cut down on e-learning support posts which increased the load on the remaining staff. They are looking towards a VLE review and specifically Moodle, so far they have been very impressed and seem confident that the additional freedom of what Moodle can offer in terms of teaching and learning will bring much benefit to the institution, although a lot more work is involved, decisions like this are not that quick or easy!

One of the selling features of Moodle for them is the Lesson activity which allows a structured pathway though content. It presents materials, asks questions, provides feedback and can guide and steer the learner through a pathway instead of just linear content delivery.

In additional, David received an Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) grant and has been in liaison with Tony Gardner-Medwin at UCL for using Certainty Based Marking and LAPT which offers students a chance to assess their knowledge but also how confident they are of the answer they are giving which reflects in the marks given. In addition, they have been using an experimental self-assessment modification to Moodle which allows the student to select a type of quiz. From a bank of questions the student can make their own quizzes and do it as often as they like. The back of questions is adopting an intercollegiate from the outset so students may get questions on material they have never covered. Luckily the content is organised and so this can be avoided (or be a ‘feature’).

David hopes that in the future the VLE can be a more personalised environment for students, allowing them to record their learning and collect their own materials and add them to their own list of resources or activities which they have used to learn.


Certainty Based Marking – http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lapt/

Teaching and Learning Network – http://www.ucl.ac.uk/tln