2. E-learning Tools and Resources
3. Administration of Teaching and Learning
5. Support for E-learning Developments
6. Finance and Organisation
7. Evaluation and Development
8. E-learning and the University
Version 2.1 [20.5.02]
Information Technology Policy Committee
e-Learning Steering Group
E-learning and teaching already takes place at Warwick, but its character and prominence vary. This document suggests that e-learning will become a normal part of university practice over time, complementing traditional teaching methods, and that students will arrive expecting that e-tools and practices will be in place to enhance and support their learning. 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.
The guiding principle here is that e-learning should always be driven by pedagogical considerations, not the demands of the technologies themselves. E-learning resources should be an amenity for staff and students, but not imposed on staff. Adequate staff, curriculum development and technical support will be indispensable for the strategy's success. Thought will need to be given to means of recognizing and evaluating the benefits and costs of e-learning, and to the organizational adaptations that may be needed as it becomes an integral part of normal University practice.
Among the proposals in the University's e-Strategy document of 2001 was to use new information technologies to 'extend our repertoire of teaching approaches and the effectiveness and efficiency with which we interact with, and provide for, our students.'
Provision for aspects of these new 'e-learning' approaches is already embedded in the e-Strategy; developments related to them have already been made, and are continuing. It is now appropriate, however, to articulate a distinct e-learning strategy that can guide the University and its members in the process of decision-making about the tasks that lie ahead in this area.
Appropriate use of e-learning approaches can enhance the teaching and learning activities which the university already undertakes, can enable activities not previously possible, and may potentially increase the efficiency both of interactions between staff and students and of the administrative arrangements essential to support effective teaching. In some instances we shall also be able, in the words of the e-Strategy, to 'extend our reach towards distance and life-long learners and ... widen access for various underrepresented groups,' and these will be important activities.
A strong theme in this current document, however, is the need to plan for and implement effective ways in which new technology can enhance the quality and experience of on-campus learning. Until recently, much public discussion of e-learning developments has focused on the use of electronic means for distance-learning (DL) or distributed learning systems; these will continue to be (as they have already been) an important component of Warwick's educational provision, including that for its residential students. But discussion of e-learning is now coming to pay attention to the many and varied ways that new practices and technologies can facilitate the active and social dimensions of learning that are at the heart of campus-based education. This document reflects the belief that, while distance-learning and distributed learning should and will continue to expand at Warwick, 'e-learning' will rapidly encompass more than that.
1.2 Some principles
Several principles underlie the proposals outlined in this strategy.
We are responding to the need to apply new technologies to our existing academic activities because:
- they can offer new opportunities for teaching and learning, or change and enhance existing teaching and learning methods;
- these technologies have become or are becoming available;
- some academic and other staff at Warwick are keen to adopt them, and others may be expected to do so as their uses become established and understood;
- they are likely to be adopted by other institutions, and so will come to be regarded as standard elements of Higher Education practice; and
- students will expect them.
However, we emphasize that the introduction of e-learning technologies should always be driven by pedagogical considerations, not by the demands of the technologies themselves.
The rationale for this e-learning strategy is that central provision of facilities and support by the University will be an essential precondition for the successful adoption, integration, and development of e-learning practices. Even so, departments and other units will also continue, as in the past, to pursue their own developments; policy for e-learning must accommodate those needs as well.
The e-learning strategy is not concerned with imposing models of practice or procedure on members of the University. Because developments must be driven by pedagogical, rather than technical concerns, they must inevitably be rooted in the needs and characteristics of academic disciplines. The University's success will continue to be based, as it has in the past, on the health and vigour of its academic activities. The e-learning strategy must serve this, and not become an instrument of dictation.
Accordingly, the strategy does not envisage that members of academic staff will face demands to adopt new practices against their will or better judgement. It does venture to suggest that there will be relatively few staff who will not find something of use among the array of possibilities now opening up. The strategy's focus is on the University's provision for encouraging and facilitating their adoption over the next few years.
Though e-learning developments will be of a variety of kinds, taken together they should be seen as contributing to the elements of educational experience that the University has long fostered. As in the past, our focus will be on the fostering in students of independence, self-reliance, self-motivation, critical abilities, creativity and other characteristics, in addition to knowledge of their subjects and the skills to acquire and utilize it.
We speak of 'e-learning' because we are not just referring to methods for the mass- or distant dissemination of courses or materials to students (although elements of these may indeed have their place in a well-rounded curriculum). This strategy will place particular emphasis on enhancing active learning, research-led learning and teaching, small-group teaching, collaborative work, and the opportunities for face-to-face contact between staff and students. These practices have made universities like Warwick successful up to now; they are highly valued by staff and students alike; and they will continue to be the essential elements of a good university education.
E-learning technologies, appropriately used and supported, can enhance current educational practices in several ways. Among other things, they can
- facilitate collaborative learning;
- help focus and intensify students' preparation for classroom activities;
- help enable more efficient and effective use to be made of large-group activities such as lectures;
- provide access to resources and expertise without reference to geography; and
- facilitate students' acquisition of essential skills.
- They also offer tools with the potential to simplify administrative tasks for academic and other staff.
It follows from all this that 'e-learning' will grow rapidly to become an essential part of the University's provisions for learning and teaching. This e-learning strategy is designed to help Warwick make the transition from the current situation, in which 'e-learning' developments are in their infancy, or regarded as esoteric, to the point at which (in their various and appropriate ways) they will have become embedded in the University's normal educational activities.
E-learning will not be the only aspect of the University's learning and teaching activities that will evolve over the next few years, but will be among the most important developments. As in the past, e-learning will need to be firmly embedded in the University's Learning and Teaching Strategy. Aspects of this e-learning strategy will need to be incorporated under that rubric, or modified to co-ordinate with it.
We cannot stress too strongly that, in due course, 'e-learning' will no longer be a distinct or even a distinguishable aspect of University life. It is therefore very important that the oversight and development of the methods and practices proposed below come as soon as possible to be seen as responsibilities of the University's existing academic structures. 'E-learning' is not simply an aspect of IT provision.
So this strategy is for a transitional phase, perhaps five or six years long, at the end of which 'e-learning' should be becoming just part of 'learning.'
1.3 The e-Learning strategy proposals
The proposals that follow are divided into sections that are conceptually distinct but interdependent:
Sections on 'e-Learning tools and resources' and 'Administration of learning and teaching' come first because it is important to set out a view of the tools, methods, and practices that we envisage being developed or adopted within the next five to six years;
'Infrastructure' follows because the provision of appropriate network and technical facilities is essential for the smooth operation of e-learning practices;
However, the section on 'Support for e-learning developments' is in many respects the most important, and will stress that adequate and appropriate provision of support will be crucial to the success of this strategy;
'Organization and finance' draws attention to issues that the University will need to address as the adoption of e-learning practices gets under way and unfolds;
'Evaluation and development' proposes means for consulting staff and students about this e-learning strategy, monitoring its progress, assessing its achievements, and modifying it regularly in the light of experience and further innovations;
'e-Learning and the University' summarizes some of the ways in which the e-learning strategy will need to become embedded in the University's academic and administrative structures.
An Appendix contains a summary of immediate priorities listed in relation to their place in the existing e-Strategy framework.
The priorities are based on provisional targets for the dissemination of elements of the strategy that are set out in parts of the document. In brackets after each strand appears an indication of the possible scope and academic year of its implementation. The categories employed are "Widespread' (used by >50% of staff); 'Medium' (used by 25-50% of staff); 'Low' (used by approx. 10% of staff); 'Innovators' (used by pioneers of techniques that may later be more widely adopted); 'Specialized'; and 'Experimental'.
2. E-Learning Tools and Resources
2.1.1 Web publishing
As a matter of high priority, tools should be made widely available to enable academic staff to publish course and other materials on the Web. The tools should be simple to use, so that training and dissemination can be relatively straightforward and handled substantially by departmental IT/curriculum contacts or innovators, and the tools themselves by most members of academic staff. A Content Management System will facilitate access by users to resources, tools, and objects (such as templates).
[2001-2 Low > 2002-4 Medium > 2004-6 Widespread] Provision for this is included in the current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans - delivery from October 2002.
2.1.2 Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) tools
Progress is being made towards the development or acquisition of tools to facilitate the delivery, conduct, and management of courses (see also MLE tools, below). These facilities will include, though not be limited to:
- tools for communication between staff and students;
- course discussion groups and means for collaborative learning;
- tools to assist students in preparing and making presentations;
- facilities for the submission and return of student work, etc.
Again, over time, tools should become self-driven. The provision of a VLE or components of it needs to be kept under regular review because of changing academic requirements and the increasing sophistication of available tools. [2001-2 Innovators > 2002-4 Low > 2004-6 Medium > post 2006 Widespread] Initial provision for this is included in the current e-Strategy budget allocation and plan - delivery from October 2002.
2.1.3 Use of research facilities and resources
This already exists, of course, but there will need to be continued attention to Web-based and other access to electronic resources; the development and maintenance of high-speed Internet access; the development of new methods of resource delivery, and of intelligent search engines appropriate for the sophisticated requirements of academic research and learning.
The development of a virtual library and tools for using it is already under way, and should accelerate in the near future.
Departments and central units will need to ensure that proper measures are being taken to assure appropriate levels of information literacy and library skills among staff and students, and that suitable use of electronic resources is embedded in the curriculum. Measures to foster the use of electronic-based materials in courses will include:
- staff development activities;
- enhancements to the Warwick Teaching Certificate programme for new staff;
- enhancements to the Warwick Skills Certificate programme for students.
[2001-2 Widespread > post 2006 Widespread: continuous development] Some provision for this is included in current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans, but further plans will need to be developed, and national initiatives monitored, including the Research Grid.
2.1.4 Video and audio streaming
The e-Strategy envisaged the provision of facilities for recording and dissemination of lectures and supporting materials as a way of substituting electronic access for large-scale lecture courses. Provision has already, or is already being made in some areas of the University, e.g. in conjunction with distance-learning (DL) provision or with the Leicester Warwick Medical School (LWMS). Experimentation with making commercially produced video lectures available to University members is also being conducted at present.
Pedagogical experience does not straightforwardly support an assumption that audio- or video-streaming should supplant lectures. Staff and students value events such as lectures for the sense of participation and opportunity for contact that they create, and these are, after all, among the prime rationales for a residential university.
Electronic techniques do, though, offer opportunities for enhancing or varying the character of large-group teaching activities. Some staff already use scheduled lecture slots to hold discussions or question sessions about electronically-delivered material; the LWMS is pioneering the use of facilities for interactive lectures, etc.
[2001-2 Experimental > 2002-4 Low > 2004-6 Medium > post 2006 Widespread] Some provision for this is included in current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans, but further plans will need to be developed. Facilities for recording and streaming video content will be available for staff and students - contact the e-Lab.
Text- and/or video-conferencing would also be made available for use in particular circumstances,
- (as it does already) to support collaborative provision or DL;
- to provide interactive access to guest-lecturers, experts, or remote tutors;
- to facilitate other kinds of cross-campus or off-campus interaction that might accompany teaching and learning, including access by and to external examiners.
[2001-2 Specialised > 2002-6 Low > post 2006 Medium?]
2.1.6 Simulations and virtual reality
Provision of computer-based simulations, virtual reality systems, or parts of such systems have already become 'state of the art' requirements in some circumstances, and it is foreseeable that demand for them will be made in an increasing number of cases over the next few years. [>2002-4 Innovators or Low] Expertise in such developments already exists in the e-Lab.
2.1.7 Computer Assisted Assessment (CAA)
This is discussed in 3.3 (below), but note should be taken of the pedagogical implications and possibilities of new forms of assessment, and of the need for steps to ensure that these are appropriately designed and implemented.
2.1.8 New kinds of teaching, learning, and curriculum
The adoption of e-learning practices will almost certainly lead to the emergence of new types of course (module) and new kinds of arrangement for contact-time between staff and students. The character and extent of these developments is unpredictable, but the University and departments should be ready to approve and support them where appropriate.
2.2 Specialised areas
There will also be a number of areas in which centrally-supported provision will be desirable to accomplish tasks in particular fields, or where the precise technology will be dictated by specific circumstances.
2.2.1 Computer-aided Language Learning (CALL)
There will be a requirement from the Language Centre and Language departments for support and development in this area. Departmental plans for such developments will need to be considered and supported.
2.2.2 Tutorial packages for specific needs
Support will be required for appropriate software to provide skills training in particular fields, in 'remedial' tuition (e.g. in numeracy) either by academic departments or the Warwick Skills Certificate programme, or in continuous professional development (CPD) provision within the University or for distant users. Departmental plans for such packages will need to be developed and supported.
2.2.3 Assistive technologies for special needs
Liaison with the Senior Tutor's office would be desirable to identify circumstances in which central provision would appropriately be made of special needs technologies.
3. Administration of Learning and Teaching
3.1 Library management system
The new Library Management System (LMS) will incorporate features that can assist in the conduct and administration of courses, including its proposed electronic Resource Discovery System (RDS), which will facilitate access to research materials, and a Reading-list management system that will enable staff to integrate their course materials with the Library catalogue (OPAC). Electronic dissemination of resources (e.g. articles currently housed in the Student Reserve Collection) [2002-4 Widespread] Care will be needed to ensure that web-tools, VLE components and other relevant software are capable of interacting with the LMS. Provision for this is already incorporated in the current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans. A procurement exercise is in train for the LMS and RDS.
3.2 Managed learning environments (MLEs)
A further dimension of VLE technology (see 2.1.2, above) is the provision of facilities for administering aspects of courses, from enrolment and course registration to attendance lists, submission of work, assessment, pass lists, etc. Development of electronic course-enrolment is due to take place in 2002. Other facets of MLEs have been outlined already within the e-Strategy; these will be created and extended as the technology becomes available and appropriate uses found for it. [2001-2 Specialized>post 2006 Medium?] Provision for some aspects of this is included in the current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans, but further plans will need to be developed, involving academic and administrative departments.
3.3 Computer Assisted Assessment (CAA)
Steps to employ CAA systems have been taken in certain parts of some departments over the past few years. Experience of these, and new developments, seem likely to indicate a rising demand for such systems in the foreseeable future. Marking loads are among academic staff's heaviest burdens, and many will be keen to adopt CAA systems where these are pedagogically appropriate. Developments are going beyond the automatic marking of multiple-choice and other simple tests, towards the emergence of intelligent assessment systems that give rise to the possibility (in certain contexts) of automating formative feedback to students, and automating the sitting and marking of examinations.
CAA developments will be very particular to specific disciplines and courses, but may be employed across a wide range of subjects at the University within the next few years. Attention has already been drawn to the need for identifying needs and opportunities and developing bids in this area, and the e-learning strategy should support this as a priority. [2001-2 Innovators > 2002-4 Specialised > post 2006 Low?] Departmental plans for further developments can be expected. An assessment system is currently in use by some departments, this service is offered by the e-Lab.
3.4 Plagiarism detection and awareness
The increased use of Web resources has increased the opportunities and possibilities for student plagiarism; this, in turn, will not only compromise the quality of Warwick degrees, but potentially make our available assessment methods unacceptably determined by the need for security (instead of pedagogy, as they should be).
3.4.1 Priority should be given to experimentation with plagiarism detection systems, with a view to making them widely available as soon as that becomes technically feasible and appropriate for academic requirements. If necessary these should be capable of being integrated with other e-learning software. [2001-2 Experimental>post 2006 Widespread?] Provision for any trials is not yet included in e-Strategy budget plans, although the trials carried out nationally and the possible service to be provided by JISC are being monitored.
3.4.2 However, there will be no simple technological 'fix' for the problem of plagiarism. As with all aspects of this e-learning strategy, the non-technological dimension is as important as, indeed more important than, the introduction of new systems. Departments should be advised to revise and update their guidance to students on plagiarism in light of the availability of material on the Internet. Advice can be obtained on the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) website at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/plagiarism/ [ > 2004-6 Widespread] An institutional response will be necessary led by Academic Quality and Standards Committee.
Essential to the smooth running and development of e-learning techniques is the provision and maintenance of adequate infrastructure. This will include:
4.1 Glitch-free, high-speed access to the University network and the Web, including access from off-campus
This will always be the underpinning to e-learning developments and appropriate upgradings and replacements of equipment will need to keep pace with the accelerated demand for resources that e-learning is likely to entail. Provision for this is included in the current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans. A major network replacement project is underway and a technical review of remote access is being undertaken - seeking users' requirements in this area.
4.2 Provision of appropriate classroom technologies
According to some predictions, the University of the future will have well-equipped widely-available large and small 'smart' classrooms, equipped with wireless web access so that students and staff access to virtual resources, and can use e-notebooks or e-paper; facilities for electronic presentations; electronic whiteboards; and in some cases more sophisticated mixed media facilities and interactive (student participation) technology (voting systems, etc.). [>possibly post 2006 Widespread?]
However, other commentators are sceptical that such extensive provision will become universal within the five/six-year scope of this strategy. Developments will need to be watched and recommendations revised in the light of demand from academic staff and other changes.
Two steps are, however, appropriate to take:
4.2.1 Plans should developed for the creation of one or more model classrooms to permit experimentation with the use of collaborative learning facilities. [2002-4 Specialised] Plans for this would need to be developed.
4.2.2 An initial plan and timetable for the extension of existing electronic classroom provision should also be worked out so as to be enacted in conjunction with the development of the e-learning methods and resources mentioned above. [2002-4 Specialised > 2004-6 Low? > post 2006 Medium?] Again, these plans would need to be formulated.
4.3 Student computing
Where appropriate, many of the facilities mentioned above will be available to students on the same basis as they are to academic and other staff. Departments and staff will need to note the potential influence of students' use of e-learning tools on their methods of working, and on the evolution of educational practice. E-learning techniques will potentially have a strong effect on students' cognitive and educational development and experience, and this will need to be observed.
Continued attention will be needed to the promotion and support of student computing, including student ownership of networked computer devices (such as notebook computers or, in future, electronic writing pads or 'e-paper'. [2002-4 Innovators > possibly 2004-6 Low > possibly post 2006 Widespread?])*, and to the provision of suitable networks (e.g. wireless, the student residences network and improved bandwidth provision to off-campus [PLU] student accommodation). It should be noted that provisions made for mobile campus users will also have benefits for DL. Aspects of this are in place and further plans are being developed.
*(Although widespread use of 'e-paper' is readily foreseeable, there is as yet limited experience of its uses in higher education. When possible, a full-scale trial should be conducted and the experience gained disseminated. The trial might appropriately take place in an income-generating course. [2002-4 Experimental]).
5. Support for E-Learning Developments
Critical to the successful implementation and dissemination of e-learning techniques is the provision of adequate and appropriate support for the academic staff involved in using them. The importance of this should never be underestimated.
The University will need to strike an appropriate balance in planning for the provision of support. On one hand, many academic staff at present feel reluctant to embark on the adoption of e-learning techniques because they feel unable to use the tools, or have had (or heard about) discouraging experiences in the past. Support services will be needed to provide effective training and guidance. On the other hand, staff keen to adopt new practices should have access to support and advice geared to conveying the benefits of past experience, so as to avoid where possible the repetition of mistakes, or needless reinvention.
Among the elements of a successful support system will be:
- staff to help train and assist academic staff;
- means for ensuring that developments are driven by pedagogical needs and not by technical ones;
- means for evaluating techniques and for guiding staff to tools and practices that can appropriately assist them;
- means for ensuring that developments and experience are followed up on and 'embedded' in the culture and practices of departments, where appropriate;
- means for encouraging the exploration of further new techniques and practices;
- means for assuring the dissemination of information about e-learning innovations and techniques.
There will be no one model for achieving this.
5.1 e-Learning support staff
As time and experience indicate, efforts should be made to ensure a 'layered' provision of support for academic staff engaged in e-learning developments, ranging from the provision of easy-to-use tools requiring standard Help Desk-type support, to different models of co-operation between academic and either central-, faculty-, or department-based support staff in the development of new practices.
5.1.1 As a first step, 'link' staff might be hired to work in each Faculty to facilitate the adoption of this strategy and support new e-learning initiatives. [2002-4 Widespread] Funds are already included in the current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans.
Care needs to be taken to establish appropriate lines of support and oversight of these 'link' staff. Academics express the view that they should be based in the Faculties and responsible to them for the work that they will do in departments. Given the discipline-based needs of e-learning developments and the need to root these in pedagogical requirements, this makes sense. However, they will also need to be given lines of responsibility to central e-learning support staff in the e-Lab and in the Centre for Academic Practice (CAP), so that they are fully able to extend the developments and experience already built up in those units, and so that the fruit of their own work can be appropriately shared and disseminated.
5.1.2 Further steps for the provision of support staff should be planned during the academic year 2002-3 by collaborative consultation between CAP, IT Services, and Faculty IT Committees, and appropriate bids submitted in due course through the e-Learning Steering Group of ITPC or other channels.
5.1.3 Emphasis should be given in the deployment of support staff (under 5.1.1) and planning for future support (under 5.1.2) to the need to encourage collaborative testing of e-learning practices and techniques by academic staff, and to the need for continuing work by central support staff at testing, evaluating and disseminating appropriate practices. Note should be taken of experience already gained in successful development models used by departments, or by schemes such as the Warwick Online Course Construction (WOCC) Programme.
5.1.4 In the longer term, as provision and experience expand, consideration will need to be given to various models of sustaining e-learning support. Foreseeable needs will include: encouraging and supporting departmental provision of e-learning support; the creation of e-learning development teams (including central, faculty and/or department-based staff) to work on particular instances or types of innovation; and the creation in appropriate circumstances of teaching teams (including academic staff, teaching assistance, library staff and/or IT/CAP staff) to plan, run and service particular courses or departmental areas.
5.2 An e-Learning Website
To aid the visibility and dissemination of information about e-learning developments, some priority should be given to the creation and maintenance of a single Website on which links to e-learning materials and resources should be gathered. (See paper on this subject to e-Learning Steering Group, 24.1.02). [2002-4 Widespread] A working party to take this proposal forward is being convened by the e-Learning Steering Group of ITPC.
However, the Website will only be one facet of dissemination. More active, effective means of conveying information and experience will also need to be developed.
5.3 Time and incentives for staff
Incentives should be provided to enable staff to take time from teaching or administrative tasks to undertake e-learning developments, either on their own or in conjunction with e-learning development teams. The rewards for staff and departments involved in this work should be tangible enough to encourage it, and might be collective (in the form of enhanced teaching or research rankings, recognition by peers, etc.) and individual (e.g. release from other duties, etc.). The University should adopt means of providing such incentives.
5.3.1 Consideration should be given to extending current Research and Teaching Development Fund (RTDF) funding for e-learning purposes, or an alternative fund created for e-learning developments. Proposals for such bids would need to be developed.
5.3.2 Note of e-learning developments and their requirements for staff time should be made by the Study Leave Committee, and consideration given to models for secondment, replacement-teaching, curriculum development and other appropriate means of accomplishing e-learning objectives.
5.3.3 Full attention should be given to opportunities for staff (either individually or in collaborative groups) to apply for research funding in connection with e-learning developments, and/or to making such developments part of the dissemination plans for the outcomes of funded research projects.
5.3.4 The University should make appropriate representations at national level to ensure that the next few years' needs for e-learning developments are fully reflected and credited in plans for Higher Education funding, and in arrangements such as the operative criteria for the Research Assessment Exercise.
5.4 e-Learning and Staff Development
Consideration will be needed, as a matter of some priority, of means to support Staff Development provision in the light of e-learning developments. Experience has shown that mounting centrally-targeted training courses has had limited effects on the take-up of e-learning techniques by academic and other staff. Work will be needed directly with departments to respond to their individual needs. CAP and the e-Lab will wish to consider the deployment of their resources in the light of this.
5.4.1 Consideration should also be given to the continuing development of coverage of e-learning practices in the Warwick Teaching Certificate.
5.4.2 Staff training practices and facilities may themselves employ e-learning techniques, so that staff can obtain direct experience of e-learning for themselves.
6. Finance and Organization
Two further areas will need discussion in due course, and are likely to be strongly influenced by the unfolding and enactment of an e-learning strategy.
Thought will also be required about how these two areas will overlap: how the costs and benefits of e-learning developments will be recognized and evaluated, and how they will be reflected in the University's internal financial arrangements.
How is all this to be paid for? Two points need to be borne in mind. First, the developments outlined above relate to the University's chief functions, of providing teaching and stimulating research. Funding will therefore primarily have to come from income streams (existing or newly-established) intended for these purposes. Second, especially in the initial phases, expenditures specifically for e-learning provisions will be increasing steadily but relatively modestly. While developments must be pushed forward right away, there will be time for the University to habituate itself to the altered demands for resources that the wider adoption of e-learning practices will entail.
To ensure that new practices are driven by pedagogical needs, it will be useful to distinguish resources and support functions that are most effectively and efficiently provided through central University funding, from discretionary or specialized provision that will most effectively be supplied with department-based resources. For example, the network, 'middleware' (especially MLE and other academic administration tools) and basic tools should be provided centrally; subject-specific tools may most appropriately be provided departmentally, but care must be taken to ensure that resource-poor departments are not deprived of opportunities by such a model (and Section 2.2, above, noted examples of specialized resources that merit central provision).
Accordingly it will be necessary to identify appropriate channels for funding, and perhaps to modify University funding mechanisms to suit emerging circumstances. Traditional channels and formulae for IT funding, equipment grant, Library funding, etc., etc., may not adequately address new requirements, and flexibility will be needed if they are to be provided for.
6.1.1 Effort will also be needed to identify sources of funding for specific developments: e.g. as part of the University's Learning and Teaching Strategy; from Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL)-type projects; from access funding for 'remedial' course or skills software; from special needs funding for assistive technologies, etc.
6.1.2 Consideration should be given by the University to identifying e-learning activities as suitable focal points for fundraising efforts, applications for development grants, and work with educational and charitable foundations.
6.1.3 Consideration could also be given to the possibility of expanding income-earning activities, such as DL courses in certain areas, or recruitment of overseas students, to help departments or the centre fund e-learning developments.
Careful thought will also be needed about e-learning's organizational implications for the University. Change will not necessarily be sudden, but a successful programme of e-learning developments will within a few years bring about new orientations to expertise, technology, and resources that in many ways cut across existing organizational structures.
E-learning is not primarily an IT function, but an academic one. It involves pedagogical techniques (academic staff) and new approaches to teaching (perhaps involving CAP), employs electronic techniques (traditionally the province of IT Services), and uses research resources, electronic and paper-based (accessed via the Library). The evolution of 'teaching teams' in some fields will almost certainly involve staff in three or more of those categories. In the longer term, the University will need to consider whether its present organizational divisions are the most appropriate for supporting or organizing teaching and learning activities.
6.2.1 Specific encouragement should be given to the continuing evolution of close co-operation between IT Services' e-Lab staff and the CAP's educational technology staff.
6.2.2 It will be advisable to consider adaptations to existing practice to take account of the overlaps that are already occurring between academic, staff development, IT, and Library activities in the areas of e-learning. From questions of who organizes what, to who attends what meetings, to which budget line do bids get made from (and are there places to bid from for essential developments or resources?) ' all will need to be addressed.
7. Evaluation and Development
7.1 Information Technology Policy Committee (ITPC) has oversight of the e-learning strategy, and would in the first instance be the main channel for recommendations to the University regarding funding bids (under the e-Strategy), organizational issues, and ensuring clear lines of responsibility among different sectors of the University for aspects of the strategy.
7.2 The ITPC e-Learning Steering Group provides advice to ITPC on the strategy, by receiving reports, monitoring progress, establishing targets, and overseeing the evaluation of tools, resources, methods, and practices carried out in different units of the University.
7.3 Consultation and feedback on the e-learning strategy should be conducted within the University, initially among parties and individuals who were involved in its formulation, and then on a wider basis.
7.3.1 Attention should be paid to consulting user groups or representatives, such as the Students' Union education officer, the Graduate School, the Careers Advisory Service, the IT Services SSLC, Faculty IT Committees, Departmental IT and Teaching Committees, and IT and Library User Committees, and the Learning and Teaching Strategy Steering Group.
7.3.2 Particular attention should be paid to consultation among students, especially among those who have already had experience of some of the techniques and practices mentioned above.
7.3.3 Consultation with these and other appropriate groups should be made the basis for regular updates of the e-learning strategy so as to keep it responsive to experience and to new circumstances and developments.
7.3.4 An early requirement for an updated version of this strategy will be the definition of more specific targets for development, criteria for evaluating progress, and bids for funding the next round of e-learning developments.
8. E-Learning and the University
If the e-learning strategy is successful, new practices relating to learning and teaching will become more widely embedded in the University's activities. As we noted at the outset, 'e-learning' will not remain a distinct set of activities, but will become part of the fabric of Warwick's academic provision. Its implications will therefore have to be noted and taken up by the range of bodies in the University concerned with all aspects of academic life. Steering and the various finance committees will need to be apprised of the implications of e-learning developments as they effect changes in the University's culture. Co-ordination between ITPC (and its e-Learning Steering Group) and Academic Quality and Standards Committee will become increasingly important, not least for purposes of continuing to incorporate e-learning issues in the University's Learning and Teaching Strategy. Academic Staff Development and Appraisal Committee, the Study Leave Committee, and the Research and Teaching Development Fund, will also become involved in staff development issues, making available staff time for development work, and funding resources or support. As 'e-Learning' increasingly becomes a normal part of 'learning,' so responsibilities for it will diffuse into all the parts of the University engaged in its academic provision.
One possible long-term measure of the success of this e-learning strategy could be the redundancy of the e-Learning Steering Group; it is our wish that our functions should one day belong to other groups. But the first stages of the strategy require a focused effort to get e-learning developments rolling at Warwick, and so help secure the University's place in the academic world of the future.
Chair, e-Learning Steering Group of ITPC
20 May 2002
Appendix: Summary of Immediate and Prospective E-Strategy Funding Bids
2.1.1 Publishing documents and other material on the Web
Provision for this is included in current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans.
2.1.2 Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) tools
Provision for these is included in current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans.
2.1.3 Access to research facilities and resources
Some provision for this is included in current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans, but further plans will need to be developed, and national initiatives monitored.
2.1.4 Video and audio streaming
Some provision for this is included in current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans, and some facilities will be available soon, but further plans will need to be developed.
3.1 Library management system
Provision is already incorporated in the current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans and procurement is underway.
3.2 Managed learning environments (MLEs)
Provision for some aspects of this is included in current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans, but further plans will need to be developed.
4.1 Glitch-free, high-speed access to the University network and the Web
Provision for this is included in current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans. A major network replacement project is underway.
5.1 e-Learning support staff
Some provision is incorporated in current e-Strategy budget allocation and plans.
5.1.2 Further steps for the provision of support staff
Appropriate plans and bids would need to be developed
5.2 An e-Learning Website
A working group to develop this has been agreed.
5.3 Time and incentives for staff
Proposals for bids or proposals relating to RTDF/Study Leave would need to be developed.