Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Notes from the last meeting of the Pathfinder Steering Group - 16 May 2008

At the last Steering Group meeting for LSBU's pathfinder project on 16 May, Jon Warwick chaired the meeting in Peter McCaffery's absence. Other attendees were Ruth Brown, Janet Cattini, Helen George, Bob Kaye, Russell Kenny, Laurence Marlow and Joanne Monk. As well as those from Peter McCaffery, apologies were also received from Sarah Bell.

Various matters arising from the notes of the meeting on 21 February were discussed:

  1. Helen reported that the interviewing of staff - in focus groups and one-to-one – was still to take place and was built into the LTEU’s work package for the coming year. The decision as to which model to adopt (group/121) should be the faculty’s. Joanne suggested that a good way of taking the process forward is to attend a meeting already attended by the people one wishes to engage; Bob is to give Helen a list of faculty meetings where she can speak to heads of department.
  2. The .2 learning technologist, working with Russell on training materials, is not able to take on any work from the faculties; Mel Glynn, however, has time that can be made available for faculty work.
  3. The point was made that one learning technologist for the entire university is insufficient capacity; other universities have a far higher ratio. This point will be taken to the University’s budget committees. As eLearning is a university priority, the institution needs to make a strategic decision on resourcing; the role of learning technologist is an emerging one, and requires skill sets that differ from any other role.

Since last the Steering Group met, the third (and final) Carpe Diem workshop has taken place, as has the first “follow-up” day. An action plan from the day itemises next steps for the team and the LTEU. The second team’s follow-up day is booked for 13 June, and the final team is in the process of finalising a date.

A key factor in the workshops was to include participants from all faculties (although the course teams were all from AHS). In addition to the 3 information advisors who took part, 12 faculty from outside AHS acted as learning technologists, observers and reality checkers. Feedback from participants in all roles has been enthusiastic and positive. In the main, the workshops have also demonstrated their potential as team-building events. Course teams have ended the workshop with tangible outputs in the form of e-tivities and an action plan. Further, they have become aware of the internal capacity and skills available to them in the area of instructional design.

It was agreed that a showcase of e-tivities developed in the workshops, together with a contextual rationale, would be created. Russell pointed out that the methodology of the workshop allows people at various levels of technological to create usable learning object, and that individual academics need not fear that the experience would be beyond their capabilities. A potential barrier, however, was that people might expect to have a greater output from the time investment in a two-day workshop.

The experience at LSBU, as in other universities in the ADDER partnership, has been that external facilitation of the workshops sets a particular tone and engages participants in a particular way. In principle, the University of Leicester has approved the idea of the formation of a “second tier” of Carpe Diem workshop facilitators from the universities that were partners in the ADDER project. These facilitators would run events in each other’s institutions on a “cost only” basis. In the first instance, a collaborative bid for funding is being made to Meet the Dragons New Ways of Working with Northampton University. There is also the possibility of applying for a small amount of funding from the HE Academy.

Case studies around the assessment strand of the project are to be developed with Paula Roush and Alan Winter. It was noted that infrastructure changes and problems dictate that the use of technology for summative assessment is not advisable at this stage.

To address the infrastructure challenges, Helen asked that where problems are experienced, specific details (including the exact time and nature of the problem) be forwarded to the Blackboard team so that the log can be examined. It was suggested that a working group of parties interested in online assessment be convened by ISB and the Learning & Teaching Committee to explore the following further: 1) the resources, support and infrastructure required for the task; 2) suitability of the assessment tools in Blackboard, as well as other dedicated assessment software; and 3) the hardware issues involved.

The transition strand has uncovered that flexibility of approach might lead to gaps in communication. Notably, while Blackboard has the potential to be a relationship-building – and an Onboarding – tool, the new Hobsons system acquired by External Relations and Communications is clearly focused on marketing.

It is critical that the student experience of the morphing from Hobsons into theBlackboard is managed in such a way that the switch is seamless. BCIM have, as a faculty, developed a model for managing the transition of students from the offer stage to registration, and this will be explored as a possible framework for other faculties interested in using technology to facilitate the transition process.

Since the last Steering Group meeting, Cluster C met for the last time under the Pathfinder banner at Brunel on 23 April. As usual, this was a very productive meeting, and frameworks for 5 (and possibly 6) cluster briefing papers were outlined. In addition, each institution committed to individual briefing papers (see list below for details).

The group also evaluated the process of working together as a cluster, and agreed that there was a good possibility of future collaboration. Reading and Brunel, for instance, plan to write a briefing paper jointly next year about the strategic embedding eLearning. Since the cluster meeting, Gráinne Conole has invited the four institutions to become partners with the Open University in a bid to JISC for funds to explore the use on online platforms.

The briefing papers and case studies from the project will be disseminated internally to interested staff, and will become a resource in the HE Academy’s archives.

The final project report is due to be submitted to the HE Academy on 27 June 2008. In addition, the Pathfinder Journey (a narrative of the experience) has to be submitted to the Academy on 30 May 2008 and at least one briefing paper, in draft form, should be ready by the end of June 2008.


List of proposed LSBU briefing papers:

  1. Briefing paper 1: ICT survey (Russell and Ruth)
  2. Briefing paper 2: Carpe Diem (Ruth, Lynn Coutts, Sarah Mobbs)
  3. Briefing paper 3: Engaging the student cohort in the assessment process (Ruth, Paula Roush)

List of proposed Cluster C briefing papers:

  1. Briefing paper 1: E-learning pathfinder projects – themes and challenges (Fran, Cambridge)
  2. Briefing paper 2: Adopting an evidence-based approach (Ruth, LSBU)
  3. Briefing paper 3 (possibly conflated with BP2): Methods and Tools for adopting an evidence-based approach (Ruth, LSBU)
  4. Briefing paper 4: Frameworks for embedding elearning (Phil, Brunel)
  5. Briefing paper 5: Getting the most out of adopting a cluster approach – synergies and collaboration (Claire/Maria, Reading)
  6. Briefing paper 6: Variations on themes – applying elearning themes in a local setting (from the EdMedia symposium)
  7. Possible briefing paper (next year): Strategic embedding of e-learning (Reading and Brunel)


Outputs from Pathfinder thus far:


  1. Poster presentation at HELTASA 2007 (reported previously);
  2. Full case study paper, Equipping academics to adapt to the complexities of the digital age, at EdMedia 2008.


  1. Poster at Networked Learning Conference 2008, Halkidiki, Greece, 5-6 May 2008: Developing an Evidence Base for Engagement and Impact in Higher Education Institutional e-Learning Projects.
  2. Symposium at EdMedia 2008, Vienna, Austria, 30 June-4 July 2008: Variations on Themes: Four Universities Explore Strategies that Generate Evidence-Informed Embedding of E-learning in Their Local Context.
  3. Interactive Poster Workshop at ALT-C 2008, Leeds, United Kingdom, 9-11 September 2008: Strategies for adopting an evidence-based approach to embedding e-learning.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

eLearning Day 2008

London South Bank University's annual eLearning Day on 15 May 2008 was the first formal opportunity to report back internally on the Pathfinder project.

The morning plenary saw Helen George and Russell Kenny (from the Pathfinder team) provide a short reflection on Pathfinder, after which Lynn Coutts, Alan Winter and Jonathan Tanner (from the sub-projects Online Delivery, Assessment and Transition, respectively) spoke of their visions for their projects, and the successes and challenges they had had.

Three parallel workshops run by colleagues from other universities followed the plenary. They mirrored these 3 sub-project themes and were attended by all the participants in the day. Ali Ewing and Julie Usher from the University of Northampton explored Online Delivery; Gerard Lennox from Assessment21 demonstrated the product's capacity for online assessment; and Nipan Maniar from the University of Portsmouth introduced attendees to C-Shock, his mobile game for initiating international students into the UK HE environment.

The afternoon session started with a presentation by André van der Merwe of Cultivate. He addressed the question: ‘Why are lecturers not using technology to the extent that we or our clients had hoped?’ and challenged listeners to question their own, and others', assumptions (or Mental Models). Stephen Gomez from UWE then held the audience's attention with examples of his use of video and audio podcasting to engage students. Lastly, David King and Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown from Wimba joined remote forces to demonstrate the use of visual synchonicity in the online environment.

New conversations around the topics addressed have already started ... and many attendees have shown a willingness to become involved. Next year's event will be shaped by the responses of this year's participants.

Oh ... and the lunch was good!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Picking up speed towards the finish line

The pace of our project is speeding up as we engage with a crop of dissemination opportunities both on the Compass project and more generally in the cluster.

Next Thursday, 15 May, the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is hosting an eLearning Day for LSBU academics - the first in a series of events planned to keep academics at the university abreast of the initial findings from the project. Another major day will take place in September with the specific intention of exploring how what we have learned in the Pathfinder process might be adapted and applied throughout the university.

As our official clustering period draws to a close, the four teams have had three acceptances to present the Cluster C's work from major conferences. Maria Papaefthimiou from Reading represented the cluster at the Networked Learning Conference 2008 in Halkidiki, Greece, earlier this week on 5-6 May 2008. The Cluster's poster was entitled: Developing an Evidence Base for Engagement and Impact in Higher Education Institutional e-Learning Projects.

Representatives from all the institutions will be attending EdMedia 2008 (30 June-4 July) and ALT-C (9-11 September). At EdMedia, we are presenting a symposium - Variations on Themes: Four Universities Explore Strategies that Generate Evidence-Informed Embedding of E-learning in Their Local Context - in a format that sees each team address one theme that has emerged from the joint projects. After these short papers, Prof Gráinne Conole, our "critical friend", will chair a session in which questions are fielded from the audience and answered by the presenters.

At ALT-C, we are engaging conference-goers in an interactive poster workshop: Strategies for adopting an evidence-based approach to embedding e-learning. Each team will produce a poster depicting the journey of their Pathfinder project and workshop participants will be asked to view the posters and interrogate their content using PostIt notes (which will be stuck onto the poster). Then the attendees will be asked to select the poster that most interested them and return to the poster for an indepth group conversation with the representatives from the team who produced it.

At the last cluster meeting on 23 April, we decided on the briefing papers that we wished to produce as a cluster, and as individual institutions. So there is plenty to keep us busy!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Notes from Compass Pathfinder Steering Group Meeting - 21 February 2008

The third of the Steering Group meetings for LSBU's pathfinder project took place on 21 February. Jon Warwick chaired the meeting in Peter McCaffery's absence, and other attendees were Sarah Bell, Ruth Brown, Helen George, Russell Kenny, Laurence Marlow and Joanne Monk. Apologies were also received from Janet Cattini.

Helen provided the members of the Steering Group with a background of the clustering methodology used in the Pathfinder Phase 1 project, and updated them on the activities of the project since last they met:
  1. The LSBU team met with Prof Gráinne Conole, Cluster C's critical friend, on 3 December. In addition to discussing the project with the team, she also met with members of the Steering Group and leaders of some of the sub-projects that are feeding into Compass. Her style of mentoring is pushing the team (and the cluster) towards scholarly outcomes without sacrificing practical results.
  2. Achievement of scholarly outcomes from the LSBU project so far: Poster presentation at HELTASA 2007, acceptance of case study paper, Equipping academics to adapt to the complexities of the digital age, at EdMedia 2008.
  3. Cluster C met twice during the period - on 5 December at Cambridge and on 7 February at Reading. A part of the time at each meeting was assigned to developing workshops for presentation at EdMedia 2008 and ALT-C 2008. A cluster poster presentation has been accepted by the Networked Learning Conference 2008. The cluster will be represented by Maria Papaefthimiou of the University of Reading.
  4. Meetings have been held with all the sub-project groups that are feeding into Compass, and follow-up meetings are planned. Two of the three Carpe Diem workshops with the University of Leicester have taken place and were enthusiastically received by participants.
  5. The University's e-Learning Conference in May will be used to showcase the project to academics.
The Faculty of Engineering, Science and the Built Environment are to use an adapted version of the ICT survey tool across the whole faculty, with a focus on academics and those who support learning. This use of the survey will improve the proportion of staff who participated in the survey. The main anticipated outcomes are:
  • Identification of the level of staff confidence in using ICT;
  • Concrete understanding of the potential of existing tools to meet ICT needs, and identifying the new tools that need to be acquired;
  • Categorisation of the different requirements of different disciplines for ICT skills.
Helen is to discuss the possibility of interviewing staff - in focus groups, at departmental meetings or one-to-one - with Chris Dowlen and Heads of Departments. We will use this opportunity to encourage people to upgrade their e-skills using the HE Academy's Professional Development Framework.

It was mentioned that many of the Phase 1 Pathfinder projects focused on the development of staff in one way or another, and LSBU has suggested to the HE Academy that a special interest group with a focus on staff development might be a useful way forward. Since the last Steering Group meeting, Cambridge had heard that they had not been successful in their NTFS project bid.

The project is on track for outputs, and Helen noted to the Steering Group that LSBU has met its contractual requirements thus far.

A part-time learning technologist has been appointed to work on the ICT training modules, and an extra module that covers the pedagogy of e-learning has been agreed upon. Work on writing up the case study outputs will start after the Easter break.

The last meeting of the Steering Group is on Friday, 16 May.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Update on the Compass project

Each of the 28 universities in the Phase 1 Pathfinder project was challenged to present its project at the Interim Meeting in York on the 12th and 13th of February using a single PowerPoint slide. This is the mindmap that we developed to represent LSBU's venture:

The skills line (red)

A set of 17 skills-centred modules has been identified as being necessary to enable staff in various roles to engage with the technology necessary to their particular positions. There is a small core of modules which are generally appropriate to all roles; the majority are related to particular positions and it is appropriate to take individual pathways through the programme. A .2 learning technologist has been appointed and is engaged in further development of the skills-centred modules.

The pedagogic line (green)

An 18th module – Pedagogy of eLearning – has been proposed for incorporation into the existing set of skills-focussed modules. The new module will be developed by Ruth Brown. There are strong links between the sub-projects line and the pedagogic line which are forged in the relationship with the University of Leicester's ADDER project and the Carpe Diem workshops with course teams.

The sub-project line (purple)

Three core groups have emerged from the sub-project groups initially approached to feed into Compass; these are centred around assessment, induction and online course delivery. A granular approach is being taken to writing up the case studies emerging from these groups: mini-studies that address different aspects are being written up. These can then be incorporated in a “mix ’n match” framework by different individuals or teams wishing to use the outputs from the Compass project.

Arising out of the “assessment” part of the Compass project, LSBU is submitting an expression of interest to the HE Academy for funding to explore the use of online feedback to students as a means to create individual feedback profiles for students, and thus to identify those areas in which individual students would benefit by focussing upon.

The induction group is inviting other interested parties to join in brainstorming how the virtual learning environment can be used as a tool that improves the rate of converting offers to potential students into enrolments.

The mainline connection (pink/white)

The 3 Carpe Diem workshops with course teams from Media, Psychology and Education, run by a team from Leicester's ADDER project, have been generally well-received, and a follow-up "embedding day" is being arranged for each of the course teams. In addition to 16 members of course teams from the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences who participated in the 3 workshops, academics from each of the other 3 faculties played different roles in the workshops - as reality checkers and learning technologists; 3 information advisors were involved; and members of the Staff Development Unit and the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit were also on hand.

In all, 32 members of LSBU's staff were involved in the workshops, along with 2 observers from other universities - Reading and New South Wales. We believe that engaging as many staff members as we did will lead to the methodology being adapted and embedded at LSBU.

Zone 1 & 2 activities

The university's forthcoming Learning & Teaching conference is an opportunity to headline the work of the participating sub-projects, and to incorporate innovative approaches to e-learning from external presenters. There will be 2 strands representing pedagogy and practice.

Zone 3 activities

On 7 December, cluster C met at Reading, and a further meeting is scheduled at Brunel; there was also an opportunity to meet at the phase 1 interim meeting in York on 12/13 February. The time at Reading was spent preparing for the presentation the following week at the York meeting, and designing a workshop which we have submitted to AltC’s September conference.

A case study paper about the Compass project, “Equipping academics to adapt to the complexities of the digital age”, has been accepted for EdMedia 2008. Cluster C is also working on a symposium submission under the 2nd call for papers that focuses on different strategies to embed e-learning and engage academics across institutions.

A workshop proposal, “Strategies for adopting an evidence-based approach to embedding e-learning” has been submitted to AltC 2008. This workshop uses an interactive poster methodology.

Ruth Brown has been invited by the University of Leicester to represent their ADDER project at Transforming Assessment and Feedback: A blueprint for change.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A work-in-progress - Poster presented at HELTASA 2007

A poster explaining LSBU's Compass Pathfinder project was presented at HELTASA 2007, the annual conference of the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of South Africa in Bloemfontein, South Africa, from 19-21 November 2007.

The poster contextualised the project in the 21st Century UK university, and described the aims of the project to deliver 2 major outputs - an ECDL-type training course for academics, based on their roles in the university, and a "skills-and-resources profile" for different e-applications.

The methodology of the project was also explained, along with a short description of the sub-projects that feed into Compass.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Notes from Compass Pathfinder Steering Group Meeting - 2 November 2007

The second meeting of the Steering Group took place on Friday, 2 November and was attended by Peter McCaffery, Jon Warwick, Russell Kenny, Helen George and Ruth Brown.

We reviewed the notes from the first meeting, and discussed the idea of inviting faculties to use the staff ICT survey as part of their strategic commitment to embed e-learning. To answer the question "How do you know which e-skills your staff have?", Heads of Department could use the survey as a diagnostic tool to ascertain development needs.

The invitation to use the survey could be extended during the Roadshow to introduce the recent Blackboard upgrade, and could be linked to the purposeful use of the community content system. It was suggested that the survey might benefit from being repurposed in a way tailored to a more specific audience. It would also be necessary to adapt it so that anonymous postings were not allowed.

A driver for encouraging staff to upgrade their e-skills might be the new possibilities for accreditation offered by the Higher Education Academy.

We discussed the various sub-projects that feed into the Compass projects (see below) and the issues that were emerging from these - in particular those around the use of Blackboard as a summative testing tool, and the time commitment required from academic staff.

It is a priority to appoint a learning technologist to assist academic staff in their use of Blackboard.

It was noted that, through our association in the Pathfinder cluster, LSBU is a partner with Cambridge in an NTFS project bid that inquires into the influence of an evidence base for the use of e-learning over the development of policies and practices in higher education.

Our critical friend, Gráinne Conole, will be spending the day at LSBU on 3 December. She will work with the project team, and will feed back to the sub-project leaders and the project steering group during the day.

The next Steering Group meeting dates are: Thursday, 21 February 2008 from 14.00-15.00 and Friday, 16 May 2008 from 10.00-11.00 - both meetings are in Technopark, 1D07.


Group A – e-Portfolios
Ruth met with Elizabeth Shaw to discuss e-portfolios. We have asked George Bell for a date to meet with him.

Group B – Induction
Lunch-time meeting set up for 28 November.

Group C - Assessment
Ruth met with Alan Winter and Phil Hammond for lunch on 25 October. They plan to share certain resources as their projects are fairly similar. The skills that they perceive to be required are firstly, enthusiasm of staff and secondly “stickability” to master the tests tool in Blackboard. They believe that students should have the opportunity in a formal setting to practice using the testing software (they are collaborating around this).

They have expressed concern about the robustness of Blackboard to support large student numbers at the same time, and the laboratory facilities to accommodate them (Phil has + 300 students on his unit).

There are also issues around creating exam conditions for online assessment. Ruth has met with Wojtek Adamek who confirms that computers can be ring-fenced for exam conditions. He has undertaken to establish what the system requirements are to support large numbers. We need to take online assessment into account in the upgrading of areas such as the LRC.

There is concern about the time commitments of academics in adopting e-learning.

Lastly, Ruth has spoken to John Seeley about his assessment tool – and the greatest need at this stage is to find other academics to test it. Phil Hammond has expressed an interest in this.

Group D – Communication/Collaboration
Helen to give update.

Group E – Integrating Study
Tom and Ruth to meet with Maggie Clinton and Tom Aird on the 30th of November.

Group F – Use of Blackboard
Ruth has been in contact with Susan McLaren who was unaware of the initiative, but has undertaken to talk to David Cowan (who is on long term sick leave) and get back to me.

Group G – Pre-enrolment use of Blackboard
Helen has a meeting with Jenny Laws.

Group H – Central Repository
Ruth has spoken to Sarah Mobbs who is investigating this.

Group I – ADDER project/online course delivery
The ADDER project with the University of Leicester is on track. Ale Armellini has met with the leads of teams from Arts & Media, Education and Psychology, and another meeting is scheduled for 14 December.

The 3 Carpe Diem workshops are scheduled as follows:
15/16 January – Psychology
19/20 February – Education
5/6 March – Arts & Media

The information advisers (subject librarians) have been approached and will attend the 2 day workshops. Sarah Mobbs, Ruth Brown, Rob Kenny and Sarah Bell will both be attending all the sessions, and Russell Kenny will be along when he doesn’t have other commitments. Lynn Coutts will be invited to participate as well.