Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Work Based Learning Online Toolkit Launch

Earlier this year, the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) launched its online toolkit, designed to meet the needs of work-based learning (WBL) providers. Since then they have run a series of regional launch events that offer an introduction to the WBL toolkit, and are suited to those individuals responsible for the leadership of e-learning within the organisation.

These free sessions provide an ideal opportunity to hear more about the toolkit, take a personal tour and interact with the CEL team to ask questions regarding effective e-learning implementation within your organisation. Having attended a previous one myself, I know firsthand that these sessions also offer a good opportunity to explore some of the issues associated with introducing e-learning into your organisation. The team aren’t afraid to use e-learning technology either - in the last event the use of interactive handsets for a survey of delegates proved very popular.

CEL recently reported that more than 400 WBL leaders and managers are now using the resource regularly making it a valuable resource for busy providers.

There are still a few places available for upcoming Birmingham event which will be held on Wednesday 14th November 2007. To register for a free place you can book online or phone Anne Crossley on 0870 060 3278 for further information.

Monday, 29 October 2007

EGuides - Leading by Example

Many of you will have heard me outlining the benefits of the NIACE E-Guides training programme (which is currently free to WBL staff). It aims to drive improvement in teaching and learning by increasing the effective use of e-learning.

I attended one of the sessions in Birmingham recently and was delighted to see what positive steps had already been taken by e-guides after the first 2 days training. What follows are some examples of these activities that new e-guides were reporting back on. Some had:

  • Registered a free account with survey monkey and used that for conducting online surveys.

  • Downloaded hot potatoes and used it for icebreaker activities with learners.

  • Added a new session at the end of a regular internal verifiers meeting that discusses e-learning and cascades what was learned at e-guides.

  • Used memory sticks with learners so that all their resources are portable.

  • Working on developing an ILT strategy and action plan with team and with RSC support

  • Working on installing Moodle as their Virtual Learning Environment

  • Demonstrated how to use course genie and hot potatoes to other members of staff.

  • Used voting software with groups of learners at induction.

I thought this was pretty impressive and showed that e-guides were also real enthusiasts, and were really pushing the adoption of e-learning in their organisations. (All in our region too, which just confirms what the LSC suggested - that us Midlander’s really are keen on learning!)

In the coming months I’ll be working with our new Information Officer to capture the details of some of this activity and share some of it as case studies through the QIA’s Excellence Gateway. With 83% of you requesting best practice examples I expect these will be fairly useful. In the meantime, with the e-guides programme going from strength to strength, dates have also been available for December so it’s not too late for you or your staff to sign up for regional training yourself. If you do I look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, 26 October 2007

Accessibility Overview

I attended an Accessibility Overview session yesterday run by Alison Nock, one of our E-Learning Advisors here at the RSC. It was a very good awareness raising session and reminded us why accessibility is an area of continued importance in e-learning. For example, we were reminded of the fact that…

“Whilst good e-learning strategies co-incidentally provide good accessibility solutions, these solutions need to be understood and exploited in order to convincingly ensure your organisation is adhering with the relevant disability legislation.” (TechDis)

With a number of WBL providers currently writing or revising their e-learning/ILT strategies that quote’s certainly worth noting. A number of useful resources were also signposted during the session so I thought I’d share some of them with you here.

Briefing packs
As a starting point the JISC TechDis Service recently provided Senior Managers with briefing packs on a number of technology, disability and inclusion related issues. These were designed to improve accessible teaching and learning practices. There are several of these but a good one to start with is the Senior Management Briefing 1 - e-Learning as an Accessibility Investment. This covers:

· e-Learning and Cultural Change.
· e-Learning and Accessibility.
· Accessibility and Cultural Change.
· Evidencing Practice.
· Finding Accessibility ‘Hotspots’ in e-learning Strategies.

Accessibility Essentials
Secondly the series of TechDis Accessibility Essentials demonstrates some specific ways to improve accessibility. For example:

· Creating Accessible Presentations
· Writing Accessible Electronic Documents with Microsoft® Word
· Making Electronic Documents More Readable

You can order your own free copies of these publications online. Each printed publication also contains an accompanying CD with step by step animations and all the information available to view in a variety of formats.

TechDis Staff Packs
The popular TechDis Staff Packs contain all the information needed to deliver a short staff development workshop on a number of technology and disability related issues. These training materials explore accessibility in a user friendly, non-technical way for staff working directly with learners. You can download these packs as word files or zip files online.

Effective Practice with e-Learning
Lastly, another very well received printed JISC publication - the guide ‘Effective Practice with e-Learning’ illustrates some of the key implications in designing for learning for the post-16 sector and offers an insight into how e-learning can be integrated into established practice. Case studies are illustrated by video clips to provide visual evidence of the challenges and benefits experienced in a variety of contexts across the sectors. You can download the guide or view the contents of the CD Rom online.

I hope that’s enough to get you also thinking about the importance of accessibility in e-learning and I hope that the above resources prove useful. It is certainly an area I will continue to emphasise as part of the effective implementation of e-learning in the sector.

Thanks to Alison for reminding me to remind you.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

E-Learning Materials - Free to the WBL Sector

After announcing it recently, I’m pleased to see that the launch of the NLN materials went ahead as planned, enabling the sector to now access a wealth of free interactive learning materials for teaching and learning. (Yesterday someone asked me for resources to support the delivery of training in Office Administration so it was great to be able to signpost them directly to the new site with is new interface and search facility).

It’s certainly not just ‘Office Administration’ that’s covered though! There are a large number of small, flexible 'bite-sized' episodes of e-learning designed to support a wide range of subject and topic areas. Funded by the LSC these are now also available free to the WBL sector.

Once you’ve decided on those you’d like to use there’s then the issue of how to incorporate these into your teaching. Fortunately there are also practical guides and plenty of examples of how to use the materials here. Alternatively a user guide can be accessed in Word format here.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

RSC-WM Newsletter now online

Here at the RSC we’ve been making a few changes to our communications lately. For example we will shortly be launching a brand new RSC West Midlands website (complete with RSS feeds for those of you who already use that technology).

The new site will be easier to navigate, make use of newer web based tools, and I will certainly be doing my best to keep its WBL pages right up to date with the kinds of news and information that you are requesting!

In addition to the new website we will also be hosting copies of our newsletter online making it easy for you to access, read (and share!)

The first of these, the October 2007 edition, is now available - so to find more about what we at the RSC are currenlty up to, click here to view or to download your copy.

(Worth noting – there’s still time to enter the prize puzzle draw on the back to win your MP3 player!! And being ones to practice what we preach we’ve used a freely available online puzzle maker tool to create this months "double puzzle". There’s another tool that staff can also use with your learners.)

Open Source Software – JISC keeps us informed

Today I’ve received my Autumn copy of Inform, a JISC publication which raises awareness of the use of ICT to support post 16 education in the UK. To me, this one was particularly important as it explored the use of Open Source Software, an area which is becoming increasingly important for the Work Based learning Sector.

In its article “An open and shut case” it talks more about the “…big market for an alternative to costly proprietary software that also provides long-term sustainability, a sense of community and a better fit with user needs.”

Why is this important to the WBL sector?
Open source software is already in use in most UK universities and colleges, whether in the context of mail servers, teaching systems or student desktops. It is also increasingly being considered by WBL providers who are looking to reduce licence costs as part of their ILT strategies.

As noted by JISC, this is possibly for the following reasons:

  • ‘No licence surprises. Open source software licences are free and perpetual, so a licence fee increase cannot happen.

  • No incentive for theft. With open source software students can use and copy the software legally

  • The ability to tailor the system completely to local needs.

  • With open source, if a provider needs the software customised, they can have the program changed, either in-house or by a third party’.

At a recent ALP conference, Derrin Kent, a West Midlands based consultant, delivered a presentation which showed WBL leaders how they could support their ILT strategy with Free Open Source Software (FLOSS). In this he also outlined how the use of a variety of FLOSS Applications can dramatically help WBL leaders to develop different aspects of learning delivery / business performance.

I thought his presentation was timely, because, as this article also points out, "..although institutions now have higher levels of experience of open source compared to three years ago, there remains a great deal of confusion about how providers can make the most of OSS.”

This is something we at the Regional support centre are also aware of, and we are currently planning activities that will raise awareness of the possibilities. These will also serve to highlight why it is an important consideration for the work based learning sector. I hope that you will watch this space for dates and details as they arise (or keep an eye on our brand new website's events page).

Until then the following links might also prove useful in terms of background reading (or if you have specific questions about the use of Open Source please don’t hesitate to contact me).

· Open Source Software Briefing paper

· Open Source Software Advisory Service

· Why the Guardian thinks “Ignoring open source is costing us dear

Monday, 15 October 2007

Connect – last chance to book

There are still just a few places remaining on the next Connect training programme which will be held in Birmingham on 25th October. This programme is currently free to Leaders in the Work Based Learning sector and is fully subsidised by the Quality Improvement Agency.

The purpose of the ConnecT programme is to develop information and learning technology (ILT) strategies in the work-based learning (WBL) sector and help extend and embed e-learning technology within organisations.

Individuals will:

  • Each receive a CD-ROM containing diagnostic tools, a framework for strategy development and signposting to effective practice across the WBL sector
  • Have access to CEL’s leadership learning environment (LLE) for further support and
    extensive online information.

Organisations will benefit though:

  • Raised awareness of the importance of ILT strategic management
  • Improved achievement and retention rates
  • Improved engagement of learners
  • Learning how to improve communication with its stakeholders.

For further information and to book, please contact Lydia McDowall - Centre for Excellence in Leadership by telephone, 0870 060 3278, fax 020 7222 3081 or by email.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Last chance to book for West Midlands E-Guides!

It's your last chance to book for the next round of West Midlands E-Guides training which will be held in Birmingham on 15th and 16th October 2007.

The E-Guides programme aims to increase the effective use of e-learning in the sector, by developing the skills and knowledge of E-Guides to support colleagues in their use of technology. Training consists of a three-day programme, and is aimed at all WBL staff who are involved with the delivery of learning across different subjects and areas of learning. The new training programme will be aligned with the National Teaching and Learning Change Programme (NLTCP) delivered by the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA).

There is no fee payable in attending the training, learning providers just need to commit to releasing their staff for the three day off-site training, and to cascade their newly acquired e-learning skills and knowledge to their colleagues.

Places are limited for the West Midlands events so to reserve your place email or call 0116 204 2811. Alternatively there's still just enough time to book online.

NLN Materials - Just one week to go…!

In just one weeks time WBL providers are set to benefit from simplified access to the NLN materials which are now managed by JANET(UK) in partnership with the LSC.

Funded by the LSC and now available free to the WBL sector, the NLN materials represent one of the most substantial and wide-ranging collections of e-learning materials in the UK.

The NLN Materials are small, flexible 'bite-sized' episodes of e-learning designed to support a wide range of subject and topic areas. The materials adopt a range of approaches involving some knowledge acquisition, a chance to practice and absorb, and some form of assessment to check that the learning has been understood and the learning outcomes achieved.

The new service will be fully integrated, providing a unified point of access to the materials, and supporting the entire community of NLN materials users. The new site will also include all the features currently enjoyed by the ACL community, such as collection creation, powerful search and browse, and export to virtual learning environments or CD.

The launch date is set for 18th October so I’ll be checking the new site next Thursday to get a sneaky peak at how this new arrangement might enable us to get access to high quality learning resources even easier

Monday, 1 October 2007

ALP Learning Innovation Grants (LIG) – Phase 3 Launch

The Association of Learning Providers (ALP) recently announced the launch of the Learning Innovation Grant (LIG) Round 3 with another £2m capital investment available for work based learning providers. The additional £2m (capital only) provided by the LSC follows the success of the Learning Innovation Grants (Phase 1 and 2) which ALP has already distributed to the WBL sector to engage in innovative projects.

The overall aim of LIG 3 remains the same – to promote and encourage innovation in the use of e-learning in the delivery of work-based learning. The focus is on innovations in teaching and learning that have a direct impact on improving the learning experience.

To be eligible to apply for a grant your lead organisation must be an independent WBL organisation holding an LSC contract for either Apprenticeships, Train to Gain or E2E delivery as at 1st August, 2007. In this phase applications can be made for a minimum £30,000 to a maximum £150,000. Both the ALP, and the LSC, very strongly recommend consortia bids, which will be reviewed favourably for the higher level of funding available.

From Friday 28th September 2007 you will be able to access the grant application form and prospectus online via (Learning Innovation Grant (LIG) phase 3 section). Applications must be returned no later than midday, 22 November 2007. Any queries can be emailed through to the LIG Project Office .