Thursday, 27 November 2008

Digital Notepads and Their Uses

I’ve mentioned digital notepads on here previously as I was so impressed with how easy they were to use and how they saved me having to type up my handwritten notes. Im pleased to note there is now quite a bit of information available on the web that shows examples of their use and highlights just how flexible a tool they are for learning providers.

For example, here, a recent Excellence Gateway case study shows how Training for Travel (TFT) has been using a digital notepad to meet their training assessment needs.

“Training for Travel (TFT) has implemented the use of digital notepads, enabling their assessors to fill in written assessment report forms when out ‘in the field' with learners, at the same time generating a digital copy of the report which can be downloaded and delivered electronically. Production of the digital reports... has made TFT more efficient in the process.”

On this page, RSC North West hosts a video which gives a demonstration of what can be done with a digital notepad:

In a podcast also accessible from their website, “Sarah Nelmes, of Training for Travel, talks about why they chose to use digital notepads, their experiences of using them, and how they plan to use them in the future. Sarah explains how the use of digital notepads has increased turnaround time. She goes on to explain who they chose digital notepads over similar technology... and how they would like to develop their use of these notepads for ePortfolio evidence”.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Relect on the use of Blogs and Wikis

In the latest issue of Reflect, Liz Boyden suggests some ways of using Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom. She covers blogs and wikis so if you haven’t used any of these tools yourself, want to know more or want some ideas of how they might be used by learners, then this is a good article to read.

I particularly like how Liz uses Tumblr, a blog that enables learners to put short multimedia posts on their own webspace, including photos, text, video clips and sound files. For work based learning, this could be particularly useful for also hosting the kinds of electronic information that currently goes into an e-portfolio.

Liz notes:

“….Tumblr was the most successful blog application used in the project. It has a visually attractive layout and potential for learners to create a professional-looking webspace … Learners could post photos from Google images and then make a text post explaining the image. A particularly successful use of Tumblr was as a daily online diary when learners were on work experience.”

As well as reading the article, you can also watch a short video on Liz’s own blog to hear more about their learners using their new Tumblogs.

In the article, Liz also gives some good hints and tips for using blogs and wikis, much of which also links in nicely with the advice JISC Legal gave last month regarding legal implications of using web 2.0 tools.

There’s clearly some good work going on at the Project Experimental Teaching (PET) project and I look forward to reading more about how it develops!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Funding Updates and ALP Showcasing Best Practice

Last week I attended the Provider of the Future event run by the Association of Learning Providers. This was a good event with a mix of presentations and opportunities to speak with providers who had done some pretty impressive things with e-learning.

My colleague Stan Unwin of the East Midlands Regional Support Centre has nicely summarised the events of the day in his blog post on Innovate so if you couldn’t make the event and were keen to find out what it covered please read his summary.

Key things to note:

· “Chris Swingler (ALP National Projects Development Officer) confirmed that the LIG 4 exercise had attracted bids to the value of £14 million against a funding pot of £4million. Great to see so much interest although as Stan notes it will mean some disappointment for some. (Results of this latest bidding round are being announced this week).

· Skills Capital Funding - Laurence Leader (LSC Capital Policy Director) announced details of new capital funding, aimed at non college providers and intended to “…give a wider range of training provider’s access to new investment which will enable them to develop and deliver specialised services, such as Apprenticeships and work-based learning.” More details on Innovate.

· 3 showcase presentations demonstrated what providers had achieved with previous rounds of LIG funding. Attendees got the chance to speak with other providers about what they were doing with e-learning.

· Lesley Price (BECTA, Head of Regeneration & Skills) spoke about the new BECTA initiative ‘Next Generation Learning at Work’ and made a plea for providers to get involved.

Thanks Stan for providing such a comprehensive outline of the day with supporting resources and links. I’m looking forward to learning which new LIG 4 projects will be funded this week, and the possibility of a ‘Provider of the Future 2009’.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Create your own Jigsaws Online

I just love tools that re easy to use and that’s staff can get up and running with minimum fuss and on that basis here’s another winner. Jigsaw Planet is “…a great little free online tool for creating online jigsaws from your own digital images. Ideal for using with interactive whiteboards or tablet PCs.”

This is a great free addition to a tutor’s e-learning toolbox. It allows you to very easily create jigsaws using your own images and host these for your learners to use. You can set the level of difficulty, set the cut-out shapes and learners can even get a ghost outline of the image to help them if they are having difficulty completing the puzzle.

To see how it looks here’s one I started earlier. Click the image below to see a larger screenshot or access the puzzle online.
The software is absolutely free and there no registration required. You just upload your image and go.

If you use it please do let me know how you get on and how your learners like it. Who knows your jigsaws might also come in useful to me when I have the odd coffee break to fill! :-)

(Thanks to Kirsty for the link).

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

How to Win Those Bids for E-learning Projects!

Last year, I did a survey with Learning Providers in the West Midlands region and asked ‘Does your organisation face any of the following barriers in embedding ILT?’ It was no surprise that funding and lack of finances came out very high, in second place in fact. (Number one was ‘lack of knowledge about e-learning, hence the setting up of this blog!)

With finances being such a key issue, and bid writing for project funding sometimes being a complex task, we have organised a regional one day event which we hope will demystify the area of bid writing, show what opportunities exist and outline what makes an effective bid.

The day will help learning providers understand what the funders are looking for and will also include elements of project planning, an often overlooked part of the process. For work based learning providers it’s also a great opportunity to learn more about the Learning Innovation Grants that I’ve mentioned so often, discover why certain applicants were successful in their bids, and what makes a good bid? Terry Loane of DawsonLoane will be on hand to answer these questions and more.

As with all our events there are more details on the website so please visit there for more info but it’s worth noting here that as an RSC event we have been able to subsidise the cost of this event for the region and are able to offer places at a reduced rate of £60. I’m sure I don’t need to suggest you book early!

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Legal Issues of E-Portfolios (and Web 2.0)

Last week a colleague and I presented at a regional event that looked the legal implications of using technology in education. (We we will upload the presentation slides to our RSC Wiki shortly).

The event was run by JISC Legal, a service that I’ve mentioned on here previously. (They are a useful organisation to note as they have a wide understanding of the complex legal issues associated with using technology in education and their website hosts a wealth of resources).

Their website has been updated with several new resources and it seems that some time ago they had also documented some of the legal issues to do with e-portfolios. In their usual spirit of sharing, they had produced two publications that included a consideration of the following areas:

· ePortfolios - what kind of legal issues might exist?

· Data protection, compliance with the law?

· Data in our ePortfolio system is owned by the institution, is this right?

· We have created this nifty way for learners to publish parts of their ePortfolio to one of our websites for public or restricted access viewing. Are there legal issues we ought to consider?

· We are planning to roll out an ePortfolio system for our learners, but are concerned that some disabled learners may not be able to access the full functionality of the system. Does this expose us to legal liability?

The publications are now new, they were published in 2004, but they do still raise a number of valid legal considerations for anyone thinking about implementing or currently using e-portfolios. The publications can be accessed via the links below.

1. Developing and Operating an ePortfolio System - Assessing the Legal Issues
2. Legal Aspects of ePortfolio Systems: A Short FAQ

(For a wider consideration of the issues relating to e-portfolios this post might also be useful as well as the Higher Education Academy’s publication “Supporting Student E-portfolios” a resource shared with me today).

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Interactive Whiteboard Links and Resources

Last week Alison Nock ran another Interactive Whiteboard training session for us in which she demonstrated how they can be used effectively to enhance teaching and learning. To support this session I have now set up a new wiki page which has additional links and resources all supporting the use of Interactive Whiteboards. This includes links to resources covering:

· How to use your interactive whiteboard effectively
· Issues to Consider Before Buying a whiteboard
· Health advice on the use of interactive whiteboards
· SMART Two Minute Tutorials
· Alternatives to whiteboards
· ...the list goes on.

I’ll continue to update this wiki page which I expect might prove useful for future whiteboard training events and be a source of reference for those wanting support but unable to make the sessions.

It’s worth noting that for those that were unable to attend last week’s event, we will be running another one sometime in January 2009. To reserve an early place, keep and eye on our events page or email us with your details and we will add you to the waiting list.

Free Software for your Learners (or staff)

The award winning Open Education Disc has recently released another version which like previous versions is more free software, aimed directly at learners, giving them the necessary tools to help them complete their learning. The Open Education Disc was designed by teacher/trainers to help learners complete their study without the need for expensive software licenses, or having to resort to piracy.

The collection of software now includes (as part of its OpenOffice)…

· A word processor, Writer - for producing documents, reports, newsletters, and brochures.
· A spreadsheet called Calc.
· A presentation package, Impress.
· A Drawing package for producing diagrams or 3D illustrations.
and Database tools.

It also has a free…

· PDFCreator to generate PDF documents directly from any Windows program.
· GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) suitable for those wanting to manipulate digital photographs.
· software for video editing
· and screen recording software.

You can read more about each of the programs here. This site also offers a few tips on how to download your own copies for use or distribution (as well as links to more freebies).

It’s interesting that in an old blog post I referred to ways that a training centre based in West Sussex was using free software like this four years ago (when this software suite was called the OpenCD). Its clear that many have been using free software for a while now!

This more recent post also highlights the importance of free and Open Source Software, and explains why it is becoming increasingly important for the Work Based learning Sector.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Showcasing the Impact E-learning Can Have

The Association of Learning Providers (ALP) has been key in supporting the uptake of technology by learning provides in the WBL sector. Its successful Learner Innovation Grants programme has already resulted in numerous innovative projects being completed that show just how effective e-learning can be for providers. (I’ve listed some regional examples in this previous post).

ALP will shortly be showcasing more great examples in its upcoming Providers of the Future Showcase Event. This will be held on 19th November in Sutton Coldfield (great for this region!). The event will contain presentations from Providers delivering in a range of occupational sectors including Construction, Health & Social Care and Sports & Fitness.

Like ALP, I also expect this will be a great opportunity to take advantage of providers experience, find out what works, what doesn’t and how to overcome hurdles. It’s also a great way to see what possible and be inspired!

More information and booking details are available on ALP’s website.

Hope to see some of you there!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Learning About Online Learning - Online

The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) are now offering online staff development opportunities which allow you to experience online learning whilst also learning how to develop online learning within your own organisation.

Exploring Successful Learning Online is a six week course ideal for people who have yet to experience online learning or the use of a virtual learning environment.

Application of Online Learning is a 12 week online course for those wishing to use online learning with their learners. This includes modules that focus on the delivery of blended or online learning, personalising learning, engaging learners or widening participation.

I beleive that experiencing online learning as a learner yourself, certainly goes a long way for discovering possibilities of online learning, as well as its limitations. It's a great way to discover how the learner feels. These particular courses also make ideal continual professional development for anyone in the work based learning sector as they are also accredited by the National Open College Network.

Both courses start at the begining of November 2008. For further information or to register your interest contact Kajal Samat by email at

More information is also available on NIACE website.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

E-Guides updates

NIACE have just announced that there is some availability on the E-Guides training programme and have confirmed that capital grants of £2,500 are now also available for attendance on these. See this previous post for dates in this region and details of how to book. This other post also lists a few of the activities that previous attendees undertook after their initial training, highlighting just how much enthusiasm the programme generates.

Follow up training, E-Guides Plus

In addition to the 3-day E-Guides Training programme, NIACE are also offering follow-up events for existing E-Guides. These free, one day events are designed to enable E-Guides to refresh and build on their skills and knowledge through practical hands-on workshops.

Details of these 'E-Guides Plus’ events and a booking form are available at: Hope to see some of you there!

Examples of E-Learning in Work Based Learning

Are you curious to know who is doing what with e-learning?

The Excellence Gateway continues to prove a really useful source of information allowing you to discover just what is possible using ILT. Below I've noted some extracted summaries and links to just a few of the recent case studies that highlight how e-learning is being used specifically in the work based learning sector. Hope these will inspire you!

Our Information Officer, Kirsty Hill, also feeds into the Excellence Gateway with news and best practice from around the region. If you have an example you would like to see published, do get in touch.

Charnwood Training: Use of Tablet PCs
"Charnwood wanted to improve their retention and achievement rates in their training in the pub and club sector. By introducing Tablet PCs and electronic learning materials the company revolutionised access and the manner of delivery for its learners. Retention rates are now almost double to what they were prior to the introduction of the Tablet PCs...."

JHP Training: Paperless Monitoring for Work Based Learning
"A South West contractor, JHP Training...equip each of the remote workers with a laptop, mobile phone and digital recorder so that they can do their visits and compile reports without having to put pen to paper. They tape their conversations with the student, score them and load into the laptop. It is attached electronically as a “witness statement” to the student’s file. The students sign on electronically to chart their progress and see what needs to be done. All NVQs are now dealt with in this way...."

Construction Gateway: Tracking Success
"Construction Gateway Ltd. is a private training provider delivering construction NVQs. Their parent company have developed a fully integrated e-portfolio and Work Based Learning management system called ‘VeTAS' which has noticeably improved learner enrolment, assessment, tracking and portfolios..."

DV8 Training's virtual media company: Personal online space supporting work-related learning
"DV8's learners use an online resource to personalise and influence the design, layout and content of their online ‘portfolios'...The ‘public' showcasing and peer comment create a purposeful learning environment for a range of different learners but one especially motivating to those previously disengaged from education...."

Monday, 15 September 2008

Staff Development (and Capital Grants) for Work Based Learning Leaders

The Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) has now published new dates for more of their leadership programmes that support the strategic development of e-learning.

For staff that have already completed CEL’s Connect and Realise programmes, the follow up programme ‘WBL Explorer’ now has availability in this region, and capital funding attached. (This capital grant entitles LSC-funded organisations to claim a £2,500 grant for each staff member who has completes one of CEL’s e-learning leadership programmes, up to a maximum of £7,500 per organisation). Read more about the grants here or more about the WBL Explorer programme here.

New WBL Explorer dates for this region are as follows:

7 October 2008 – day 1 - Birmingham
4 December 2008 – day 2 - Birmingham
10 February 2009 – day 3 - Birmingham
25 June 2009 – Landmarks – London

As with many of these types of programmes I’d advise that you book fast if you are interested in attending. Places do fill up fast and it is a case of first come first served!

CEL recommend that WBL organisations attend ConnecT and Realise before starting the WBL explorer programme. Unfortunately the new round of Connect and Realise courses are out of region this time but its still worth enquiring with CEL directly if you have an interest in these.

To book a place or enquire about any of the programmes, please email

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Getting to Grips with Interactive Whiteboards

The Interactive whiteboard is a wonderful tool to use with learners — great for group activities and for capturing the attention of learners. But while many learning providers own them, not all staff have been able to successfully integrate them into their teaching.

To address this, the RSC West Midlands are now offering another of our popular Interactive Whiteboard training sessions, free to staff from West Midlands based work based learning and adult and community providers.

In this repeat of a previous session, Alison Nock will again show what can be achieved using interactive whiteboards and show how they can be used effectively to enhance teaching and learning.

This beginners two hour workshop will take place in Wolverhampton on Friday 3rd October from 1.30pm - 3.30pm. There are a limited number of spaces available and they do tend to go fast - the last event was full within 48 hours of being advertised! Bookings are limited to two people per organisation.

For more information email our events coordinator or book online.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

FREE Resources for Quality Improvement

Over the last seven years, the Nationwide Consultancy for Adult Learning (NCAL) Ltd has been developing a library of tools that it has used to support its client base of learning providers preparing for inspections. NCAL has now made much of this library of resources available to learning providers to use for free!

On their site, NCAL note you are now able to “…. browse through up to 60 well tried and tested items including forms, checklists, staff development presentations, diagnostic tools, sample policies and many more”.

They also note: “…The materials have been developed and refined over the years to be used as templates which our clients can adapt and customise to their own house-style. Many of them have played a part in the achievement of grade 1s!”

There is a wide range of tools and templates in this library, mostly in Microsoft Office formats so you can download the resources and refine them to your own organisations needs. They could also sit very nicely within a Quality Improvement area of your staff intranet or Virtual Learning Environment. There are several categories spanning Equality and Diversity, Leadership and Management, Learner Journey and Quality Improvement.

You can access the free resources on NCAL’s website.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Evaluation of CELs Leadership Toolkit

The Centre for Excellence in Learning (CEL) is currently evaluating one of its successful online resources, the Work Based Learning Leadership toolkit. I’ve mentioned the toolkit on here previously, it’s an online resource that supports work based learning leaders with interactive resources that cover nine core business areas. Constantly reviewed and updated, this evaluation is designed to review the toolkit and ensure it remains focussed on your needs.

As part of this evaluation CEL are welcoming input from users of the toolkit who can undertake a short survey online. CEL are also looking for organisations who would be willing to have a case study written about their experiences and use of the toolkit. (Organisations that take part and have a case study written about them will be given a yearly subscription for an additional member within their organisation.)

If you are a current user of the toolkit you can learn more about ways you can offer your own feedback on the survey website or by emailing the Toolkit team.

If you are not a current user but keen to know more, details of the toolkit are available on the main CEL website or you can view an animated demo of the toolkit and some of its contents at this link.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Molesharing Mobile Learning Resources

Are you looking for e-learning resources to use on mobile devices? If so, the new Moleshare site might prove useful.

This new site offers a number of mobile friendly learning materials that can be freely downloaded, for use on your intranet or your Virtual Learning Environment. The materials have been designed with mobile devices in mind (so they resize to smaller screens etc) but they can be displayed and used on PCs too.

The site has various sections - the resources area is useful if you are looking for specific learning material to download and use while the examples and tools area shares some of the outcomes of the Molenet work that has taken place this year.

There are already a variety of resources there ranging from videos to Photostorys, to PowerPoint Presentations to images and audio files. Each listed resource shows what mobile devices they are suitable for too.

More information..

This is another useful site to add to the list of growing sites that support the fast growing area of mobile learning. I’ve mentioned several others in a previous post here. I’ll now also be adding Moleshare to the new look Work Based Learning delicious site where there is already a growing list of resources that are available for use in the sector. If you haven't already seen those might be worth a look.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Free video-conferencing for learning providers

I’ve mentioned Dim Dim on here previously, its a free video conferencing tool. My colleagues and I have recently been showing how much potential this tool has for learning providers.

For example videoconferencing could be used to...

* support groups of remote learners who can access a tutor led session from their own PCs (no downloads required).

* many training providers have several centres and staff are required to travel to attend meetings. Using videoconferencing reduces the need for that, saving travel costs and travel time for the company. (Reducing carbon footprints too!)

* to host short staff training sessions online - these might also be recorded for later playback.

There are several options for free videoconferencing software, Dim Dim is not the only choice, but it is a favourite of ours at the moment because of its ease of use and the fact that it is an excellent free option. I’ve mentioned more in a previous post which has links to a BBC review too. A new version has also just been released with additional features making it an even stronger contender to many of the videoconferencing tools you pay large fees for.

If you haven’t yet seen Dim Dim or experienced videoconferencing, possibly because you were put off by the technical requirements, know how or cost, the good news is Dim Dim now addresses much of that. If you would like to know more here's a one minute video that highlights Dim Dim in more detail, this previous post has additional reviews or feel free to get in touch with any questions or comments.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

WBL Funding Opportunity - Pathfinder Projects

Innovate now has details of a new funding opportunity for work based learning: Further Education (FE) Specialisation and Innovation pathfinder funding.

It sounds a bit like funding for Further Education, but this funding actually also supports work based learning providers who are working in specialist networks. In fact, these new Pathfinder projects are likely to affect a number of organisations – starting with Further Education colleges and training providers, but embracing employers and their supply chains too.

Funding of £250-£500,000 for 1 year is available for these projects – possibly more for really ambitious ones. The new Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) will also be supporting this work through its World Class Skills – developing responsive provision programme.

More information and application forms can be downloaded from the LSC website. The LSC will also be hosting a workshop to support this round of funding, details of which will be posted on their website (and here on wobble) in due course.

Monday, 28 July 2008

NLN learning resources, whats on the horizon?

RSC South East ran a seminar recently in which Rod Paley, Managing Director of Xtensis talked about the National Learning Network learning reources, (NLN materials) and the plans for their development.

The NLN materials are interactive learning packages that can now be used by LSC funded work based learning providers for free. I’ve mentioned them previously here.

During the session, Rob introduced the new NLN site and talked about plans to make the materials more usable and accessible. He mentioned:·

* Plans to introduce a ratings system to encourage feedback.

* New levels of visibility which will allow colleagues to be able to share and edit personal collections of materials.

* Changes to the interface will improve the way some materials are launched.·

* Updates of the materials in line with the latest qualifications.

All LSC funded work based learning providers now have access to these free online learning resources - if you haven’t received your own log in details please get in touch.

RSC South East regularly hold these ‘Monday at 1 sessions’ in which they use video conferencing to present and discuss e-learning issues with delegates online. Not only is this a great way for people to network and get bite sized chunks of learning over lunch but it’s also ideal to get the chance to see the technology in action too. I hope we get to see more of these type events in the future. (Thanks for the invite Kaye!)

Friday, 25 July 2008

New E-Guides Training Programme dates

NIACE has now announced a new series of E-Guides training dates - which is great news as the last ones were very quickly oversubscribed. The E-Guides programme offers an introduction to e-learning and aims to show learning provider staff how to use technology effectively in teaching and learning. This free training is aimed at all staff, paid and unpaid who are involved with the delivery of learning across different subjects and areas of learning.

The programme covers a wide range of tools and is a great way for staff to get a hands on and a look at how many of these work. This previous post highlights some of the activities that recent attendees undertook after the first two days of the programme, highlighting just how much enthusiasm the programme generated!

Its also worth noting that small grants may be available in support of follow-up activity linked to programme attendance. A certificate and a portfolio recording learning during the programme may also provide evidence towards Continuing Professional Development.

When and where does the training take place?
In the West Midlands region the newly available dates are as follows:

Dates for other regions can also be found on the E-Guides website.

To apply for a place online visit the NIACE website , contact Raksha Kanani by phone on 0116 204 2811, or email:

Monday, 21 July 2008

Digital Storytelling with Photostory

At a recent regional E-Guides Refresher event, staff from around 45 Work Based Learning organisations were shown how digital storytelling can be used to enhance the learning experience. Photostory was demonstrated and was a great tool to use for this purpose. Not only because it’s free, but because its also very easy to get up and running with.

Photostory can be used to:

· Create slideshows using sets of digital photos that are then saved as short videos. These videos can then be watched on your TV, a computer, or a Windows Mobile–based portable device.

· Add special effects, soundtracks, and your own voice narration to photo stories. Then personalize them with titles and captions.

This is a great tool to use to enhance digital images that are captured and used by learners and as a way to engage them with digital media. The finished articles can also be a nice keepsake - finished videos can be distributed on a CD, uploaded to a web page, an e-portfolio or saved to other storage devices.

Of course, Photostory can also be used by training staff to create engaging electronic resources that use illustrations to get a point across.

It’s also worth noting that Photostory doesn’t need a video camera or any existing digital video recordings – just your digital photographs. This makes it a great tool to use to take still images to the next level with no cost and very little expertise.

Recently our National Work Based Learning Co-ordinator used Photostory to easily create a short video which talked about the possibilities for e-learning in the Work Based learning sector. This is very useful as the video itself also highlights a number of other useful (and free) tools that can be used for e-learning.

Here's another short video that will show how you can set up a Photostory yourself.

Microsoft’s Photo Story is available for free download from the Microsoft web site or for a guide on how to use the software click here. Hope its useful (and that if you create your own Photostory do let me know what you think of it…!)

Regional ILT Case Studies

It’s great to see the number of case studies appearing on the QIA's Excellence Gateway growing. Particularly because it’s such a good way to discover new ways of working as well as looking at what else is going on in the sector. Just this week, two more case studies from our own region have been uploaded to the Quality Improvement Agency, showcasing more best practice in e-learning.

These last case studies, both from Dudley College, highlight their use of an intranet for communication and explain how they introduced software on their network to monitor its performance. Both case studies can now be accessed on the Excellence Gateway. There are also many more, some examples can also be found here.

Our Information Officer, Kirsty Hill, is constantly updating the Excellence Gateway with news and best practice from around the region. If you have an example you would like to see published, please get in touch.

It's good to share, and let's not forget us Midlanders already “show a real appetite for success!”

Bid Writing Resources

I’ve been asked quite a lot for bid writing resources recently, mostly because of the current funding that is available to support e-learning development. Several of my colleagues have been kind enough to share their bid writing bits and pieces with me so I thought it also worth summarising a couple here.

To begin with, some help with ‘Bid Writing – what to do

· The Regional Support Centre in the Northwest has an eMagazine Supplement which provides a broad overview on the process of preparing funding bids. Click here to download this from the web. This guide focuses on the key questions that will help learning providers appraise their ideas, understand better what they are hoping to achieve and then think about how they demonstrate to a potential funder that they match their criteria.

· JISC Guide to Bidding - This is a guide to bidding for JISC funding but it does contain some useful tips to note to ensure your bid stands out from the rest.

Then there's, Bid Writing – what not to do

· I was also given an analysis of recent unsuccessful bids from a bidding round which highlighted a number of key problem areas with applications. This was from a specific round of JISC funding but it does highlight a number of things to avoid when writing a bid. It noted such things as weak partnerships, no links to local strategy and/or plans, project “has been done before” etc. This could be a useful checklist to go through to make sure your bid doesn’t fall into any these traps.

Finally, we are currently supporting a number of applications for funding and are happy to discuss individual project ideas either over the phone or in person. If anyone wants any more information or assistance, please do get in touch.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Provider Matching Service

The Association of Learning Providers (ALP) is now providing a ‘provider matching service’ for any work based learning providers wishing to work in a consortium as part of their application for Learner Innovation Grant funding. This is useful as the emphasis in this round of funding is on working together and so this will be a useful tool for finding possible working partners.

If you would like your details added to the register, please e-mail with your name, organisation, e-mail address, telephone number, vocational area and region.
Great to see at a provider from our region has already registered.

A forum discussion has also been set up on the Quality Improvement Agency’s Excellence Gateway to support this fourth round of applications. Should you wish to join in the discussion you can access that here.

Friday, 11 July 2008

More than 7 Things You Should Know About...

Some time ago I signposted a series of articles that covered ‘seven things you should know about' regarding e-learning. Now, some years later (and containing considerably more than seven tools) this series is still proving to be a useful resource for anyone who wants to stay up to date on what e-learning technologies or practices are becoming available.

Developed by the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, the ‘seven things’ series is made up of easy to follow information sheets each of which provide concise information on emerging learning technologies. Each brief focuses on a single technology or practice, describing:

· What it is
· How it works
· Where it is going
· Why it matters to teaching and learning

These can be useful guides if you’re exploring ways that technology might be able to help you to develop your own teaching/recruitment/retention or if you have heard of various e-learning tools but would like to know more about how they can be applied.

* For example, if you want to know more about Flickr – the photo-sharing website where anyone can upload photos, browse others' photos, and add their comments, then click here (pdf format)

* For more about digital storytelling (which involves combining narrative with digital content to create a movie) click here (pdf format).
The remainder of the series contains a vast array of titles all in the same easy to use format. The list includes information on how you might use such things as e-books, online social networks, screen casting, podcasting, virtual meetings using videoconferencing, instant messaging and much more. Useful things to think about at a time where there is funding being made available to support providers using tools such as these.

(Worth noting also that should you need any more information on any of the tools noted, you can also refer to Innovate and join in the discussion of how many of these e-learning tools are used in practice. Or get in touch).

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Free Video Learning Materials

Business and Learning Connections provides free video learning objects for learning providers to download and use for teaching.

The Business & Learning Connections team have been working with West Midlands businesses and learning providers in the region over the last few years to develop a collection of high quality, curriculum linked, free of charge videos for download or streaming from their web site. The videos are copyright free and aim to bring the world of business into the classroom, by including leading West Midlands business people, as well as students on work placements in industry.

Click here for more details of the video reources that are already available and how you can use them.

Broken down into chapters these high quality videos are very accessible and easy to use. In addition, the site has a range of useful advice and guidance videos including health and safety, careers advice about the engineering sector and an interview with a leading restaurant manager about catering management opportunities.

Wobble on your Mobile

Thanks to a referral from a colleague and another free site you can now access a version of wobble formatted especially for your mobile. This great (free) tool turns a html version of a blog like this one into something that on your mobile looks more like the image below.

The MoFuse, or Mobile Fusion web tool allows anyone to easily and instantly create a mobile version of their blog or website. Its simple navigation makes reading updates in your phone much simpler - so now, to read wobble on the go you just need to point your mobile web browser to:

Several learning providers are already using blogs to share information with their learners. Sandwell Training Agency and Swansea ITeC to name just a few. Through the e-guides programme, work based learning providers are also increasingly considering ways that blogs can be used to keep in touch with their learners.

Using this free tool this could be further extended by providers very easily creating mobile versions of the same for free. This has the added advantage of keeping learners up to date in a format that is mobile friendly and easily accessible to them. With so much interest in mobile tools at the moment, content in mobile friendly format is certainly something worth being aware of.

Related links:

· Blogs in Plain English – short video highlighting what blogs are and how they might be used.
· Discussion about Blogs on Innovate
· Molenet - 32 Projects that focus on using mobile technologies for learning

(Thanks for the link Jim)

Monday, 30 June 2008

More E-Guides for 2008

NIACE have confirmed that there are to be more E-Guides events taking place from September this year. They are currently in the process of updating the materials, preparing publicity and booking venues.

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).

NIACE have advised that they will announce dates as soon as possible. I will share those here but in the meantime, if anyone would like to be added to the waiting list you can email

If you're interested in attending I'd suggest registering that interest at this stage as the last events were oversubscribed very quickly! NIACE have confirmed that people on the waiting list will be emailed directly as soon as dates are available.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Pocket-sized Video Camcorders

Day Three of our West Midlands E-guides event last week showcased more useful technologies for e-learning, with one of the favourites this time being a very inexpensive pocket-sized video camcorder, Disgo.

These video cameras have raised considerable interest in the work based learning sector because of their portability, ease of use and starting at just £35 their price! The basic Disgo model has only three buttons so you can’t go far wrong with using it either making it a great tool for learners to use (to capture evidence for e-portfolios for example).

There are a couple of models available, the basic Disgo video retailing at £35 or a disgo Video Pro at £99.99.

Both are great little tools and signal the way technologies are becoming more affordable and accessible. The reviews from BBC's "Something for the Weekend" programme on the Disgo site are worth watching as they show just how easy these pocket-sized gems are to use. This You tube review offers a users review of the Disgo and this one shows a good comparison between the two models.

With capital funding being made available though the current round of Learner Innovation Grants what better time to be exploring technologies like these and looking at ways they can be incorporated into your own provision.

Finally, if you like the idea of using video but don't fancy making your own who not explore some of the ready made content that's out there. Business and Learning Conections is certainly a good place to start!

New Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS)

Many regional work based learning providers will be aware of the work of the Centre of Excellence in Leadership (CEL) through their popular programme of e-learning programmes for leaders and managers in the WBL sector as well as their online toolkit.

The Quality Improvement Agency (QIA) was set up by the government in April 2006 to support quality improvement and raise standards and achievement in the learning and skills sector. Both organisations have now combined to form LSIS the Learning and Skills Improvement Service which was named earlier this month.

“….this new service is dedicated to supporting excellence and leadership development in the further education and skills sector.” Learn more here.

Learner Innovation Grants - Launch and Support

Last week a number of work based learning providers from across the country attended the launch of Round 4 of the successful Learner Innovation Grants programme managed by ALP. Unfortunately the event was oversubscribed so some missed out, however such high numbers did signal a very positive demand for funding to support e-learning development.

The day featured a number of presentations, all of which will are now available on ALPs new website so if you weren’t able to make the event you can still learn a lot from those. Our RSC National WBL Co-ordinator summarised some of the key points worth noting:

· In this round, there will be a 6.9% + VAT management service contribution which will be payable upfront by the lead bidder prior to signing of the agreement
· The focus is on Train to Gain and Apprenticeships
· ALP are encouraging consortia bids – with funding ranging from £50k to £200k for those, and £50k to £100k for single bids
· Bid submission will be by the 8th September
· ALP recommend that bids refer to national and regional strategic objectives and priorities
· Projects should consider sustainability
· Allocation letters will be sent out week commencing 17th November
· Interim evaluations will be in March 2009 with final evaluations taking place in June 2009

A full prospectus and FAQ on ALPs website offer much more detail and the application form is now available on-line.

What also came out of the day was the amount of support that is now available to help providers make the most of this round of funding. This summary document (pdf.format) outlines all of the organisations who are offering support not just for this LIG funding but to all LSC funded providers wanting to progress their e-learning. It’s certainly worth making a note of these if you haven’t already engaged with them.

As well as the face to face support available a forum has also been established on QIA to:

· Ensure all providers are aware of the LIG project
· Share best practice from the LIG projects
· Support providers through the bidding and delivery phases of the LIG project
· Develop case studies showing the positive impact of the LIG projects

Like the networking pages of Innovate, it’s a good place to chat with other providers about some of the issues relating to this round of funding, and to get answers to LIG 4 questions that may have already been asked.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Next Generation Learning Awards 2009

This year Becta will offer its Next Generation Learning Awards 2009 which will reward learning providers who are confident in the use of technology. This year, the judges will be looking for excellent work with ICT in one of three areas of good practice:

The use of technology to achieve efficiency and effectiveness
The use of technology to enable effective collaboration and partnerships
The use of technology to improve learner outcomes

To submit an entry, you need to complete an online form which can be accessed from Becta's website. The Awards are now open for entries, the deadline is 9 July 2008. Winners will receive a cash prize as well as the opportunity to share their excellent practice regionally and nationally with colleagues.

For more information about the 2009 awards, read How The Awards Work, Becta's Guidance or Frequently asked questions pages. If you have more queries you can also contact the Next Generation Learning Awards team on 024 7641 6994, or by email.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

More E-Learning Case Studies

I’m often asked for examples of best practice in e-learning or to outline what others are doing with e-learning in the sector. Our national set of work based learning web links has a number of case studies for work based learning but reading my colleagues blog I’ve also just been reminded of how many case studies are now being published through the Excellence Gateway.

These case studies are currently mostly geared towards FE however there are an increasing number of great examples that could quite easily also be applied to the Work Based Learning sector. For example, your learners use your IT equipment but do you have an acceptable use policy – and if so do your learners actually read it ? If not, how about implementing an interactive one? Discover how Thurrock and Basildon College did just that with very good effect.

With significant rises in the use of audio in teaching, how about using MP3s for learners with visual impairments? Or for other learners too? As noted in the case study “MP3s are accessible to fully-sighted learners too, and presents another way for learners to access study materials...” Find out how New College Worcester used free tools to achieve significant gains in this area.

How about learning space design? With limited funding, Work Based Learning providers are often required to implement more PCs into existing learning spaces. Has anyone considered the potential of space-saving alternatives to desktop PCs? Yes, right here in Hereford - there’s much more on space saving technology for effective learning spaces.

And finally, just one last example, firstly because it focuses on mobile learning (another very hot topic in the work based learning sector), and secondly because its another one based in the West Midlands (seems its all happening here!) This case study explores the use of mobile learning at Strathmore College on their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.

There is a wealth more both on the Excellence Gateway itself and our very own Kev has also listed more on his brand new ‘Gabber Blog’ post so I won’t repeat again here. I hope this is enough to just begin to illustrate just how much best practice is being uncovered, how many providers are willing to share their experiences of e-learning, and not being territorial at all but how much of it is actually on our patch!

Hope the great work continues! ;-)

Latest Discover-e

Last week we had our annual online conference which judging by the feedback and the evaluations so far, was a tremendous success. The three days featured a number of stars but the biggest star of all was possibly Dim Dim, an extremely useful free tool that we at the RSC are becoming increasingly fond of.

Dimdim is a FREE web conferencing service where you can share your desktop, show slides, collaborate, chat, talk and broadcast via webcam with absolutely no download required for attendees.

Used within our conference it allowed us to show PowerPoint presentations live on the web, with attendees logging it to view the slides, where they could also see the speaker on a live webcam, hear the accompanying audio and chat with other attendees using its chat facility. We could upload files to view and share live and even capture chat transcripts to share with anyone who couldn’t make the meeting. We used it to host live sessions on mobile learning, Moodle updates and to discuss using virtual worlds.

How else can it be used?
So DimDim can be used for online meetings, but the DimDim team also note that “ learning, training, educational and non-profit organizations who want to save on travel expenses or have remote students positively love Dimdim....” We’re beginning to see why.

The BBC Click have also reported on how powerful DimDim is and their short video clip typically shows you what the application can do.

If you have ever thought about implementing any kind of video conferencing system yourself, we’d suggest you take a look at this little gem first. Last week it very successfully connected our West Midlands based trainers, teachers, managers, assessors with presenters from as far away as Perth, Australia and at the same time showed us what can be achieved with some imagination very little effort and no cost.

For many at this years Discover-e conference, I’d say that DimDim was perhaps the biggest find.

Free Software Options for Work Based Learning

A very big thanks to Derrin Kent of the Development Manager, who recently presented a session on free software at our online conference. Derrin kindly donated much of his time to present information and answer questions on free and open source software, showing how these tools can be used to enhance provision in the work based learning sector. He also shared a number of excellent resources some of which I'll shortly make available on our RSC wiki .

Derrins session presented a wide-ranging “training toolkit” of software applications – all available at zero financial cost. With his many years' educational management experience, Derrin perfectly understood the concerns with using free software and nicely contextualised the area, addressing both managers and trainers concerns. He also offerred a very long list of things that are currently available and can be adopted and used for free.

If you’re interested in discovering ways that your organisation might be able to make use of free software I’d suggest Derrin would be useful to know. His details are available on his website along with just a few reasons why so many of us all think that free software is increasingly becoming the way to go.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

More ALP Learner Innovation Grants - Phase 4

ALP has just announced that a further £4 million pounds will now be made available as Phase 4 of the successful Learner Innovation Grants programme of funding. (I've previously mentioned earlier rounds of funding here).

These Learner Innovation Grants provide capital investment for Government funded, independent work-based learning organisations (offering Apprenticeships or Train to Gain learning programmes) to exploit the use of technology in learning and management. The programme has already enabled over 400 organisations to benefit from the grants, enabling the development of a range of innovative projects which vary in complexity and size. In this region, there are already some great examples of these grants being used to enhance the learners experience. For example:

* At Triangle Training LIG funding was used to purchase equipment (laptops, digital cameras and voice recorders) to enable their assessors to use the Paperfree E-Portfolio system with a cohort of Apprentices. Learn more here.

* Juniper Training’s LIG Phase 2 project used multi-media technology to improve E2E referrals, retention and achievement. Learn more here.

* Greenspring Training’s 21st Century project aimed to remove the myth that learning cannot be enjoyed. Fun was provided through music, IT, Interactive Boards allowing their young learners to embrace learning in a way best suited to them through assessments. Learn more here.

Want to know more?

If you are interested to know, ALP are hosting a one day event (in this region, which is great) that will be focusing on this new Phase 4 of the grants. "Provider of the Future - Learning Innovation Grant 4 funding " will be held on 17 June 2008 The ICC, Birmingham.

The event will inform providers on the new criteria and new process of application and raise awareness of other funding and services available for the sector. Use the links below to book. Hope to see you there!

Book Online
Print a booking form
Register your Interest

Things Learners can do with a Mobile Phone

In this short post Steve Dembo lists ten things learners can do with a mobile phone in the classroom. He also asks “let’s stop exerting so much energy trying to ‘bust’ students for carrying the same devices the rest of us carry. Rather, let’s start focusing on how we can use them to improve education in the classroom…” (Too right).

Later this month as part of our online conference Di Dawson will also be exploring ways that mobile phones can be used for learning.

Her Mobile Learning session will take you into the world of mobile learning to explore what mobile learning means and to hear how learners are currently using handheld devices to support their learning and capture evidence for e-portfolios. She will share ideas and tips about m-activities, such as podcasting, using text messaging and e-books.

More details can be found in a previous post or you can sign up online.

(Image courtesy of johnmuk)

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Really Simple Syndication Day

Today is RSS Syndication Day. "RSS is a format used to deliver information from websites and pages that get updated regularly. The main benefit of using RSS is that it enables people to stay connected with their favorite websites without having to visit them."

So if you want to stay up to date but dont want to have check back, find out how you to can use RSS here.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Searching for Images - another way

When searching for images do you have to click through online photo galleries or squint at thumbnails? Here’s what my colleagues and I now use to search for images on the web. PicLens, a free browser add-on which enables rich, full-screen slideshows of images.

It’s proved really popular here in the RSC office as its a great way to search for images on the web without having to go forwards and back from page, to page, to page - sure you get the picture.

PicLens is also free to download, and free to use. So it gets my vote there.

If you haven’t seen it yet try the guided tour here or a demo here. There's also a tutorial showing you how to use it here and an FAQ page for answers to questions about features, compatibility, and more.

(Thanks to John Dalziel for sharing!)

25 Tools for e-learning

Do you want to get to grips with the wide range of technologies and tools available for learning? If so you can now do this in a very practical way by trying out a core set of 25 tools (taken from the current Top 100 Tools for Learning 2008).

In this new free online staff development activity - simply called 25 tools - Jane Hart has grouped a series of simple tasks into activities which aim to help you to understand various e-learning technologies and find out what they are so popular. The suite of tools shows you how to:

· Understand the bare essentials
· Get an online presence and keep up to date
· Build content and share it with others
· Bring people together
· Develop and manage courses

Sounds good. But what I also like is that fact that the tools it covers are all FREE.

What’s more, 25 Tools “… doesn't reinvent the wheel; it makes good use of existing resources in a variety of formats including video and audio….It also encourages a social and collaborative approach to learning and includes a community, where users can share valuable input in terms of their own thoughts and experiences. Engagement comes from working with people not just interacting with content.”

I like the look of this and think its a great way to learn more about some of the e-learning tools you might have heard about or just have a nosey at what's popular and why. To get started have a look at what’s covered in the core toolset or learn more about the resource on the 25 tools site.

RSC E-Learning Conference - over at your place

The Regional Support Centre West Midlands is holding another annual e-learning conference for LSC funded learning providers in the West Midlands - and to take part you don't have to leave your desk!

This free event, will take place over 3 days (20th - 22nd May) and will be run completely online using the popular Virtual Learning Environment, Moodle. To join in the discussions, view presentations or meet and chat with other WBL delegates, you simply login at your own PC and take part at a time and place to suit you, giving you the flexibility to fit attendance around your work commitments.

The event will feature guest speakers discussing the latest developments in e-learning. For Work Based Learning there's also an opportunity to learn about using free software for training and education, and catch up with the latest development in mobile learning. See the workshop descriptions here (pdf format).

During the course of the event, there will be opportunities to win some great prizes, including an Apple iPod Nano and an Asus mini laptop.

To book your place visit our website where youll also find the full program and workshop descriptions too. We hope you will be able to 'attend' and look forward to meeting you online!

The RSC West Midlands Team

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

National Support of Work Based Learning

There's a lot happening in support of Work Based Learning on a national scale. In this recent podcast interview Carolyn Lewis, the JISC RSC National Work Based E-Learning Co-ordinator talks about the RSCs role in supporting Work Based Learning providers and outlines some of the current national activity. She also introduces examples of innovative practices that have been identified and that can inspire others as well as useful links that might benefit WBL providers.

To listen to the interview, visit the networking pages of the Work Based Learning INNOVATE site and scroll to ‘latest activity’ near the bottom of the screen.

Help with your E-Learning Strategy Development

In a recent West Midlands based survey 58% of Work Based Learning providers said they dont have an e-learning/ILT strategy and 70% of respondants noted this an an area they would like support with.

All types of learning providers are being encouraged to develop strategies that support their e-learning activity and to further support this, RSC West Midlands is offering an e-learning strategy workshop at the Science Park in Wolverhampton in June. This half day session will include:

· A review of sample strategies
· A look at what makes an effective strategy?
· Communicating, reviewing and monitoring the strategy
· Launch of the 'eLearning Strategy Sharehouse' initiative - online downloadable sample strategies available to all participants

For those of you who are interested in developing a stratgey but who perhaps can’t make this event, it’s worth noting there are a number of resources available to support WBL strategy development on Innovate. These resources include some useful links on ILT Strategy as well as access to the WBL e-Learning Positioning Statement (WBe-LPS) a tool which helps organisations to identify their current position in relation to e-learning.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Emerging Technologies for Learning

A recent report from BECTA, Emerging Technologies for Learning “…aims to help readers consider how emerging technologies may impact on education … It should open readers up to some of the possibilities that are developing and the potential for technology to transform our ways of working, learning and interacting over the next three to five years.”

It has various articles which will be of interest to learning providers but a couple which caught my attention include:

Growing up with Google: what it means to education This explores the ‘net generation’ …whose behaviours, preferences and expectations may be very different from those of their teachers (trainers). It examines the characteristics of these learners … and the skills that an education system needs to provide for the 21st century.

Mobile, wireless, connected: information clouds and learning In this, Mark van’t Hooft looks at the implications of using mobile devices, pervasive wireless connectivity, and internet applications and services. .. describing some examples of how these technologies are being used to transform learning and discusses the barriers and issues to their effective use.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

LSC and BECTA Technology Exemplar Network

By now all work based learning providers should have received information about the joint Becta and LSC Technology Exemplar Network. If not you’ll find a summary here. As part of this initiative 10 learning providers have now been selected for “leading the way in the effective use of technology for learning” and noted as having Exemplar Status. They will now work with other providers to help share and develop the use of technology across the sector. (A full list of these Exemplar Status Providers can be viewed online).

What’s worth noting now, is that now “up to 50 providers (including work based learning providers) can apply to join the Technology Exemplar Network as developing providers.” Those selected as part of this process will be able to benefit directly from these exemplars’ knowledge and experience to improve the way technology is used to support their own learner achievement”.

Revenue grants of £7,500 and Capital grants of up to £50,000 are available to support providers participation in the Network. More information and documentation is available online.

The deadline for applications is 19th March.

More Interactive Whiteboards

I must say I was quite surprised at how positive a response we had to upcoming Interactive Whiteboard workshop that we have scheduled for next week. The session became oversubscribed very quickly indicating that there is a fair old demand for this type of training in the region.

Apologies to all who wanted to attend but couldn't get in this one. We have however set up a waiting list which may lead to us offering another free session in the future. Watch this space and our events page for details.

We will also be sharing a number of resources relating to using Interactive Whiteboards on the web after next weeks workshop. These may also prove useful for staff who cant make any of the sessions, so when I've finished uploading them I'll also signpost a link on here.

Look forward to seeing many of you next week!

(Image courtesy of dougsymington)

JISC Legal Advice for Learning Providers

As a work based learning provider, does your organisation have an email/internet policy? Does your website have a privacy statement?

The use of IT in learning raises many legal issues and work based learning providers need to have awareness of these and of any associated legal risk. That’s where JISC Legal now comes in. A Joint Information System Committee (JISC) funded service, JISC Legal now offers high quality legal information free to the work based learning sector. The service explains the implications of IT law by making current legal information available to staff working with IT in the sector.

JISC Legal is an information service, they are not a firm of solicitors and can’t give professional legal advice – any material provided is for informative purposes only. However, the use of JISC legal services can save providers time and money, if only in ensuring their staff are fully briefed in legal issues relating to the use of IT.

They maintain the JISC Legal website, which offers a wealth of useful information as well as a form for online queries. They have also compiled a very useful Software Management Checklist which is designed to help learning providers manage the licensed software on their machines. A list of Frequently Asked Questions outlines a number of key topics based on queries the service has received to date. They also have a number of publications that cover topics such as monitoring internet use, issues relating to copyright, inappropriate use of computers and data retention.

JISC Legal is just one of the advisory services currently available to the work based learning sector (I’ve mentioned another on wobble previously). A full listing of JISC services can also be found on Innovate. For more information on how any of the JISC services can be used by your organisation please get in touch.