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: e-guides@niace.org.uk

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 lig4@learningproviders.org 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: http://wobble.mofuse.mobi/

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)