e-learning staff development programme: Annual Report (08-09)

Introduction

The aim of this report is to inform to the Head of e-Learning, the e-Learning Team, the LTEO and the wider community at the University of Bath if the e-learning staff development programme (central provision of events) is achieving its broad aims, and feed into planning decisions for the next academic year.

The need for an appropriate and effective e-learning staff development programme is highlighted by an objective in the new Learning and Teaching Strategy . The strategy states the following objective is owned by e-Learning; “develop appropriate and effective e-Learning development and support programmes for staff and students”. Further more, the aims of the e-Learning Team at the University of Bath are;

  • Helping staff to integrate e-Learning into their programmes
  • Sharing innovation and good practice
  • Developing an e-learning community
  • Promoting and evaluating e-Learning
  • Developing e-Learning tools

To help achieve these aims we run a number of central staff development events (workshops, seminars, blended courses and coffee breaks) throughout the academic year (see: http://www.bath.ac.uk/learningandteaching/events-workshops/?dept=elearning)

In terms of our broad aims we need to identify if  “our staff development programme achieves the broad aim of developing staff capacity in e-learning? does it share innovation and good practice while encourage the develop an e-learning community? This report attempts to answer these questions for the 2008-09 period.

Background

The following are the descriptive statistics for the e-learning staff development programme (2008-09). It is evident we have run a large number of events over the period (28) and cancelled 20 sessions. In total, 148 particpiants attended our centrally provided events.

Table 1: Events (by type)

Semester 1 (ran/canceled)

  • workshop 10 / 7
  • seminar 4 / 2
  • blended course 1
  • coffee breaks 0 / 0
  • elpf 0 / 0

Semester 2 (ran/canceled)

  • workshop 2/6
  • seminar 6/2
  • blended course 2/1
  • coffee breaks 4/0
  • elpf 0/1

Table 2: Events by broad focus (all sessions)

Semester 1 (moodle / non moodle)

  • Workshop 12 / 5
  • Seminar 0 / 6
  • Blended Course 0 / 1
  • Coffee Break 0 / 0
  • elpf 0 / 0

Semester 2 (moodle / non moodle)

  • workshop 5 / 3
  • seminar 0 / 8
  • blended course 0 / 2
  • coffee break 0 / 4
  • elpf 0 / 1

Table 3: Total attendance (average per session which ran)

Semester 1

  • workshop 53 (5.3)
  • seminar 14 (3.5)
  • blended course 17 (17)
  • Coffee break n/a
  • elpf n/a

Semester 2

  • workshop 7 (3.5)
  • seminar 41 (6.8)
  • blended course 7 (3.5)
  • coffee break 9 (2.25)
  • elpf n/a

Analysis

The first question is, does our staff development programme build capacity in the individuals who attend our sessions and have they applied it within their teaching?

A survey was run (30th July, 2009 to 5th September, 2009) for staff who attended one of our events in the Semester 1 period (Sept 08 to Jan 09). The time delay was to give participants a number of months after the event to apply the knowledge and skills gained from the e-learning event before evaluating impact.

The respondents were strongly bias towards those attending the “Introduction to Moodle” workshop (13 out of 16). This workshop is designed for those new to Moodle, to act as a heads up, start uploading content, and managing their courses.

The survey included questions to inform us about longer term impact. For instance, to what extent do you agree with the statement, “I have applied the knowledge and skills which I developed during the workshop in my teaching and/or work? The responses indicated 6 strongly agreed with the statement, 5 agreed, 2 were neutral and 1 disagreed. Overall, it appears the majority would argue they have applied the knowledge. When asked to explain why, the extracts indicate a positive impact and implied effective embedding within practice.

“I have currently only used the basic applications in Moodle but plan to use more in the future”

“I have never used Moodle before, and the introduction sessions makes my life a lot easier with moodle”

“I have set up a moodle site”

“I was introduced to Moodle during the workshop, and at the time, I was very early on in my post. But when I came to use Moolde for my job, I remembered most of the training and my project could not have taken off without the use of Moodle”

In terms of exploring peoples views of the quality and worth of the session I asked two questions. Firstly, would they recommend an e-learning workshop to a colleague? Secondly, has attending the workshop motivated you to attend more events by the e-Learning team? The first question is based around the concept that a person is only going to recommend a course to a colleague if the experience was good as their reputation is attached to the recommendation. So if you did not enjoyed the experience, or questioned the value added of attending in your teaching and learning you are more likely not to recommend attending. The responses to these two questions were, 8 respondents would (57%) would recommend it, while 6 would not. In terms of motivating them to attend another session 9 people it did, however, 5 it did not.

A further question tried to understand why people responded as they did. I was pleased to observe there was no clear message emerging in terms of participants perceptions of low quality or little value added from attending. In fact, there was no comments around this issue. There were a few points about finding time to attend other sessions or there not being any appropriate to their need. One comment needs actioning within our designs for the blended courses. The view is not new, and it does support the views of many of the session leaders. This is the issue of motivation, if people aren’t motivated to participate on blended courses the learning activity becomes meaningless for the others.

The final question focussed on identifying if people engaged in our support materials after attending the event. The assumption being if they followed up the session by accessing more resources and assistance this would indicate an increase in staff capacity, and sharing good practice. The responses suggested a number of people (at least 9) engaged with the following resources over the last three months;

  • accessed the e-Learning pages on the LTEO web site: 7
  • visited ine of our supporting (blog) web sites, such as Moodle Blog, ARS, SMS or QR Code: 2
  • emailed e-learning@bath for assistance: 4
  • read an e-learning case study from the LTEO web site: 0
  • visited the staff area in Moodle: 9

A slight concern is the lack of awareness of our case studies. This is a concern as we intend these to be one of the primary mechanisms for sharing good practice.

The questions concerning does our programme share good practice at the University, and does it help develop the wider e-learning community can be addressed in a number of ways. In particular, for this to be effective we need to explicitly sign post this to participants. A simple method would be to;

  • include case studies from practitioners at the University of Bath within the sessions. These should be provided as linked examples from the case study web site (http://www.bath.ac.uk/learningandteaching/themes/e-learning/casestudies).
  • the session should require (if hands on) the participants accessing the social (community) space. They should update their profile, be directed to discussion and resource areas.
  • at the end of the session, any outcomes should be made available through the social (community) space. Participants should be made explicitly aware of the resources.
  • at the end of all sessions there should be the follow up email, thanking them for attendance and encouraging them to visit the social (community) space with specific questions raised from the session.

A review of a number of slides, and discussions with individuals within the team indicated the above approach is not commonly deployed across our courses. An action for the Head of e-Learning is to ensure it is. A caveat is we still haven’t decided on the social (community) space. There have been discussions around using Moodle or a social network tool (Crowdvine, Ning). An action is for us to agree, asap.

Recommendations & where next

The message from the descriptive statistics appears to indicate a large number of sessions were canceled (1 in 3), which were mainly the workshops. This will be for both supply and demand reasons.  When these are canceled the session leader follows up with 1-2-1 sessions. In terms of the next session this implies we should reduce the number of duplicate sessions we make available, and shift some workshop topics into seminars.

The descriptive statistics imply Moodle development sessions tend to be in the workshop format and are run mainly in Semester 1. While non-Moodle topics tend to focus on shorter formats and run in Semester 2. A recommendation would be to even out the balance across the academic year and by type.

We need to put more effort in weaving in our case studies and support spaces if we are going to use our staff development programme as a vehicle for meeting the sharing practice and community building aims of the e-learning team.

In terms of the methodology, the survey needs developing a more effective way to measure the impact on sharing practice, and community building. Also, we need to include more varied data collection techniques (selected interviews, focus groups) to triangulate these findings.

Timetable

  • Data collection during November 2009 for those who attended sessions in Semester 2 (Feb 09-June 09)
  • Data collection during June and July 2010 for those who attended sessions in Semester 1 (Sept 09-Jan 10)
  • Next Annual Report: Due September, 2010
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