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Working with Remote Experts Via Distance Technologies

One of the cornerstones of a degree in many subjects is the contact students can have with researchers, practitioners and other professionals in the field. Workshops are very effective, but an extended relationship between these experts and students can be much more rewarding. University departments often have close contact with a network of experts at national and international level. Many contribute to their degree programmes; others are prevented from doing so through constraints of travel, time and other commitments.

Using advanced technology as the means of delivery, departments are able to invite appropriate scholars or practitioners to contribute whole modules or one-off classes to their degree programmes from any remote location. Little significant work has been undertaken to achieve a fully interactive approach to distance-taught workshops.

Supported by the HEFCE's Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL), the ANNIE project has undertaken a series of over 15 case studies of different approaches to accessing and networking with remote experts. These were chosen to reflect a wide range of educational and technological situations, including lectures, seminars, exercises, practical sessions, videoconferencing, telematic performance, software demonstration, online discussion and chat. Engaging with each given task, students comment constructively on the work of others in the group. Interaction with remote experts, the local tutor and their peer groups provides a collaborative opportunity to acquire insights in to the subject area through their own research and creative ideas, as well as learn how to use ICT- based techniques as tools for the investigation and interrogation of the subject material.

Rigorous evaluation of setting up and tutor and student experiences has established best practice in delivering teaching (including practical teaching) from distant locations, building in appropriate quality assurance mechanisms. The resulting materials and expertise is being offered as Guidance Resources to for others who have a range of national or international contacts on whose expertise they wish to draw.