The Web can be viewed as one enormous integrated set of resources that is ever expanding. In each subject, there is a wealth of educational material: from teaching materials such as computer based and web based tutorials, educational simulations, reading lists, case studies and assessment questions to learning and research materials such as e-journals, e-books, databases, software tools, electronic information services, catalogues and data services (often needing different passwords for each one).
With tutors and students alike now having easy access via network technology to exhaustive quantities of information and materials to draw upon for their learning, teaching or research, the issue in accessing resources for e-learning is not so much a lack of resources, but more one of locating them. Two approaches to solving this problem have developed over the years. The first is the use of subject-based information services (or gateways), the second the use of sophisticated search engines.
Competence in the use of these tools is fast becoming a fundamental component of information literacy in many aspects of life, but particularly in education and research. Now that the technical means are at hand, it is essential that electronic resources, accessible locally via campus networks and globally via the Web, be employed by those who can understand their potential and can evaluate their value (or lack of) to teaching and learning. Accessing resources effectively requires users - staff and students - to acquire specific (re)searching skills for the new electronic information environments and to be critical readers and selective retrievers. In some cases, it is felt that information literacy is an area of skills development that is still given insufficient attention in many teaching programmes.
Electronic resources might be used during a lecture to illustrate a concept or provided through a course web site, but equally can be used by students as part of their work. In both cases, accessing resources for e-learning is not solely concerned with finding (or searching for) content using gateways and portals, but also how the retrieved material might be repurposed by students to create new forms of content - a kind of second generation resource. The ARCHES (Antiquity Related Collections Harnessed for Educational Scenarios) project at Warwick contributes to a growing questioning of the dominant “content-provision” paradigm of resource-based teaching and learning that allows only limited student input. This development project is based on the belief that the full value of accessing electronic resources is to transform, and be transformed by, creative interactions with other, innovative pedagogical practices.
The articles offered in this issue on the theme of Accessing Resources for E-Learning present broad issues on accessing and using electronic resources in teaching and learning. Lessons learned from supporting departments and academic staff in this area are contributed from the Library, Centre for Academic Practice and IT Services. Approaches to accessing electronic materials and their integration into learning and teaching situations are discussed in relation to current practice and development activities at Warwick.
The first article has been prepared by the Library subject support team, headed by Robin Green. It provides a broad overview of how lecturers currently make use of e-resources across the various subject areas, giving some specific examples of where these have been integrated successfully into overall teaching and learning modules. Through the specific initiatives in the subject areas, a range of ways are demonstrated in which guidance can be given to students to facilitate access to resources for e-learning.
The second article by Graham Lewis, academic development adviser in the Centre for Academic Practice educational technology team, offers some suggestions for planning students' induction to the use of electronic learning resources. One department's recent experience and development of a workshop for student skills development in this area is used to illustrate the kinds of considerations involved in enhancing the use of online subject resources.
The third article is presented by Robert O'Toole, e-learning developer in elab, the development wing of IT Services. Robert considers Warwick's needs for access to e-resources and the kinds of projects that elab are currently undertaking as part of the e-strategy to provide a networked service at Warwick for subject specific resources for e-learning.
ARCHES: Funded under the JISC's Exchange for Learning (X4L) programme, the ARCHES project is led by the School of Theatre Studies and involves the Centre for Academic Practice and elab at Warwick. See Innovations in this issue for a brief overview or the ARCHES project website for full details.
Dr Jay Dempster
Head of Educational Technology,
Centre for Academic Practice,
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 24 7652 4670