Jay Dempster, Centre for Academic Practice, University of Warwick
This issue of Interactions marks the move to a new format. We have widened the remit of the journal from e-learning to educational development more broadly and established a peer review process for selection of articles.
With the introduction of student fees, potentially a new international campus and growing diversity issues, this evolution seems timely. Whilst retaining interests in developments with an e-dimension, we are encouraging contributions of educational enhancements set against a backdrop of the broad strategic priorities for learning and teaching. Although much of what we do will remain unchanged, some trends seem highly likely to influence, and pressurise further, academic work: increasing international dimensions; growing diversity of student needs and careers; increasing use of technology to support more sophisticated interactions; and an emphasis on pedagogic research to evidence what is or is not working. Some practitioners would argue that educational development is the undertaking of research and scholarship in teaching and learning. It therefore seems appropriate that we introduce peer review into the editing process.
The move coincides with the launch, last term of the Teaching Enhancement Awards. This scheme aims to recognise and celebrate the achievement of academic staff who engage in educational development and share their ideas and experiences through case studies. We have established a peer review system for Interactions as an outlet for this scholarship and case study seminars for discussion of educational development amongst interested colleagues.
Interactions was founded as a web journal nine years ago. Articles, in the main from Warwick staff, are published each term on the web, providing a means to recognise and share innovation across the University. To date the focus has been on our growing experiences of using technology in teaching and learning. Much has changed over this period in terms of the embedding of once-novel practices, a journey which will be reflected in a forthcoming booklet - A decade of e-learning at Warwick -based around past articles from Warwick staff. This will be available in December as part of the 40th anniversary year celebrations.
Much of the format for the journal remains the same. Regular readers of Interactions will know that, each term, we have a themed issue and invite contributions from staff who have insight and experiences in a given topic. Each issue will offer both oversight of developments across the University and in-depth case studies in areas of particular departmental interest. Each 'case study' documents what has been done or is planned to do, why, how and with what outcomes. Along with the shorter summaries of 'innovations', these articles will remain a means to raise awareness of educational development across the University and to share our learning from them.
There is already a growing community of staff at Warwick engaged in educational development. Our aim is for Interactions to provide a focus for the pedagogic research undertaken across the University as a whole. Many academics undertake educational development out of professional pride as well as intellectual curiosity. This may begin simply with asking questions about 'how best to' do something and lead to a small project to explore a problem or underpin a new initiative. More recently, the University has been encouraging developments that will have an impact beyond individual innovations and support strategic priorities at the departmental level. For example the TQEF departmental challenge fund for e-learning projects. Such work may end up pushing the boundary of what is known, thus contributing to pedagogic research in the subject discipline.
From my work with colleagues at Warwick over the last 11 ½ years, there is one thing I am sure about. What is often considered the realm of teaching enthusiasts and compulsive gadgeteurs, educational development in departments has also been the foundation stone of some profound thinking about higher education. However you engage with Interactions, as a reader, reviewer or author, we hope that it proves stimulating in the years ahead. Put aside a little time for pedagogic research and immerse yourself in intellectual debate, imaginative teaching and vital questions on the nature of student learning.
In this edition, Harbinder Sandhu and Andrea Docherty from Warwick Diabetes Care report on a project, supported by the Warwick Teaching Development Fund, in which they studied students' responses to a questionnaire focusing upon the barriers and facilitators to e-Learning within the Certificate in Diabetes Care course to determine the required role of staff in facilitating learning. Despite our aspirations to student centred learning, this approach of starting with the student needs is taken all too rarely.
Andrew Martin of the Warwick Business School reports on a database driven website to support a module that itself is concerned with the design of a dynamic web sites. The site therefore both represents a good example of application design and also acts as a way to manage a large number of web based teaching resources - a an issue that many courses are encountering. The site includes an interesting use of an online experience survey to allocate students into groups.
Richard Smith, in the Centre for English Language Education describes the transition of a course to a reflective, action research based learning model and highlights the advantages to be gained from iterative development of new approaches driven by formative course evaluation during the running of a module. Again, the issues surrounding the transition to self directed and research based learning are being faced by many departments.
Dr Jay Dempster
Centre for Academic Practice
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 24 7652 4670