Jay Dempster, Centre for Academic Practice, University of Warwick
This issue on the theme of “Re-purposing Content for Learning” explores ways in which academic staff can make best use of teaching and learning materials that already exist whether in digital or traditional format and deliver them on the web in a flexible and accessible manner. I use the term “content” here to mean physical or electronic materials, but there is an argument for including tools used to support learners’ interaction with content: well as access and use, also creation and sharing of learning materials.
The first article takes a national perspective. Susan Eales and Jay Dempster outline the purposes behind “Exchange for Learning” (X4L), a JISC funding programme that seeks to create repositories of re-usable electronic content for use nationally in HE and FE learning and teaching. The article describes the range of developments funded and examples of projects, including ARCHES, led by Warwick, to illustrate repurposing of digital content across a range of educational scenarios: classroom teaching and e-learning environments.
There is already a high level of activity across departments in making use of the University’s new web publishing tool, SiteBuilder, developed by E-lab. Nearly all departments now have a web presence in the new University of Warwick corporate style and accessible format. Increasingly, developing content for the web involves staff in a rethink of the actual purposes that particular materials serve. For example, information can be provided about the course itself (module outlines, student handbooks, room bookings) and made available on a departmental website. Materials pertaining to the subject area, such as images, lecture notes, research papers, can be digitised and re-used to allow students to interact with primary sources and develop and share ‘content’ of their own.
Contributions were asked from a number of staff about their experiences and achievements in using the tool and the benefits to learners. The article by Dominic Kelly, a lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies (PAIS) outlines the experiences of developing the website for the department of Politics and International Studies using these central tools. Dominic remarks upon the collaborative efforts of the department with staff in central support services in helping to develop thinking about the possible range of purposes of the website. In particular, the article illustrates a number of ways in which web content has been enhanced by additional facilities, such as news service and discussion boards that support the learning process.
In the article, ‘Moving from face-to-face to distance approaches for teaching English to young learners: Issues and experiences in developing materials’, Shelagh Rixon tackles similar challenges in redesigning a Masters level module as an independent Post Graduate Award taught at a distance. Issues in repurposing existing content and learning activities used in face-to-face situations are discussed in relation to the course and students’ needs, but also the workload and rewards for those staff involved. A number of lessons learned are offered, which aim to assist others considering shifts from traditional to online models.
The Innovations section provides further evidence that staff and departments are starting to think beyond the administrative benefits of content publishing and are exploring their use to support learners and enhance and enrich the learning experience.
Dr Jay Dempster
Head of Educational Technology
Centre for Academic Practice
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 24 7652 4670