Jay Dempster, Centre for Academic Practice, University of Warwick
As we embark upon the academic year, there are yet again a wide range of opportunities to engage in educational developments. Although the RAE looms ever closer, the University is keen to provide the necessary means to continue to encourage fresh approaches to teaching and learning. The Education Innovation Fund launched last year has attracted a variety of interesting bids. Funding allocated to the University from the HEFCE for teaching quality enhancement (TQEF) will once again be available to departments on a competitive basis to make further progress specifically in the use of e-learning. This maintains the momentum of online developments that have been taking place over several years – a journey that is captured in the special publication of Interactions, Celebrating 10 years of e-learning innovation at Warwick.
Activities in departments that harness such rich opportunity have produced another round of stimulating articles for this issue of Interactions. The first two article focus on imaginative research-based learning approaches, where by learning resources are created by the students, rather than, or as well as, for the students. The third and fourth articles highlight how departments have harnessed the opportunities offered by the University’s web tools.
Over the last few issues, articles demonstrate an increasing shift in culture with staff embracing the scholarship of teaching. Authors are writing ever-increasingly critical accounts and welcoming the peer review process we now have in place for the journal. Readers will benefit by insightful and evidence-based accounts of teaching and learning developments that help to illuminate potential paths to expanding their own repertoire of techniques.
Firstly, Wolkowitz and Mizen present an evaluation of a new teaching programme in visual sociology, for which they received this year a Teaching Enhancement Award. The emphasis in the module design is on the creation of visual materials as a learning activity, encouraging students to take a research-like approach and become active producers of knowledge. The approach is part of a broad strategy by the Sociology Department, as the authors remark “to enable students to experiment with different ways of researching society and presenting research results”.
This theme is continued into the second article from Katherine Astbury in the Department of French. She describes how students will be involved in the process of digitally preserving one of the University’s most significant special collections, the Marandet collection of 18th- and 19th-century plays. The development, funded this year by the University’s Education Innovation Fund, builds upon experience of successful Undergraduate Research Scholarship (URSS) project work based on this collection.
The third article arises from developments in the Warwick Medical School funded by TQEF. Davies and Fenn describe the strategy and experiences associated with creating web-based resources for students. Its value is particularly in providing a good example of a team-based approach to e-learning development. However, the authors outline some of the potentials and pitfalls in the use of different kinds of e-learning tools to develop high level capabilities, such as information skills, critical appraisal and evidence-based clinical work. In so doing, the article offers a useful model and set of principles for designing and supporting resource-based learning activities.
In the final article, Teresa Mackinnon, a Business Language Development Officer from the Language Centre, examines a range of strategies for maintaining quality training product while increasing the volume delivered, “facilitated by the creative exploitation of the networks and resources that exist within the University”. The development is based around the creation of an online client support site, including a “virtual staffroom” to foster interaction between tutors who are geographically dispersed. Through needs analysis and client feedback processes, the article presents a stimulating account of the challenges faced, such as staffing, hidden costs and legal arrangements, and the changes it has brought to the Centre and associated future plans.
Dr Jay Dempster
Centre for Academic Practice
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 24 7652 4670
Citation for this Editorial
Dempster, J. (2006) Editorial. Warwick Interactions Journal 28. Accessed online at: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/cap/resources/pubs/interactions/archive/issue28/ed/