Learning Technology and Innovation is responsible for the innovative development of electronic media to support teaching, research and administration within the RVC. We are committed to share our teaching resources with other veterinary schools in the UK and around the world. Using the latest technologies the Unit intends to become one of the principal sources of e-learning for the veterinary profession globally. The scope and quality of our resources will set the highest standards in teaching and learning for the future.
Our e-learning strategy has been developed by the Unit in conjunction with key staff and students to map future developments of e-learning within the RVC.
As part of the review process of the existing strategy, informal and small group consultations have been carried out with College staff and students. The key priorities of these users have been combined to form the following key objectives. These also take into account experience from other similar institutions, government guidance and published research.
Using technology to improve efficiency
One of the key drivers for the adoption of e-learning has often been the opportunity to use existing resources more efficiently. For example computer aided assessment can free up time which academics can then dedicate to working directly with students. In addition technology can be a useful tool in scaling up provision to enable larger groups of students to be taught without requiring a proportional increase in teaching staff.
Enhancing the quality of learning
It is now well recognised that technology offers the potential to enhance the quality of the learning experience for students. For example students now rely on digital recordings of taught lectures to enable them to revisit and revise the subject matter at a later date. These experiences are widely appreciated by students as a way of complementing but not replacing traditional teaching methodologies.
Facilitating self directed learning
The RVC focus on reflective learning has necessitated a shift to more self-directed study; much of which is now being done online and often off campus. Online resources such as lecture recordings, collaborative tools, reflective journals, images, video, quizzes, tutorials, online journals and external web sites are available to support more independent approaches to learning. The challenge often is in providing guidance and direction to students on how best to use these resources to support their learning.
Learning from the learners
Students now play an active role in supporting the use of e-learning in the curriculum. As informed end users, they are able to advise on the format and range of resources they find most useful. The more technically competent students have also been prepared to assist their colleagues in devising the maximum benefit from new technologies. Learning from the learners not only enables the College to draw on the initiative and enthusiasm of students but also helps ensure that future developments address their real learning needs.
Teaching the teachers
The provision of appropriate technical and pedagogical support to academic staff is an essential part of ensuring the adoption of new teaching approaches using technology. This includes individual and group staff training, documentation, sharing of best practice and student involvement. The challenge for the RVC is to achieve a high level of competence and commitment to e-Learning exists across the College in order to meet students’ needs and expectations for new media.
Support for lifelong learning
New technologies such as podcasting, digital videos and online classrooms mean that the College is well placed to deliver e-learning at a distance. This provides the opportunity to support a wider audience of remote lifelong learners and international students. The CPD Unit is already benefiting from the provision of high quality, RVC branded e-learning resources to practising vets around the world. The opportunity exists for the RVC to further increase the commercial exploitation of quality online resources.
Selecting the best software platforms and systems
The RVC has consistently invested in state-of-the-art hardware and software to deliver e-learning on and off campus. Whilst this has involved significant recurrent costs, the benefit has been the provision of high quality resources through a sophisticated Virtual Learning Environment hosted on reliable servers. As a result both students and staff have come to rely on these systems as one of the main sources of teaching resources. It is likely that these systems will continue to evolve in the future and it is essential that the RVC is prepared to purchase the most effective solutions to ensure a quality service for students.
Maintaining a flexible approach to the introduction of new technologies
There have been major developments in the range and power of learning technologies recently linked to increased access of students and staff to computers with fast bandwidth. This progress is likely to continue and whilst it is not possible to predict exactly what is coming next, it is important to be prepared. For example access to powerful mobile devices allied to ubiquitous wireless access is likely to make mobile learning commonplace in the future. This will provide opportunities for RVC students and graduates to have “anytime, anywhere” access to e-Learning.
Ensuring adequate resources for future growth
In planning for the future, the College needs to prepare for continued growth in demand for an ever increasing range of resources. Experience has shown that the technology can be scaled up to accommodate such increased use. However, this technical growth has a resource cost with a need for more technical and pedagogical staff. Where possible, cost savings associated with the adoption of technology enabled solutions to should be reinvested in staffing, software and hardware costs.
Creating partnerships and supporting collaboration
The internet has changed the way that institutions work together and this has been particularly apparent in e-Learning. Communities of practice have grown up around sharing technologies, skills and resources which have had a major impact on the quality and range of e-learning provision. The RVC has been a beneficiary of collaborating on projects such as Wiki Vet and the Bloomsbury Learning Environment. The College also is committed to sharing Open Educational Resources which also serves to raise the reputation of the College for excellence to a wide range of international users.
Monitoring and benchmarking impact
The significant investment in e-learning at the RVC necessitates an assessment of benefits to teaching and learning. Staff and student surveys and the use of benchmarking tools will assist in an impact assessment. In addition, research projects can provide valuable data on how e-learning is changing the way that students learn. For example the work the research expertise available through the LIVE centre has helped guide the adoption of mobile learning within the College.
The following plan outlines how the strategic objectives identified above will be achieved in Learning, Teaching and Assessment:
- Providing students with “anytime, anywhere” access to learning resources to support more flexible approaches to learning
- Offering a well structured and comprehensive set of online learning resources to supplement taught courses and aid in self directed study and revision
- Making all lecture recordings and slides available on the Virtual Learning Environment
- Creating a comprehensive curriculum resource with signposting to key materials through WikiVet
- Collaborating with clinical staff in the development of an e-case bank through cases developed by clinical students and peer reviewed by staff
- Building a digital image and video bank which will be available for use by both staff and students
- Establishment of student focus groups in all year cohorts with regular meetings to elicit feedback on existing e-learning provision and identify needs for future development
- Employment of a small group of student representatives to assist in creating new online resources and assist in embedding these within their curriculum
- Working with research staff in the LIVE centre to identify examples of best practice both at the RVC and at other institutions which can be introduced into the core curriculum.
- Creation and promotion of a comprehensive “e-learning toolkit” for use by academic staff to help in developing teaching materials;
- Providing one to one training and support for staff in the use of e-learning tools
- Assisting in the sharing or learning objects such as images, videos and assessments within the RVC and with other institutions;
- Supporting the development of e-DL resources to reduce academic contact time required for self directed learning;
- Continuing production of videocasts, podcasts and postcasts to enhance anatomical teaching
- Support for academic staff to develop videos of clinical procedures, dissections and lectures which will be included in the video library;
- Collaborating with Course Management Committees to ensure uptake of e-learning across all undergraduate and postgraduate degrees
- Working with academic staff including programme secretaries to develop efficient practices for making learning resources available
- Developing computer aided formative assessments which students can use to test their understanding of the curriculum in their own time;
- Creating electronic materials such as flash cards and interactive digital images which can be integrated into revision material;
- Development of a question bank which includes assessments shared between veterinary colleges through WikiQuiz
- Integrating student record systems with the Blackboard grade book to make it easier for students and staff to access results;
- Expansion of the use of Turnitin across all courses to minimise the amount of digital plagiarism in assessed work;
- Explore new ways that technology can assist in setting and marking assignments to ease work burden on academic staff.
References and Sources
- Appropriate & Practical Technologies for Students, Teachers, Administrators and Researchers Project (accessed 2009) www.bloomsbury.ac.uk/apt
- HEFCE 2005/12 ‘HEFCE strategy for e-learning’ http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2005/05_12/ (National Archives)
- HEFCE 2009/12 ‘Enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology: A revised approach to HEFCE's strategy for e-learning’ http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2009/09_12/ (National Archives)
- RVC 2004 ‘RVC E-Learning Strategy’