There is widespread recognition that e-learning technologies can improve learning, teaching, assessment and achievement, and that these contribute to increased rates of recruitment & retention. E-Learning can also help to support a growing and diverse student body.
The benefits of e-learning can be identified in the following five key dimensions:
Pedagogy - Connectivity - Flexibility - Extendability - Efficiency
E-Learning technologies can meet the needs of research-informed learning design
A useful way of looking at e-learning is to see how and where it fits into current research and practice in education. Beetham (2007) argues that people learn more effectively when they:
- are active
- are motivated and engaged
- can bring their existing capabilities into play
- are appropriately challenged
- have opportunities for dialogue
- receive feedback
- have opportunities for consolidation and integration
Beetham, H. (2007) 'An approach to learning activity design', In: Beetham, H. and Sharpe, R., Eds. Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: designing and delivering e-learning, Abingdon: Routledge. pp 26-40.
Examples of how the considered use of e-learning technologies has supported progressive course design at Royal Holloway include, but are not restricted to:
- The widespread use of Moodle Quizzes to build, deploy, report, and re-use formative and summative course tests, to provide students multiple opportunities to self-test and improve their understanding and performance
- The rapidly increasing use of GradeMark, which enhances the student experience by speeding up marking, facilitating better quality feedback, supporting a single data entry point, and providing more reliable, accurate and legible feedback for students
- The use of discussion fora to replace and/or extend seminars, to allow students time to reflect on each others’ comments and prepare their own questions and statements
- The use of discussion fora and wikis, to allow students to retrace their discussions, to improve their understanding of different opinions, and to monitor their own development
Staff and students can take full advantage from instant access to information on a global scale
An long-established example of this at Royal Holloway is exemplified by our institutional subscription to Early English Books Online (EEBO), which contains digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700 - from the first book printed in English by William Caxton, through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare and the tumult of the English Civil War.
“Now all students can have the resources of the British Library, of the Oxford and Cambridge University Libraries, and of some of the great North American collections of their desktop. Students in Hull, or Durham, Penzance or Hastings, can be examining some of the rarest and most impressive works of a global collection by a few clicks of the mouse”
Champion, Justin (2005) ‘Discovering the past online’ JISC inform: Preparing for the Future: providing leadership in the use of technology Issue 8 pp8-10 p7
Staff and students can personalise learning experiences through the use of online technologies
Access to content, practice, assessment and feedback can happen at any time and any place through the development and deployment of 're-usable learning objects and activities, This allows students to take control of their learning - when they learn, the speed at which they navigate content, the frequency with which they self-test, and the ability to view their previous performance.
Examples of this in action at Royal Holloway include, but are not restricted to:
- The use of multimedia content
- The recording and availability of lecture recordings
- The availability of self-marking formative tests
- Conditional access to new materials - based upon previous engagement and/or achievements with earlier course content and activities
Special educational needs can be supported through technology
Many students can benefit from personalised access to resources and activities. Moodle, for example, offers opportunities to support learners with a range of learning difficulties or disabilities in ways that would simply not have been possible in the past. These include medical and other conditions, including visual impairment and dyslexia.
Examples of Moodle supporting students in this way at Royal Holloway include, but are not restricted to:
- The design and deployment of the 'Super Student' role to provide early access to specific materials, both easily and discretely, to students with declared Special Educational Needs (SENs)
- The use of 'Quiz Overides' to provide differentiated access - earlier, longer, repeated - to online tests for students who require such access
- The provision of materials in 'open format' which can be re-purposed to suit the learners' needs - type size, font, colour, and spacing
Extended opportunities for activity and interactivity
Learning communities can now function independently of time and space
Moodle is an example of C&IT, which stands for Communications and Information Technology, one of the terms used in Higher Education for e-learning, and brought into wider use by the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (usually referred to as the Dearing Report) 1997, available at http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/1997/m18_97.htm.
The C for communication was put first because one of the members of the Dearing group, Diana Laurillard, author of Rethinking University Teaching, felt that it was in communications technology that the real opportunities, the revolutions and excitement lay – the opportunity for one to one and one to many synchronous and asynchronous communication,which could allow learning communities to function independently of time and space, and in ways that had never previously been possible. Examples of this at Royal Holloway include, but are not restricted to:
- The use of online discussion fora to extend and/or replace traditional classroom-based seminars
- The recording and instant access via Moodle of lectures to provide opportunities to review topics, reinforce learning, and create re-usable lecture content
- The use of interactive Moodle tools (Fora and Wikis) to support, guide, and moderate independent study groups
- Peer-reviewed formative assessment activities in discussion fora
- Working with external partners to support CPD
- The live use of mind-mapping tools in seminars - which are later made available in Moodle
- The use of anonymous polling/testing with 'Clickers' and Smartphones
Resources - human, capital and digital - can be better deployed with the use of technology
The Internet has revolutionised almost all aspects of daily life in the 21st century, including; commerce, industry, banking, government, communications, entertainment and travel. Higher Education has, although arguably to a lesser extent, also changed as a result of developments in online technology.
Core processes such as administration, teaching, learning and assessment can each be streamlined and extended to make the most of existing resources. This is particularly true in the case of assessment at Royal Holloway.
Online submission and marking of assignments
- Paperless submission - this removes the need for students to visit Campus; reduces queueing and congestion within departmental buildings; and quickens the turnaround of marks and feedback
- Additional benefits of paperless submission include cost savings in travel, printing and electricity
- 'Mark anywhere' - staff can mark assignments from wherever they may be in the world, again quickening the turnaround of marks and feedback
- Online marking facilitates the sharing of marking resources such as libraries of comments and feedback resources; and the transparency of marking practices
- Plagiarism detection and deterrent systems accelerate the identification and sources of suspicious content, and can quickly alert staff to struggling students and academic integrity issues
- External examiners can access marked essays without visiting the Campus
- Automated marking of MCQ quizzes - producing and managing Multiple Choice Questions takes time and effort, but this is rewarded with the time saved by automatic marking and feedback upon submission of tests
- Collections of MCQ questions can be re-used several times, again providing a return on the original investment
- Students can benefit from opportunities to repeatedly self-test and reflect without adding to the marking and feedback workloads of staff
- External examiners can access marked tests without visiting the Campus
- Online tests - and re-sits - can be scheduled without the need to book rooms, arrange invigilators or print papers
- Differentiated access - extended times for SEN students is discretely supported