Jisc case studies wiki Case studies / Digital Literacies at Worcester College of Technology
  • Earn a $50 Amazon gift card for testing a new product from the makers of PBworks. Click here to apply.

  • If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

View
 

Digital Literacies at Worcester College of Technology

Project: Worcester College of Technology Digital Literacy (WORDLE)

Institution: Worcester College of Technology

Programme: Developing Digital Literacies

 

"The project gave us the opportunity to investigate the digital literacy landscape of the College, to spend time identifying weaknesses and to investigate ways to bridge the gaps."

 

This is an edited version of the project's institutional story (final report). Please refer to the original for details of all references and additional information.

 

See also: Worcester College of Technology Senior Manager Perspective

 



 

Summary

 

The Wordle project had a number of key aims, these were to:

  • Research digital literacy skills of students and teachers in order to plan for improvements.
  • Develop and improve our implementation of blended learning at an organisational level through improving teachers and students digital literacy skills.
  • Develop a qualification framework for teachers and students around digital literacy which is informed by our research and the needs to improve digital literacy skills to help teachers develop blended learning resources and students get the best from them.
  • Develop courses on Moodle through which the qualifications could be delivered.
  • Trial courses with teachers
  • Disseminate to wider community 

 

The baseline research for the project involved two main strands, firstly a questionnaire that looked at confidences across a range of digital literacies and secondly a practical task looking at information seeking. The first strand showed that students were more confident than staff with social tools and multimedia. Staff were more confident than learners at finding information.  Confidence levels were similar on general ICT such as Office applications. The second strand looking at learner’s practical information seeking skills identified that many of them had major weaknesses in this area.

 

Following on from this the project team worked with Open College Network West Midlands Region (OCNWMR) to develop a qualification framework for students and teachers. Both of these qualifications BOLD (Blended online learning development) for teachers and OSL (Online skills for learners) involved 3 Open College Network (OCN) level 2 credits which made up the whole qualification. These credits and qualifications are available on the OCNWMR database and can be used by any FE college or university working in partnership with an FE provider. Once we had developed and had approval of our qualification framework the project team developed a separate Moodle course for each of the six units. These are available for anyone with an .ac.uk, .sch.uk or .gov.uk to view and if they wish download and install on their own Moodles. 

 

The project had a number of significant impacts within the College. The most important of these are:

  • It has helped us understand the skills and other barriers to implementing effective blended learning.
  • We have adapted our original PAL (personally accountable learning) model to a new SOLA (scheduled online learning and assessment) model. 
  • We will be changing our student induction to include modified versions of the OSL content. 
  • We have also changed our delivery of e-learning CPD to a more flexible blended model from an entirely face to face one. 

 

These changes are also starting to occur in other aspects of CPD including Health and Safety.

 

It could be argued that the projects greatest success is the interest and potential impact that it will have beyond the college. There has been a great deal of interest in the project from agencies and learning providers. So far during the course of the project members of the Wordle team have presented at 13 events.

 

There has been massive amount of interest in our Moodle courses. Five working days after they were announced to the community on a number of mailing lists and twitter we had 230 individuals from 190 learning providers create logins on our diglit.moodle.ac.uk site. We are hopeful that many of these who have viewed and downloaded the Moodle courses will go on to use and or adapt for use in their own organisations.

 

Please note: in order to view the citations in this report, users need to create an account on http://diglit.wortech.ac.uk/ -   only users with e-mail accounts ending in: .ac.uk, .sch.uk and .gov.uk. may self-enrol. Anyone else needing to access the site should contact: rgoddard@wortech.ac.uk.

 

 

Headline achievements

 

Project Dissemination Website

The most productive and exciting output from the project is our dissemination site – http://diglit.wortech.ac.uk . As at 12.30pm on 10th July 2013, 312 individuals from approximately 200 institutions had registered on the site to view, in particular, the two major results from the project: Personal Accountable Learning methodologies and six Units accredited by OCNWMR to help improve the digital literacy of both teachers and learners. In addition, at the same date, more than 25 institutions had downloaded copies of the OCNWMR accredited units for potential use or adaptation within their own VLEs. (To view feedback received by e-mail see: Appendix1)

 

OCNWMR (Open College Network West Midlands Region) Curriculum Development

A particular highlight of our project is our series of curriculum development achievements. During the two years of the project we have created two OCNWMR-validated courses, largely or fully delivered online, one for teachers at all post-compulsory levels and one for learners. OCNWMR (http://www.ocnwmr.org.uk ) is part of the Open College Network, and a validating authority recognised by the Quality Assurance Agency. The two courses are Blended Online Learning Delivery for teachers and Online Skills for Learners (OSL) for learners. These new courses were developed with the support of OCNWMR, and we have evidence that the both the units themselves and documented development process, are transferable and valuable to other institutions nationally. (See Appendix1)

 

Personally Accountable Learning (PAL)

A further key achievement is the implementation of a more rigorous and comprehensive approach to support the College’s “Personally Accountable Learning” (PAL) strategy. PAL was introduced fairly recently at Worcester College of Technology and requires most Level 2 and 3 courses across the college (including AS and A2 courses) to include 15% online delivery or greater. The PAL initiative was intended to ensure the financial viability of courses and to set a more structured pattern to online and blended learning within the college.

 

We have now developed a new model for delivery of parts of Level 2 and Level 3 courses - including A-Levels - at Worcester College of Technology. The new system to replace PAL, described later in this report, is called "SOLA" - Scheduled Online Learning and Assessment. 

 

Key drivers

 

One of our project objectives was to “Research progression and measurement of change over time of digital literacy skills (prior to training and then after intervention) from school leavers through to graduates at WCT”. Although we didn’t explicitly measure change over time, our baseline research and subsequent follow up activities enabled us to gain an insight into the digital needs of both learners and teachers at WCT. The project interventions revealed gaps in digital literacy skills that we are now more able to address. The last year of the Digital Literacy project has contributed greatly to the development of Personally Accountable Learning (PAL) into Scheduled Online Learning and Assessment (SOLA). 

 

Baseline Study B  revealed that students perceived that they were “confident users” of new social media tools and multimedia programs/devices. For this study we distributed a paper based questionnaire to a wide range of participants across the college, including 175 students. We asked participants to rate their confidences (highly confident, confident, not that confident, not used or can’t use) in four main areas: information skills, social tools, VLE tools, general tools.  Although students rated themselves “confident” users of social media tools, our deeper investigations discovered that their information seeking behaviour of students was naïve, they often just cut and pasted topics into Google and made no attempt to evaluate the resulting information. As noted earlier, the institutional policy states that taught level 2 and 3 courses must contain at least a 15% online self-study element, we designed our Online Skills for Learners (OSL) course to meet the needs of these learners.

 

A further aim of the project was to “Identify and map digital literacy skills for learners and teachers at various levels of education from school leavers through to graduates and to develop a digital literacy framework”. Our baseline research enabled us to examine the digital competencies of our teachers and learners, and to formulate ideas which could be used as a basis for a future digital literacy policy. This policy will underpin the main objectives of the current ILT strategy and be closely aligned to our PAL (now SOLA) initiative.  An important strategic aim noted in the ILT strategy is: “To develop digital literacy skills and confidence of staff and students”, and a key area for development is “To research and develop the digital literacy skills of teachers and students across the College”. This includes: effective use of Moodle to support teaching and learning, developing a minimum standard for Moodle courses, to provide training and support for teaching staff in the effective use of Moodle and to promote the development of excellent, engaging eLearning content.

 

The PAL (now SOLA) strategy links directly to the mapping we carried out during the baseline investigations. An earlier audit of PAL (carried out before the commencement of the project) revealed weaknesses in the design of many of the PAL courses, and in some instances a lack of student engagement with the learning. Our project allowed us to build frameworks and to formalise the PAL agenda and to develop PAL into SOLA, which is more structured and is more clearly seen by teachers as a useful way to progress students. We were able to directly influence the policy makers, and have created a wealth of supporting resources for teachers.

 

One of our main objectives was to work with OCN to develop a range of short qualifications for both lecturers and students in digital literacy and roll out at WCT and for wider availability. This was one of our key drivers, as we wanted to ensure that the curriculum development aligned directly with any gaps in skills and provision of digital literacy that we identified during the baseline studies. The project approach was to develop OCNWMR units for students that included: Search Engine and Online Information Skills, Using a VLE for Learning and Building a Professional Online Presence, all designed specifically to support an informed approach to the interrogation, utilisation and publication of online information. The ILT Team at Worcester college of Technology, which includes the Digital Literacy Project team, recently carried out some research to investigate if there was a link between a student’s engagement with online course material and academic achievement, and are tentatively able to show that this is, indeed the case. 

 

We identified champions as we progressed, and certain lecturers were already known, at least by reputation, as innovators and early adopters of online technologies. The project approach was to give our pilot lecturers the opportunity to learn from these innovators and to work alongside them. We piloted the OCNWMR “Structuring the VLE” course with a mixture of confident staff alongside others who were less confident. This enabled the two groups to compare ideas and support each other. The output (assignment) of the “Structuring the VLE” unit is a short actual online course. If the lecturer so wished, the OCNWMR assignment could be based on a “real life” course that was actually being taught, and could be used at a later date with students. Staff could enroll on the Moodle courses of other participants as they worked on their own course, and they were often inspired by the ideas of their peers. The new method of grading SOLA courses as “Gold”, “Silver” and “Bronze” recognises outstanding work staff have put into the design of their courses, and gives a measurable standard to work towards. Innovation has not been exclusively linked to Moodle and SOLA. One of our OCNWMR participants is the winner of the 2013 Pearson FE teacher award (West Midlands) and is now a National finalist. 

 

We published the outputs of our project through many dissemination channels and are considering whether we should make these deliverables available via open content. However, some revision of the materials would be necessary to remove UK and OCN specific material. 

 

 

Organisational context

 

Worcester College of Technology is a Further Education (FE) Institution situated in the heart of the City of Worcester. There are approximately 4,000 learners on full-time courses of whom 1,070 learners are on apprenticeship programmes and 760 are on workplace learning provision. Just over 2,000 learners attend part-time courses, of whom approx. 1,470 are adults. (OFSTED 15th June 2012). There are approximately 269 full-time teachers (above 30 hours), 196 part-time (below 30 hours) and 119 hourly paid teaching staff. There are approximately 100 support staff. In recent times there have been redundancies at the college which impacted on our project in a number of ways. (Described later in this report). In addition to FE courses, over 200 Full Time Equivalent Higher Education learners are taught at the college.

 

The college is based in Deansway in the City Centre, but there are four other venues nearby. There are five Study Centres situated at various locations, which support a range of subjects. The Study Centres are staffed by specialists (mostly Librarians) who are skilled in subject specific advice and guidance. The Study Centres assume a “library” role, and are equipped with computers and print resources; they also function as first line support both technically and academically for learners and have a number of other tasks which are core to the college's learning strategies. The students use the Study Centres for independent study as well as group work and taught sessions. Students are encouraged to complete their PAL (now SOLA) activities in the study centre relevant to their subject area, this ensures they have access to relevant help and guidance. A cross-section of Study Centre staff participated in the Wordle project and three of them completed the pilot OCNWMR course “Structuring the VLE”. A member of Study Centre staff helped to organise project-based case study activities with students. 

 

The college has are 11 Subject Specific Areas ranging from vocational based subjects to more academic subjects, such as History, Art and Literature. One of the challenges of the project was to devise digital literacy strategies that would be transferable across a wide range of subjects.

 

The ILT (Information and Learning Technologies) team support teachers and learners using the Moodle VLE platform and other teaching and learning technologies. There is a dedicated ILT e-mail address and phone extension, which is promoted widely and enables ILT experts to respond to quickly to queries. The ILT team are, for the most part, funded by external and internal projects. Only two posts are funded by the College directly: the ILT Director and the Moodle Technical Team Manager. Currently there are ten members of staff on the ILT team. Each member has a slightly different role, although they all support lecturers in some way, especially with Moodle help and support. The ILT team publish a weekly bulletin “Tip of the Week” which is sent by e-mail to all staff, and includes a short “bite sized tip” on a new innovation or helpful feature of Moodle. Response to Tip of the Week is positive and many staff utilise the service and use the tips to support their teaching. Currently there are approximately 1500 active areas on the Moodle VLE. These are largely areas developed by teachers to support their taught courses. The ILT team is responsible for running the programme of ILT CPD. Teachers are required to take 3 hours ILT CPD a year. CPD is usually delivered in either a classroom setting, or face to face, but since the development of the OCNWMR units, some CPD has been delivered online. The ILT team are occasionally requested to run CPD sessions for other institutions, most recently Hereford College of Technology and Kidderminster College.

 

Technical support is delivered by the IT Support Team. This team consist of 4 help desk and 12 IT support staff.  The IT support team is funded directly by the College.

 

Baseline studies

The project gathered a range of baseline information from a range of perspectives and sources that informed our knowledge and understanding of our college community profile and helped identify any emerging key issues that needed to be investigated further.  Details about the different baseline studies is available on the project website with summary details of the research results in the project final report.

 

Key Overall Findings – all baseline studies

  • There was a broad diversity of skills and abilities right across the college community and this followed no specific pattern of context, age or stage of education.
  • Learners used and felt more confident with social media than teachers, but in many cases learners use was not always safe or appropriate. Learners not yet been introduced to the concept of an online environment being used for more formal purposes.
  • Learners' online information literacy and information seeking and evaluation skills were very poor and need addressing. A range of teaching staff also demonstrated less advanced searching skills.
  • Traditional library skills were poor in learners and they acknowledged this as an area they needed support.
  • Student and teacher confidence in main MS Office applications was very similar but using online tools to promote learning and interaction were limited.
  • Many teachers did not feel confident about the use and development of the VLE or multimedia for teaching and learning and felt they needed more support in this area, especially for implementing PAL.
  • Many teachers felt they needed more pedagogical support as well as technical support to implement a blended learning approach.

 

General recommendations for OCN provision

  • Key support in developing online teaching and learning techniques for both students and teachers
  • Pedagogical as well as technical support for teachers for a blended learning approach (PAL)
  • Information literacy targeted at information seeking skills
  • More awareness for learners using the web as a more formal presence as well as social

 

Project approach

 

The project approach was to build on the work already taking place within the Institution, especially with regard to PAL, and the requirement for a substantial proportion of lecturers to deliver 15% or more of their teaching content online. We organised the baseline research around the working practices of students and staff whenever possible. The Study Centres were a place where both students and staff came together to work online, and they were an excellent place in which to collect data and carry out workshop activities. Students were familiar with the Study Centre environment, where they often had classes. The project team felt that there would be positive benefits in using such a familiar place, and the information seeking task (see Deeper Investigation above) took place in a Study Centre.  (See final report  Section 2 p. 12 for further details on the outcomes of this).

 

PAL and SOLA
From the academic year 2013/2014, the funding model and requirements for FE delivery in colleges in England change. Funding will be based on set hours (average 600 per learner per year). The new model requires, inter alia, that learning must be planned, delivered within the institution and, most importantly from our point of view for this project, supervised or monitored. Our PAL model does not meet the full set of criteria, essentially because hours following online parts of courses would not qualify as "guided learning hours". Furthermore, although PAL has been successful in many parts of our college, there have been problems. During the Digital Literacy project monitoring process, we have particularly identified the following as needing to be addressed in some areas:

  • Lack of individual teacher responsibility (or at least acceptance of responsibility)
  • Lack of teacher and learner engagement - seen as optional or additional, not core to learning
  • Lack of monitoring to ensure all parts of online material completed
  • Assessment not necessarily embedded and therefore attainment of learning outcomes not provable
  • Students allowed to work in their own time and outside college leading to a lack of involvement on the part of less self-motivated learners

To address these issues, we have now developed a new model for delivery of parts of Level 2 and Level 3 courses - including A-Levels - at Worcester College of Technology. The new system to replace PAL as described above is called "SOLA" - Scheduled Online Learning and Assessment. See final report Section 2 p.13-16 for more information about how the project developed SOLA.

 

Changing Roles/responsibilities 

There was substantial institutional change during the time-scale of the project – this included large scale redundancies in 2012 which impacted across the college. The Diglit Project Director left the college and was replaced by a new senior manager, who took on the role and has since been engaged with the project. Restructuring also meant that the roles of two of the original project officers changed - one reduced their working hours, and another was moved to a different project. New posts were advertised in August 2012, and two new project officers were recruited on a part-time basis. One of these new job roles involved editing, and in some cases re-writing, all of the OCNWMR courses, developing a wide range of support materials, designing the dissemination site from scratch, and publishing all of the outputs. The other job role involved analysing the results of the baseline data, running the recruitment and support of the first cohort on the “Structuring a VLE” unit, and writing the final report.  The short turn-around in recruitment enabled the project to remain on track with few problems. Probably more significant were the teaching redundancies, some teaching staff who had been actively engaged in the project were not replaced. The redundancies also had a negative impact on some of the remaining staff; they had less time to devote to anything outside of the classroom so it was a challenge to persuade them to take part in project research activities.

 

Curriculum design and development

Information and Learning technology (ILT) is not a teaching department and does not design courses specifically for the taught curriculum. We needed to develop a framework for the OCNWMR course design which adhered to both OCNWMR and Worcester College of Technology quality procedures. Developing this framework was a challenge, as we had to feel our way through a lot of red tape. We have produced two documents to help to map this process: one is the breakdown of the procedure for developing the teaching content of an OCNWMR unit from start to finish, and the other charts the documented procedures required by OCNWMR to bring a course from design to validation, (see: http://diglit.wortech.ac.uk/mod/resource/view.php?id=98)  We feel these documents may be of benefit to other institutions considering the OCN route.

 

External, contacts, partnerships, dissemination

Throughout the timescale of the project, the project team made many friends and contacts. We attended the program group meetings, and cluster group meetings organised by Jisc, we presented at ALT-C, and have presented at or attended a number of online webinars. We shared our project findings via a link from the Jisc Design Studio to our project wiki. We developed a project Moodle (diglit.wortech.ac.uk) which we promoted at the webinars and through the standard JISC lists and RSC contacts. This has proved to be our most successful dissemination methods, encouraging over 300 participants to register and view the project outputs, particularly the PAL/SOLA advice and examples and the OCNWMR accredited units.  We intend to maintain contact with these registered users beyond the timescale of the project, especially as they are interested in sharing our outputs. See final report section 2 p.16-18 for further details on project dissemination. 

 

Outputs

 

Project wiki http://tinyurl.com/wordleproject1.

 

Baseline resources and case studies:  http://tinyurl.com/wordleproject1

 

The Worcester College of Technology Diglit Moodle area http://diglit.wortech.ac.uk/ hosts course materials and documentation relating to the OCNWMR Accredited Course within their Moodle site.  NB.  You need to request a log in to view these resources. Please note: in order to view the citations in this report, users need to create an account on http://diglit.wortech.ac.uk/ -   only users with e-mail accounts ending in: .ac.uk, .sch.uk and .gov.uk. may self-enrol. Anyone else needing to access the site should contact: rgoddard@wortech.ac.uk.

 

PAL and SOLA - Our outputs include extensive advice, guidance and documentation of the PAL and SOLA process. All of these can be accessed and shared via our Diglit Moodle area http://diglit.wortech.ac.uk/ and include:

  • About Online Personally Accountable Learning
  • Self-Study PAL Pack example - based on Extended Diploma Music Technology Unit 2
  • Self-Study PAL Pack template
  • Scheme of work template and scheme of work example
  • Revision and Reinforcement PAL Pack example - Based on A2 Law - Unit 3 (Offences Against the Person)
  • Revision and Reinforcement PAL Pack template – essentially the course without the content.

 

Benefits and beneficiaries

 

Improved curriculum design

We have seen measurable improvements in the quality of the Moodle courses designed by members of staff who participated in the pilot of the OCNWMR unit “Structuring the VLE”. The flexibility of the delivery of the unit enabled staff to manage their learning alongside other commitments, and we feel that this is a factor in the high completion rate. One of our participants has been named as the winner of the 2013 Pearson FE teacher award (West Midlands) and is now a National finalist. Staff also reacted positively to the practical nature of the assessment for this unit, they were asked to design a course for their own subject area, and incorporate a range of active learning activities to test the learning outcomes. We were unable to carry out a full review of user perceptions of the unit within the project timescale, but we did observe that the confidences of staff improved considerably between starting and finishing the Unit. Changes in policy away from very dependent on support from ILT staff towards self-sufficiency have encouraged us to consider ways to adopt a greater proportion of  self-directed learning into our ILT CPD offer, and the OCNWMR courses are a good example of this policy in practice.

 

Impact of SOLA strategy

A full morning of SOLA advice and guidance CPD for staff took place on 24th June 2013. This was an opportunity for the project team to unveil our new SOLA strategy and resources, and SOLA training will be firmly on the agenda at all future staff CPD sessions. It is beyond the scope of this project to measure the impact of SOLA, but it is part of a long term institutional initiative to move towards more self-directed learning, which equips our students with skills needed for the future. We have seen a noticeable improvement in the design and content of some Moodle areas since the start of the project, but we expect most improvement to be noticeable in the creation and design of SOLA modules in the coming academic year.

 

The SOLA strategy has positive benefits for students, encouraging them to become independent learners, and to be self-motivated. Students can now choose to work more flexibly and to some extent at their own pace, while still being required by the timetabled nature of SOLA online delivery to be present and active online at the designated times. It is likely that this will have an impact in retention in the long term, especially as learners become more confident digital learners following implementation of the OSL units as part of their induction into college life. If solutions can be found to the problems raised by the new funding model, we are confident that by gaining OCNWMR certificates, students would be rewarded even further with tangible benefits that would bring enhanced opportunities to their professional lives. We have seen a change towards more online learning, mobile learning and using devices, and the SOLA method of working fits with this new approach.  College success rates have improved over the last two years, we have gone up in the rankings a further two points, and although we can’t claim that the project had a direct impact on this improvement, we do feel that indirectly, the confidence of staff and students in terms of technology usage has increased, and that this may be a factor. 

 

A recent evaluation of VLE usage was carried out by members of the ILT team, and this research revealed a correlation between the completion of the student PAL (SOLA) packs and academic success (described earlier in this report). We are anxious that learners are given as much support as possible to enable them to get the most out of self-directed learning. We have developed a new “Online Support” function which we have added to all our OCNWMR units, which (during the lifetime of this project only) may be tested at http://diglit.wortech.ac.uk.  The Online Support is a “real” person, who is online during working hours. We are keen to continue to support this facility, but are unsure how this would work in practice, as most of the project team will no longer be employed after the end of the project. It would be interesting to see if the support function improves course completion rates, and if so, to add it to all our SOLA courses.

 

Relationship with Open College Network West Midlands Region

 Our links with OCNWMR are now more strongly forged, and we are confident that these will be sustained beyond the end of the project. We have mapped the procedures for compliance with OCNWMR and made these available outside of the institution so that others can learn from our journey.

 

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

The Institution policy requires staff to undertake a minimum of 3 hours ILT CPD per annum. Prior to the WORDLE project, staff CPD sessions were delivered as group sessions in a classroom setting, or occasionally on a one-to-one basis. A minor redesign of the CPD portal was necessary to enable the system to handle the registration of staff onto our online OCNWMR. Staff have reacted very positively to the flexibility offered by online CPD. We predict that in the future as digital literacy is embedded more widely, a greater proportion of CPD will be delivered this way, as it fits around staff timetables and is more flexible. Our project identified this as a possible improvement to the current CPD system, although CPD delivered in this format is time-consuming to administer, as it requires ILT staff to closely monitor the progress of the course participants and be available to help on a regular basis.

 

 

Other impacts

 

The project gave us the opportunity to investigate the digital literacy landscape of the College, to spend time identifying weaknesses and to investigate ways to bridge the gaps. The challenge for the College is to recognise the work done by the project team, and to implement changes based on our findings and recommendations. Our work with staff participants on the OCNWMR courses has revealed a real benefit for both the participants and the organisation as a whole. We intend to sustain this course beyond the end of the project, depending on how severely the new funding regime impacts on the availability of ILT staff. However, all the OCNWMR accredited units (with the exception of "Structuring a VLE", which does require support) can be adapted to run without tutor support, as fully self-study, self-assessed units, although clearly this would not meet the criteria set by OCNWMR for assessment of learning. Some institutions looking to adapt these units for use by their staff and students have indicated that this is the route they may take.

 

Our work done with SOLA has been recognised, and we are confident that it will be in the interest of the institution to continue to promote our work in this area. Although SOLA is essentially about changing and improving online support for learning, the initiative is also about minimising resources (less time in class, more time online) and we are concerned that support for this new approach to learning and teaching gets overlooked. Our research identified a lack of digital literacy skills in some areas for both staff and students which may have a direct impact on how staff design their courses, and how students engage with them. We have produced comprehensive SOLA advice and guidance, and made this available to staff, but we feel that there needs to be more support for students to enable them to get the most out of these online courses.

 

Engaging in this project has resulted in a number of unintended digital literacy gains for our Institution:

  • The concept of “click here if you have finished section” tool added as part of the SOLA initiative. This simple but effective change to the SOLA packs has potential to be rolled out to all Moodle courses.
  • The opportunity to think about teaching and learning online whilst developing our own units. Especially the development of plans to introduce “flipped” approaches to theoretical and active learning in the future.
  • Better understanding of timetabling and curriculum in the classroom, which has enabled us to develop effective online learning strategies for the future.
  • Adaption of our student OSL course for induction.  The academic year 2013/14 will start with three one hour sessions for most learners based on all three of the course units.

 

For further discussion around evaluation and findings, see final report section 5.

 

Sustaining and embedding

 

As a direct result of the findings of our project, WCT will implement measures to ensure digital literacy skills are embedded into induction from 2013/13 for the majority of students. The way in which these skills will be taught is partially based on all three of the OSL units. The digital literacy team and the personal tutor team who run the induction programme, have devised workshops on digital literacy skills which will be incorporated into the scheduled activities for induction week. This will be on-going and sustained into the future. This is a direct result of the collaboration of the project team and the personal tutor team, and based on the project investigations.

 

There are tentative plans to  extend the staff CPD offer to include the OCNWMR BOLD course for staff, but this is dependent on resources to some extent, as there uncertainties at present about staffing numbers on the ILT team. We are cautious about promising staff the opportunity to gain the certificate at the present time until we have definitive news about funding. This is a shame because we feel that the staff who took the pilot unit would be keen to go on and gain a further qualification, and that other staff would be interested in signing up. We are considering a re-write of the BOLD and OSN course units to be fully dependent on self-study for motivated users if this proves necessary for lack of supervising staff due to lack of resources.

 

A digital literacy strategy for the college will be proposed in the next academic year, to incorporate many of the measures seen as necessary as a result of this project.

Strengthened links with OCNWMR to enable us to look to future provision of wider e-learning support and training including concepts arising during the project such as SOLA and flipped classroom.

 

Practices put in place to support PAL will continue and be enhanced as SOLA develops.

 

Teachers are already (June 2013) showing much more interest in SOLA as a basis for structuring online learning, and extensions to SOLA may be implemented. This will be encouraged and supported by the ILT Team.

 

We have been encouraged by the positive feedback received from other institutions with regard to our diglit resource website. (See Appendix 1 of final report). We intend to keep this site online for the foreseeable future, and to respond to any enquiries about the content. This does depend on the funding of staff ILT posts in the future.

 

 

Lessons learned and reflection

 

Knowledge gained from the pilot of one of the student units “Developing an Online Presence”, and the staff unit “Structuring a VLE” has enabled us to review the long term future of these courses, and to consider how best to sustain the delivery of all of the units beyond the end of the project. Our Diglit Moodle resource area http://diglit.wortech.ac.uk/ will in due course be used as a repository for the extensive collection of OCNWMR documents, including procedural, base and assessment documentation. After piloting the “Structuring” unit with 22 staff at Worcester College of Technology we have anecdotal evidence that the unit was beneficial to teachers. Further surveys of present and future participants in all the OCNWMR units will be carried out beyond the end of the project. Feedback so far indicates that many staff would value the opportunity to complete the entire course (subject to time constraints).

 

We have introduced a new way to give students a voice in their PAL learning with the addition of “section completed” and “course completed” options. There is also a new facility which gives students the option to download an online certificate on completion. This enables students to record their progress throughout the course, for lecturers to review that progress, and rewards students for completing. We have also more definitively aligned the college scheme of work, which lecturers are required to complete during the planning process for all college courses, with the PAL agenda.

 

The Diglit project gave us the opportunity to devote more time than would otherwise have been available to a review the PAL model and to evaluate how well it was meeting the original objectives. Participation in the project gave us time to reflect upon some of the strengths and weaknesses of PAL, to measure the impact, and to devise a strategy for the future. External and institutional factors can change over the timescale of a project in ways that cannot necessarily be foreseen despite careful risk analysis. An example of this is unexpected major change to the funding model of Further Education in England. We would recommend that institutions engaging in similar projects to ours, be prepared to make changes to staffing and approaches as the project proceeds and lessons are learnt.

 

In spite of good intentions changes at management level made it difficult to pilot all of the student units in the OSL course.

 

The wide impact of the project dissemination site, (http://diglit.wortech.ac.uk/ ) was unexpected and appears to be partially due to institutions seeking new ways of moving forward to blending learning and tackling changes in funding.  The site appears to help provide at least food for thought and in some cases future strategies for dealing with a number of issues arising from funding changes and towards using shared resources rather than having to create them themselves.

 

Our project would have benefited from more active input at all levels, especially at College management level.

 

If had the opportunity to repeat the project, we would recommend more rigorous statistical analysis from wider research and more regular monitoring of outcomes where possible. However it is clear from earlier in this report that many outcomes will not be measurable for many months or even a year after the end of the project.  Similar projects in the future may need to take into account the desirability of delaying reporting on outcomes until such analysis can be performed. This would appear to be true not only of our project but of other projects within the cluster group. Within WCT we plan to monitor changes over the next year with regard to our main outputs, SOLA, BOLD and OSL.

 

On reflection we feel that the content of our OCN courses should be revised. We intend re-writing much of this content as soon as possible, starting with the BOLD staff qualification. After running the first unit, we discovered that some of the content is too extensive and it is difficult for staff to complete within the 8 hours allocated. We would like to make the units easier to deliver online, and therefore require less contact time. We would also recommend that the courses are more explicitly linked to the staff CPD programme.

 

Our message for other institutions considering the SOLA route is to remove the GOLD SILVER and BRONZE award status and replace this with a set of guidelines.

The project was a major success in giving us time and staff to think about digital literacy and how it affects staff and learners and to put methods in place (the courses and the SOLA initiative) to help improve things.

 

 

Glossary

 

BOLD Blended Online Learning Delivery
CPD Continuing Professional Development
FE Further Education
OCN Open College Network
OCNWMR Open College Network West Midlands Region
OSL Online Skills for Learners
PAL Personally Accountable Learning
SOLA Scheduled Online Learning and Assessment
VLE Virtual Learning Environment
WCT Worcester College of Technology