The LearnHigher Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) is a partnership of 16 UK Universities committed to improving student learning through research and resource development. Focussing on 20 areas of academic skills development, from academic writing to visual practices, the project outcomes include research papers, conference workshops and a coherent open access website showcasing a range of online resources for both students and staff. Entering the final year of the 5-year project, the dilemma was how to capture the expertise of the LearnHigher partners and their colleagues. The aim was to find a way to share experience, making clear connections between resources and guidance, whilst harnessing the personal communication style and expertise of the partners. This resulted in a collaborative project to develop a suite of 20 video resources designed to enable an educator, regardless of location, to deliver a student workshop covering a specific area of skills development. Video plays a central role in communication, with each slide within the resource structured around a video clip; by capturing speech and expression the clips are personal, echoing the way in which academics share teaching expertise and knowledge with colleagues. The resulting resources are open access and available via the internet (www.learnhigher.ac.uk/videoresources).
The resources are designed to cater for a range of teaching styles and requirements, from full workshops to individual activities. Each resource includes a range of video clips describing workshop format, ice-breakers, activities, frequently ask questions and tips; the aim is to inform, encourage and inspire. The videos vary from talking head style clips, snap shots of workshops, student activity sessions and interviews. This format enables tutors to view the staging of workshops, visually stimulating ideas and providing tips and techniques on delivery. By capturing speech and expression the clips are personal, echoing the way in which academics share teaching expertise and knowledge with colleagues when in a face to face situation. Probably the most important element of each resource is the range of downloadable presentations, handouts and lesson plans. Those using the resources are encouraged to take as much or as little as they require and to change and adapt the content to meet the needs of their students.
The project was launched in March 2009 with a remit to develop 20 resources by July 2010. At the time of writing (June 2010), 18 resources have been completed 10 of which have been uploaded to the website. The LearnHigher website is currently being redeveloped and will be re-launched at the end of July 2010 with all 20 resources in situ. The learning development community within the UK has had access to each resource as it has been uploaded and feedback has been positive. Website statistics show extensive access and evaluation comments show that the resources meet the needs of educators. The resources are also available through the UK OER repository Jorum Open and received 3rd place in the Jorum competition for educational resources 2009. As the project nears completion we are keen to share the content as well as receive feedback. As well as requesting comments from users we will also be carrying out a full evaluation programme during the 2010/11 academic year.
This initiative supports effective practice as defined by the five pillars; in particular the support of ease of access. It achieves this by supplying a ‘one stop shop’ for educators who want to include skills development within their teaching. The resource has been designed so that a tutor can dip in and out of the slides opting to watch relevant video clips, developing their ideas and integrating them into their teaching. The resource is available to all, any time, any place and at no charge. The supporting materials can be downloaded and adapted saving both time and money. This resource may not provide all the answers but it is an excellent starting point – the next best thing to spending twenty minutes with someone who has done it before and is willing to share their expertise and their practical activities with you.
To utilise these resources the only requirement is a computer with internet access and sound. The user also needs to be aware of the url which is www.learnhigher.ac.uk/videoresources.
There is no financial cost associated with the use of the resources. The investment in time has been kept to the minimum by designing the resources to a template design; each resource has a similar look and feel with standard navigation.
It is important to note that the team creating the resources are learning developers rather than media experts and as such the video clips should be viewed as a tool to share experience in an interesting and visual way rather than necessarily being judged on technical merit.