09 July, 2008

Towards a Scalable and Sustainable Model for e-Learning Development

I can see two ‘models’ that are used when approaching the development of e-learning courses and resources at Edge Hill.

On one case we’ve got the courses that are simple to put together, perhaps containing a few documents, web links and VLE tools like Discussion. The time taken in running these courses falls almost totally on the teacher/facilitator. They spend time communicating with the students, perhaps being involved in online discussions and debates. I’d say that, providing it is acknowledged that staff require time to teach this way, this is a sustainable model.

On the other hand you’ve got the courses that contain lots of HTML based materials, video, animation and other learning objects that take a lot of work to produce/maintain – even to produce at a pretty low quality. The added work here usually falls on support staff, and I see in Learning Technology Development that we can spend a lot of time creating and maintaining resources for a small selection of courses. This can mean that we have no time to spend with other staff who are starting to use technology in teaching and learning.

In the early days of Learning Technology at Edge Hill, the idea of designing ‘prize’ courses which take a lot of work to create and maintain was seen as good because it would show people what was possible. However this way of working has never been replaced by something more scalable and sustainable. So what models are out there that work, and how could they fit in with Edge Hill?

The most useful article I’ve seen on the subject is ‘Building a Sustainable E-Learning Development Culture’ by Tracey Leacock, 2005.

The model covered in this article involves developing resources using flexible teams of developers, instructional designers and project managers. Other specialists can come and go from the team as required. The development works as a project, with time scales and most people working on the project as a full time focus.

Developers would have the technical skills, instructional designers and assessment experts would provide “leadership and guidance in innovations in e-learning pedagogy, e-learning tools, and related support services” and would also try and find resources that had already been produced elsewhere to cut down on development.

This set up is very different to Edge Hill, where development work has been done in Learning Services, or sometimes by IT Services or outsourced to external companies. I definitely like the idea of the split between development teams and e-learning guidance, as we’ve seen in our department that it’s tough to do both as well as we’d like.

So this article brings up lots of ideas that could be involved in sustainable e-learning development such as re-use of learning objects and ideas around what a development team/new academic team might look like.

Does anyone have any other thoughts around how we could get to a place where developments are scalable and sustainable?

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