Association for Learning Technology Online Newsletter
Issue 5, July 2006   Tuesday, July 11, 2006

ISSN 1748-3603

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Finding common ground
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CAMEL train heads for oasis
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Issue 4 April 2006
April 27, 2006
Issue 3, January 2006
January 30, 2006
Issue 2
October 24, 2005
Issue 1
August 5, 2005
Lively group discussions at the Greenwich CAMEL exchange meeting
Lively group discussions at the Greenwich CAMEL exchange meeting
CAMEL train heads for oasis
by Jacquie Kelly and Rhonda Riachi

Greenwich University hosted the final exchange meeting of the CAMEL partners in June. In the course of just 12 months this HEFCE-funded project has examined a range of learning technology approaches for institutional change, forged new friendships across the HE/FE divide, and led to a successful bid for a new project now being run by one of the partners. The project evaluation is being conducted by Inspire Research Ltd, who have collated the quotations used here, and will be completed in the autumn.

The CAMEL exchange model was derived from the regular meetings held between Uruguayan farmers to share their experiences and skills, as described to us by Seb Schmoller. The farmers visit each farm in turn and spend a day looking at what the host is doing with the land and offering advice on new techniques, etc. We believed this model could be translated to education and help to foster a community of practice.

The CAMEL group visited each of the four institutions and were treated to a range of experiences. A variety of e-learning tools (for example LAMS, HorizonWimba and a Personal Response System) were demonstrated together with some hands-on sessions. The presentations ranged from the use of technology to support distance learners on a course that was developed collaboratively with local industry, to the use of e-portfolios to support lifelong learning. These visits were not just about show-casing but sharing experiences, and as one participant said ‘it’s not just about good practice, it’s about practice, warts and all – and the warts are more interesting than the practice sometimes’. It was also valuable talking to practitioners about the technology and the way that they use the technology: ‘interesting to meet … more general practitioners, to talk to and ask questions of their view of e-learning strategies … get a more honest assessment of how effective those teaching practices are’.

Learning and teaching strategies and policies were shared and, working in groups, participants undertook a SWOT analysis and acted as critical friends to each other. Sometimes people external to our organisations see things that we do not because we are too close and so it is hoped that this activity will assist in the further development of these strategies and policies. To quote from one participant: ‘CAMEL has been great. Certainly for my own understanding of my situation and institution – it’s been very interesting to hold my institution up as a mirror against other institutions’

Central to the CAMEL model, and indeed to the Uruguayan farmers, is the social aspect of collaboration – spending time together, eating and drinking and getting to know one another. This happened at each of the study visits and with a final fling (a barbeque with musical entertainment) at Greenwich.

Formative evaluation, conducted by Inspire Research Ltd., was important to the project in two ways: to ensure that future study visits met the expectations of participants and to allow a time for reflection on the day and consideration of what could be taken back to our institutions and organisations. CAMEL benefited by having a mix of FE and HE institutions: to quote from the evaluation, one participant had ‘seen great benefits in terms of FE/HE developing a greater understanding of one another’.

The CAMEL model has now been taken up by Greenwich University who are leading a JISC-funded project under the Design for Learning programme. Entitled eLIDA CAMEL (e-Learning Independent Design Activities for Collaborative Approaches to the Management of e-Learning) the new project includes partners from the first CAMEL project in a wider group with partners from the JISC eLISA DeL lifelong learning project.

So was the CAMEL project success just another mirage or an oasis in the desert? To find out, come to our symposium (ID 750) on Wednesday 6 September at ALT-C 2006.

Jacquie Kelly, JISCinfonet

Rhonda Riachi, ALT

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