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Learning environment problem solving: Confronting reality: how we turned our VLE use around -- 174 -- Short (oral) Paper

11:30 - 12:30 on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 in 4.205

Our institutional problem was one of quality and quantity in online teaching and learning in higher education programs. Ad hoc use of our VLE resulted in its sparse uptake, and only for transmission of content and news. Tools of the VLE were often inappropriately used and quality of use widely varied. The problem was exacerbated by diverse populations of teachers and students in need of flexibility. We have used a systematic approach to VLE use, managed at an institutional level, to mandate use and improve quality at multiple levels. We aimed to: leverage administrative benefits (managing enrolments and assessments, notification), extend logistic benefits (via databases), and facilitate learning through collaborative functionality (communication, file sharing) of the VLE, without constraining innovative beyond. We framed the approach on the strategic directives for planning of White and Larusson (2010).

We used a model of prototyping and piloting (phase 1), template development (phase 2), and implementation (phase 3). Phase 1 allowed identification of characteristics of key stakeholders (students, teachers and the institution), ensuring that prototypes responded to the needs of each. In collaboration with teachers we developed prototype sites at three defined levels: basic (transmission); intermediate (transmission, self-directed learning); and advanced (transmission, collaboration replacing face-to-face learning), incorporating administrative and logistic benefits of the VLE for assessment. We evaluated sites for teacher and student use and satisfaction. We used prototype sites as a basis for development of program level VLE templates. Using these templates we created sites for all subjects in semester 1, 2012. Implementation in 2012 required a five-fold scaling up of the pilot.

A vital aspect of the approach was the professional development for staff (teachers, administrators) at multiple levels and support for students. This included strategically timed structured (e.g. workshops) and unstructured (e.g. one-to-one on demand) support.

We will describe aspects of the project and discuss their importance in terms of engagement with technology and satisfaction of stakeholders.

The prototype-pilot-template-implement model provides support and security for stakeholders and facilitated the systematic online registration of students, scheduling of learning events, notification of participants, monitoring and evaluation of student engagement, integration of self directed and collaborative learning activities and assessment. We are currently in the implementation phase in this ongoing project.

The session will specifically explore the ways in which prototyping was used to identify different stakeholders’ needs and design responsive VLE uses. It will further explore factors of design which increased the quality and quantity of teacher and student engagement in online teaching and learning.