Research in Learning Technology

  • ‘I can use things, but I can’t make anything’: a qualitative exploration of team networks in the development and implementation of a new undergraduate e-compendium

    In higher education, undergraduate teaching materials are increasingly becoming available online. There is a need to understand the complex processes that happen during their production and how social networks between different groups impact on their development. This paper draws on qualitative interviews and participant drawings of their social networks to understand the dynamics of creating a new e-compendium for a four-year online undergraduate nursing programme in Norway.

    Twenty staff interviews were undertaken to explore views of the e-compendium, the development process and the perceived networks that were formed during this course. Interview data were thematically analysed along with networks drawings.

    The findings showed three main institutional stakeholder groups emerging: the ‘management team’, ‘design team’ and ‘lecturers’. Analysis of social networks revealed variability of relations both within and between groups.

    The pedagogical designer, who was part of the design team, was central to communicating with and co-ordinating staff at all levels.

    The least well connected were the lecturers. To them, the e-compendium challenged and even threatened previously well-established notions of pedagogy.

    Future development of e-compendiums should account for the perceived lack of time and existing workload of lecturers so they may be involved with the development process.

    The full paper is available from Research in Learning Technology.

  • Case Study: Best-practice model for technology enhanced learning in the creative arts

    This paper presents a best-practice model for the redesign of virtual learning environments (VLEs) within creative arts to augment blended learning.

    In considering a blended learning best-practice model, three factors should be considered:

    • the conscious and active human intervention,
    • good learning design and pedagogical input, and
    • the sensitive handling of the process by trained professionals.

    This study is based on a comprehensive VLE content analysis conducted across two academic schools within the creative arts at one Post-92 higher education (HE) institution.

    It was found that four main barriers affect the use of the VLE within creative arts:

    • lack of flexibility in relation to navigation and interface,
    • time in developing resources,
    • competency level of tutors (confidence in developing online resources balanced against other flexible open resources) and
    • factors affecting the engagement of ‘digital residents’.

    The experimental approach adopted in this study involved a partnership between the learning technology advisor and academic staff, which resulted in a VLE best-practice model that focused directly on improving aesthetics and navigation. The approach adopted in this study allowed a purposive sample of academic staff to engage as participants, stepping back cognitively from their routine practices in relation to their use of the VLE and questioning approaches to how they embed the VLE to support teaching and learning.

    The model presented in this paper identified a potential solution to overcome the challenges of integrating the VLE within creative arts.

    The findings of this study demonstrate positive impact on staff and student experience and provide a sustainable model of good practice for the redesign of the VLE within creative disciplines.

    You can read the full report from

  • Case Study: The Role of a Technology-enhanced Learning Implementation Group in Mediating an Institutional VLE Minimum Standards Policy

    Recent years have seen a focus on responding to student expectations in higher education. As a result, a number of technology-enhanced learning (TEL) policies have stipulated a requirement for a minimum virtual learning environment (VLE) standard to provide a consistent student experience.

    This paper offers insight into an under-researched area of such a VLE standard policy development using a case study of one university.

    With reference to the implementation staircase model, this study takes cue from the view that an institutional VLE template can affect lower levels directly, sidestepping the chain in the implementation staircase.

    The Group’s activity whose remit is to design and develop a VLE template, therefore, becomes significant.

    The study, drawing on activity theory, explores the mediating role of such a Group. Factors of success and sources of tension are analysed to understand the interaction between the individuals and the collective agency of Group members.

    The paper identifies implications to practice for similar TEL development projects. Success factors identified demonstrated the importance of good project management principles, establishing clear rules and division of labour for TEL development groups.

    One key finding is that Group members are needed to draw on both different and shared mediating artefacts, supporting the conclusion that the nature of the group’s composition and the situated expertise of its members are crucial for project success. The paper’s theoretical contribution is an enhanced representation of a TEL policy implementation staircase.

    The study is available to download from Research in Learning Technology.