The Role of VLEs in the Online Delivery of Staff Development

The TALiSMAN project (Teaching and Learning in Scottish Metropolitan Area Networks: began in August 1996 under the staff development strand of the SHEFC funded Use of MANs Initiative ((UMI). SHEFC is the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, MANs are Metropolitan Area Networks, high quality computer networks which connect the individual institutions, supporting video conferencing adn high bandwidth Internet connectivity.). The principal aim of the TALiSMAN project was to encourage the use of networks by staff at the 21 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) connected to the Scottish MANs. A programme of events providing a combination of training and awareness was developed and delivered to the 21 institutions throughout Scotland.

Whilst most of the training was to be delivered face to face it was anticipated that some of this training would be delivered online to:
  • serve as an exemplar of the opportunities of using networks for teaching and training,
  • make use of an appropriate tool given the subject,
  • provide experience of electronic learning to staff,
  • reach a wider audience.

As part of its' first year activities, TALiSMAN carried out a Training Needs Analysis (TNA) surveying the training requirements of academic and research staff at all 21 HE Institutions in Scotland. The TNA confirmed a willingness to accept this type of training: "Although staff expressed a strong preference for traditional methods of training and support, most were willing to receive training by a variety of non-traditional methods including network-supported open and flexible learning... ...TALiSMAN should offer a mix of traditional courses and training via on-demand distant methods such as network-delivered open and flexible learning..."

Initially, a simple online course was developed. A series of six web-based 'lessons' were created and delivered, supported by simple web-based conferencing software. The course was cohort-based, rather than being truly open learning.

Over the next year, the course was revised and refined. Different delivery strategies were explored, as well as tailoring of subject matter and use of different tutors. In total, this course was delivered to almost 300 staff at Scottish Higher Education Institutions. The course materials can be access using the links below.

The appearance of Virtual Learning Environments (such as WebCT) and the separate accumulation of training materials which were no longer being delivered face-to-face gave the project the opportunity to deliver learning in a more open context. the Online Study Centre was created as a repository of 'retired' courseware, minimally tailored for online delivery. Over time, new, custom-made courses were added to the centre. For the Online Study Centre, the learning was truly open, with no cohort-based activities. [We were able to do this because the course was not accredited.] Limited access to the course materials is available below.

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Last updated by Colin Milligan, 22nd November 1999
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