Notes from Centre for eLearning (C4eL) Meeting of 30 November 2006

These notes go some way towards an interim report for Thursday 7 December.

present: Stuart Brown, Jan Haines, Richard Francis, Greg Benfield, George Roberts
apols: Rhona Sharpe, John Lidgey


1 Pathfinder Progress
2 Planning Meetings of 7 December
3 Other discussion

1.0 Pathfinder progress

Discussion focussed on the Plan, submitted on 27 October
paper is here:

We agreed the basic structure of Pathfinder reporting. Paper tabled here:

I asked for a brief summary update (c. 300 words each) to the plan according to the work packages:
1) Infrastructures (Stuart, Richard, Jan)
2) Learning Technology Practice (Richard, Greg)
3) Educational Development (Greg, Rhona)
4) Evaluation (Rhona, George)

1.1 Infrastructure (RAF, SB, JH to elaborate)

Infrastructures outputs include models, workflows and procedures. Several models were identified that emerged in the bids for Circle and Emerge projects. These will be incorporated into our report

The main impediment to the progress of the infrastructure is felt to be the delay in recruiting staff. Richard undertook to speak with Ben Cooper to get the post HERAed. There is an immediate and urgent need to “bring the wiki in from the cold”. Stuart undertook to facilitate the relationship between Ops/SysAdmin and MW. A positive and co-operative approach is needed. There is a recognised need to avoid weak links in any system. Other means of making progress were explored. Of particular note is the possibility to second George Davson into the project for a limited period to time to work with Operations to get the Wiki into the University’s main infrastructure with a reliable heavy-duty back up regime and user management linked to LDAP.

1.2 Learning Technology Practice (RAF, GB to elaborate)

We want to make the wiki part of the stable framework.
It is becoming apparent that the project to migrate the VLE to WebCT CE6 was under represented in the Pathfinder Plan. At present roles and permissions on the new system still need to be assigned.

1.3 Educational Developments (GB, RS to elaborate)

The formation of the eL Co-ordinators’ network/group/forum is a critical output for Pathfinder.

1.4 Evaluation (RS, GR to elaborate)

We need to develop an evaluation framework with the assistance of the eL Co-ordinators. We hope to “anchor the prcess” of evaluation in the eLCs. The evaluation design needs to allow for emergent properties as well as a priori categories.

Brief framework paper tabled for discussion: towards an evaluation framework

In this paper 3 frameworks were set out:
– OBHE Benchmarking
– Pathfinder structure

3 other frameworks need to be woven in:
– New Academic offering (see below)
– Space to think
– WP and communities

It is suggested that the BSLES framework might be most useful for Brookes to adopt as the headings for an evaluation of the Student Experience of e-Learning.

We propose a very Learner-Experience focused evaluation. BSLES provides the linkage between C4eL and the eLCs. We intend to put the evaluation framework to the eLCs as a question, proposing that there be a series of evaluative activities. We have a highly strategised model of e-learning development but the articulation with the learner has not been made as explicit as it needs to be. We may be too distant from the experience “on the ground”. It is hoped that the eLCs can be a “reality check” and that through them we can leverage communities and groups.

We propose to support this with real resource drawn from the Pathfinding Budget and to make an application to BSLES strategy money. Let the eLCs define the terms and the linkages betwen evaluation and school strategy.

I undertook to review the budget to create this fund and to apply to Clive for matching funding.

2.0 Meetings planning

Thursday 7 December agendas agreed

1030 – 1230 e-Learning Pathfinder team review with Terry Mayes
– Infrastructure
– Learning Technology Applications
– Educational development
– Evaluation
– Project management and reporting

1230 – 1300 Buffet Lunch

1300 – 1530 e-Learning Co-ordinators’ Forum
– School presentations of key e-Learning developments in Schools
– C4eL feedback to Schools on visits
– National Pathfinder context (Terry Mayes)
– Brookes Pathfinder (RAF, SB, JH, RS, GR)
– Developing an e-Learning Evaluation Framework

3.0 Other discussion

Academic Offering

Stuart and Jan reported from the management conference in regard to the new Academic Offering proposals. There is a concern that this might represent a move away from learner-directed learning towards a more constrained linear structure, possibly with less interdisciplinarity. This could lead to a more siloed, discipline-based curriculum, which could be seen as contrary to Brookes educational philosophy which is rarely stated as such, but seems to be about choice, the blurring of boundaries between disciplines, roles, and loci of interaction (work, community, university). But, in some way the new proposals might make things easier: systems can more readily model linear, constrained choices. Library resourcing might also be more efficient. It was observed that in some respects there may be discontinuity between the proposals and the thinking in C4eL about learning

The aim of the new Academic Offering is to

  • reduce complexity and sharpen focus
  • reduce cost
  • introduce more discernible 1st, 2nd and 3rd levels
  • develop the post graduate offering


While we respect the role of the JISC as a change agent and acknowledge that bidding for JISC projects has stimulated useful debate, there are many other change agents and powerful commercial interests: such as Blackboard
– How does Blackboard propose to respond to the eFramework and shared services approach favoured by central government?
– Is there the possibility of a sectoral (CHEST) agreement with Bb?

GR 01/12/06

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