Friday, 8 May 2009

National Learning Network materials

One of the pleasures of working on TASH is people contacting you with interesting ideas and resources that they've found useful, and want to share. Victor Guillen of the ELTC did just that, by calling our attention to the National Learning Network, or NLN. This is a JISC-funded repository for e-learning materials, targeted primarily at FE institutions and programmes, but with possible cross-over for some aspects of HE provision. Victor's found it particularly useful in terms of ESOL and literacy materials, but was keen to show us more generic resources about, for example, critical thinking, problem solving, and learning to learn.

The resources are SCORM-compliant Reusable Learning Objects, which, to put that in terms I can understand, means you can pick them up complete, and drop them into MOLE, Moodle, and other VLEs or platforms. They are also finished to a high degree of professionalism, with some of them looking really nice, and presenting the material in a very accessible way. The flipside of this professional finish is that they can't be easily tinkered with or adapted to fit new contexts; but, as Victor was keen to note, they are just as useful for inspiring your own ideas for resources and activities as they are for being used directly.

Sheffield's only the second HEI in the region to request access to the NLN, so it's still largely uncharted territory. This, plus Jorum, points to the growth of e-repositories for sharing learning resources; and while there are a range of arguments, from grounds as diverse as pedagogy, politics, and pragmatism, against a wholesale adoption of the strategy, it's certainly useful to have access to other people's ideas and ways of working out solutions. If anyone's interested in looking more closely at the NLN materials, or learning more about how they've already been used, then Victor would welcome you getting in touch.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

What we did on our Easter holidays...

...and for quite some time around that. Despite the blog silence, the TASH project is alive and well, and developing in a robust and sustainable direction. Indeed, it's a measure of how busy things have been that blogging our progress has taken something of a backseat.

There have been a few main areas of efforts, with our ever-expanding team distributed across them. These include:
  1. Creating the structure. Obvious, but essential. What academic skills are we finding resources for, and how are we bundling them together? How much choice are we giving users about the ways they navigate the resource? In what's likely to be a sizeable end-product, how do we make sure users know what's there?
  2. Writing the pages. Again, this isn't rocket science; most bits of the structure mentioned above need to have some words / pictures / videos / dancemoves attached to them, and it's been a job of work to get those created.
  3. Finding and analysing the resources, from both within and outside the university. The whole point of TASH was to help students and staff more easily locate high-quality resources, so that's clearly something we need to prioritise.
  4. Designing the look and feel of the resource, along with all the other technical things involved with creating a website that I don't really understand. A huge amount of effort and time has gone into making TASH friendly, funky, and easily-navigable, and the experience of LeTS colleagues has been critical here.
Where we're at now is bringing those four threads of work together into a pilot version of the site. We're hoping to have this ready, and run tests / feedback sessions with staff and students, by the end of June. If you've ever attended a TASH meeting or expressed interest in the project - and, let's face it, you're unlikely to be reading this blog unless you have - then you'll be invited to take part in these pilot tests. If you're especially keen to get involved, please contact us and we'll add you to the list. Thanks for your interest thus far, and we hope to be in touch again soon!