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H807 – A team-based approach to developing e-resources

February 16, 2011

After heaving read this case study I have actually more questions than answers.

  1. Was the aim of this project to develop e-resources for a new postgraduate module or a project to facilitate greater teamwork and collaboration using ‘new’ technologies like forums or blogs?
  2. How the case studies match with the concept of innovation?
  3. What can I learn from this case study?

Well, let’s start with a short description of the case study. Cath Fenn started a project with the aim to develop e-resources for a new postgraduate module and to replace the paper-based module guide booklets that were common practice. Students meet first face-to-face in a five-day pre-course preparation with further self-directed study completing with an assignment for accreditation. However, Fenn recognized that lacking familiarity and confidence with the tools used to deliver materials and support online discussion limited the development of a sustainable and transferable team-based approach to the provision of e-resources. She mentions that the development of e-resources was limited to enthusiastic but isolated individuals. That pretty much reflects my own context and we would also need a team-based approach to developing e-resources.

Implementation started with a series of face-to-face sessions open to all staff. Using brainstorming as a method to gather suggestions and voting for ideas for further session were used and promoted feeling of group ownership. The feedback  was consistently positive and interest in further online support/tutorial packages was raised. The online support aims to showcase the technology available. The design of online staff development content and activities include activities for creation of forms, quizzes, forums, blogs, personalized content, etc leading to tangible benefits. The staff forum is now increasingly used as a space for collaborative activity. Other benefits are increased understanding, enthusiasm for investigating e-resources, ability to deliver e-learning, wider participation in e-learning developments, confidence in the use of e-tools and networking.

Fenn reports that investment in time on the design, planning and facilitation of face-to-face sessions were considerable, but were fully compensated by the benefits. The team-based approach has opened up networking opportunities for colleagues and improved confidence levels. A growth of collaborative initiatives and the dissemination of outputs via the staff forum greatly increased. Fenn argues that bringing staff together as a team provides a supportive environment, and that in turn also supports students as staff is now more willing and open to the introduction of elearning material and even start developing e-resources with other members of the staff.

My first thought was where is the innovation, similar to another H807 colleague who also found it difficult to identify ‘how innovative the case study actually is, because it seems like common-sense’. She continues saying that good ideas often do seem obvious in retrospect. However, if we think of innovations as added value and to bring about a change, then the project can be considered as innovative.

I also often forget that because I am so used to forums, and having access to e-resources via the OU, these features seems not longer innovative to me, but common practice. Yet, looking at my own professional context I realize that this practice would be truly innovative, showing that the concept of innovation is context dependent.

I also realize that my understanding of innovations is still characterized by groundbreaking, revolutionary, disruptive  new developments. I guess I have to reconsider my concept of innovations.

Well, I think I already answered some of my questions, e.g. question 2. Regarding question 1 I think that the team-based approach helped staff to familiarize with the elearning environment and fostered greater collaboration between the staff via staff forum, blogs, etc. It also impacted on the staff attitude to be more open-minded towards the implementation of e-resources into the curriculum of their students. What can I learn from this case study? Definitely that my school would do well to introduce a similar team-based approach to be more innovative and to catch up with Web 2.0 developments.

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