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Introducing ELE and a new era for e-learning at UCL

31 May 2012

This month, the team formerly known as the LTSS became ELE (E-Learning Environments). We talk to Dr Fiona Strawbridge, Head of ELE, to find out why the service was renamed and how it has changed.

Man working at laptop

Most people at UCL will have heard of the Learning Technology Support Service, commonly referred to as LTSS, but this month, partly as a result of the Smart IT process, the team has been renamed E-Learning Environments (ELE). While the new name is in itself significant, this is far more than a rebranding exercise.

Fiona Strawbridge, head of ELE, says: “Right at the beginning of the process, Mike Cope, the director of ISD, asked us to start with a blank sheet of paper and think about what we would do, in an ideal world, if we wanted to deliver world-class support for learning and teaching.”

The answer was by no means immediately clear, but, after months of consultation and planning, the result is a new service comprising 15 members of staff divided into three sub-teams.

The first, and perhaps most closely related to the former LTSS model, is called E-Learning Services. Led by Jason Norton, the group will handle the running and development of ELE’s core products, such as Moodle (soon to be Moodle 2) and Turnitin. Jason’s team will provide centralised training and first- and second-line support to anyone with queries about how to use the various systems.

E-Learning Advisory, the second strand of ELE, will be headed by Dr Clive Young. The team will include two schools-facing E-Learning Facilitators, one of whom will focus solely on SLMS, and the other splitting their time between BEAMS and SLASH. Fiona says that both of the E-Learning Facilitators will work closely with their schools-facing counterparts in the Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching to ensure that both the technical and pedagogical sides of e-learning are fully supported in all departments.

“The E-Learning Advisory team will include one other staff member: Matt Jenner, who has just been appointed Distance Learning Facilitator,” says Fiona. “Distance learning is rather different from supplementary e-learning or blended learning because you have to think much more carefully about the kind of support that students are going to get and making their learning more engaging and interactive.” The hope is that the facilitating role will enable departments to develop in this field and also to support the informal network of people already involved in – or interested in – distance learning courses at UCL.

The third part of ELE will be E-Learning Development, headed up by Dr Steve Rowett. Fiona says, “This is more of a ‘horizon-scanning’ area: Steve will be looking at how technology is evolving and how it might support learning and teaching. He’ll be keeping an eye on what other institutions are doing but also finding out what’s going on within UCL because there are people doing all kinds of interesting things that we may not necessarily know about.”

Steve’s team will support projects that trial new technology (including those done through E-Learning Development Grants), liaising with both academics and students to find out what works and what doesn’t. This process will be formalised by an E-Learning Evaluation Specialist, a role that has not yet been filled but that will look for genuine evidence of the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches. 

The final role under the E-Learning Development remit is Learning Spaces Specialist. “We will be appointing somebody who knows about how technology can be used in the classroom, but also about how innovative classroom design can support more interactive, student-led learning, problem-based learning and scenario-based learning,” says Fiona. “We’ve been working closely with Estates recently to try and identify classrooms that could potentially be made over. This is quite a new area for us and it’s very exciting.” Cluster rooms, hubs and student common rooms also come under this umbrella.

While the team considered keeping the name ‘LTSS’ because so many people at UCL are familiar with it, they decided that changing it to E-Learning Environments was important because it recognises the broader impact of technology in where, when and how students learn, including physical learning spaces, which is not reflected through the old moniker.

Throughout the restructuring and rebranding process, Fiona’s team has also been preparing a three-year E-Learning Strategy, which will be released for UCL-wide consultation soon. It’s certainly been a busy year.

“We won’t move fully into our new structure until Moodle 2 has been rolled out and is all running smoothly,” says Fiona. “However, I can certainly see the light at the end of the tunnel now. I’m feeling very optimistic about the future of e-learning at UCL.”

You can contact ELE by emailing ele@ucl.ac.uk or calling extension 40820 (020 7679 0820 from an external phone).

  • Learn more about ELE by visiting the team blog

Page last modified on 31 may 12 12:00


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