New WebLearn offers many facilities which will be invaluable should students not be able to attend lecturers due to circumstances beyond their control.
WebLearn has many tools that will allow teaching and learning to continue in the absence of face-to-face meeting between students and tutors. The most obvious approach is to set up a site with all members of a course or tutorial group listed as participants. This site can then host learning materials in the Resources tool within a WebLearn site; any documents stored in Resources can be found by the Search tool.
The document repository can be backed up by the use of the Chat and Forums tools for synchronous and asynchronous communications respectively. The Sign-up tool could be used to arrange a series of online tutorials in much the same way as it can be used to organise face-to-face tutorials and /or the site Schedule (calendar) can be used to indicate when a tutor will be present in the chat-room to answer student questions.
The Email archive (mail list) and Announcements tool also facilitate easy communication within a course. The Assignments tool (with optional Turnitin plagiarism checking) can be used for the on-line submission of essays and tests can be conducted within the Tasks, Tests and Surveys assessment system.
If lectures have been recorded then they can be housed in WebLearn via the internal ‘Podcasts’ tool – this tool allows a sequence of recordings to be made available via a single URL (an RSS feed). This feed can optionally be protected behind Oxford SSO authentication.
There are more details about the individual tools in the section entitled Tools in the New WebLearn.
We would recommend that departments and colleges begin planning now; the first thing to do is establish a WebLearn presence and begin setting up and infrastructure that can be brought into play should there be a need.