WebLearn is a virtual learning environment that rewards its explorers. With such a range of flexible tools, a new user can be sure of finding a tool that can improve their educational practice or streamline administration. This was the case at the Säid Business School. The Business School was in its first year of running WebLearn for their undergraduate Economics & Management programme when Janet Smart, Senior Research Fellow, and a small team of administrative staff set about exploring the functionality of WebLearn. They were searching for ways to improve student use of WebLearn facilities and to make things easier for staff, and in doing so discovered the potential of WebLearn’s Polls Tool.
Any new initiative at the School must satisfy three things, according to Janet: it must be better for the students, easier for the staff and better, for example, cheaper, for the school. Previously any polls would have been paper based and run manually, which was a heavy cost in staff hours and workload.Three student representatives for the undergraduate programme need to be elected each year in Michaelmas term, when the students are still unfamiliar with the course and the system. Janet took this opportunity to trial the polling system, whilst in the same stroke getting the students used to using WebLearn, which they require for their studies.
Janet and the administrative staff set up a simple poll in WebLearn: a very quick and simple process through the Polls tool. The nominated students each gave a minute-long casting presentation before voting took place through the Weblearn Polls, which can also be used through students’ mobile phones. The administrative team was able to monitor the number of votes and remind voters of the poll closing time through WebLearn. The Announcement tool was then used to publish poll results on the WebLearn landing page.
The administrative staff found that the number of student votes was higher than they ordinarily expected, and that there were also very close poll results. The system was more efficient and easier for both students and staff, and the electronic data collection reduced the chances of human error. The school plans to continue using this tool, and may extend its application to role-playing exercises in the future.
Anecdotal evidence from both students and staff has been extremely positive. For example, Alexander Wright, Course administrator at the Säid Business School, “couldn’t believe how effective [the tool] was”, according to Janet.
Top tips for success
- Dedicate resources to learning how to use WebLearn, and demonstrate its facilities to new users.
- When introducing a new technology like this indicate to staff why it makes their job easier.
Join the WebLearn User Group for expert guidance and to hear examples of innovative practice at this group’s termly meetings.
IT Services also offer a large number of courses to support the use of WebLearn that can be found in the IT course catalogue. These include:
WebLearn: Making your site work
WebLearn: Tools for creating interactive online resources
WebLearn: Tools to support teaching and learning
WebLearn: Using Mobile Oxford