Making departmental calendaring easier: WebLearn

Introduction

Directing staff and students into the right place at the right time can be a challenge for any department, but for the Biological Sciences department this is a particularly difficult task. The department is responsible for the centralised teaching of three years of undergraduates, who together total about 330 students, each of whom attend yearly at least 100 lectures, between 35 and 80 hours of practicals as well as field courses and weekly tutorials, many of which they would have to sign up for on a first-come first-served basis. This year, the Biological Sciences department and the WebLearn team have developed an innovative plan to meet these extensive needs.

Challenge

In previous years, signing up for tutorials and finding out lecture timetables has been a lot of work for the students, administration team and staff of Biological Sciences. Staff would individually post their schedules on doors and noticeboards, students would have to sign up to each in person, and any complications would have to be solved through email correspondence. Students also had to make sure they knew the timetables for their compulsory and optional lectures, released through the WebLearn calendar. In consultation with the WebLearn team, a new method had to be found in order to reduce the wide margins for human error involved in this piecemeal approach to calendaring.

Innovation

Under the new system WebLearn now allows all the calendaring to take place through one portal, and cuts out any need for fallible paper schedules. This has a number of benefits:

  • The main lecture calendar can now be exported either to other calendar applications like Google Calendar, mostly used by students, or to email clients like Outlook, mostly used by staff. Once exported this will update automatically
  • The Sign-Up tool is now group-aware. Staff can post their class schedules on WebLearn and set them to be accessible only to their relevant group of students. Students then choose preferences for their taught options like tutorials, practicals and field work. WebLearn then automatically informs tutors and students of which classes they can attend of these, and prepares a file for each tutorial to be exported to other calendars.
  • Once these class-lists are complete, staff can export them automatically to OxCORT in order that they have a complete list of their students for report-writing and invoicing colleges for teaching.
  • All these features are also available for mobile access on m.ox.ac.uk.

Feedback

Here I will put quotations from 1) Peter Farrah (director perspective), 2) Siobhan Organ (admin perspective), 3) students (user perspective).

Top Tips for Success

  1. The purpose of a Virtual Learning Environment is to enhance academic processes that already go on within the university: start by thinking about the kinds of things that WebLearn could make easier for your department
  2. The WebLearn team are pleased to work with departments to tailor WebLearn  to their needs. Contact the team to see what they can do for you.

Further Information

Contact the WebLearn team at weblearn@it.ox.ac.uk.

WebLearn has a twitter account: @oxfordweblearn. You will find out all the latest news about your favourite VLE by following us!

Book to attend the ‘WebLearn User Group’ meeting (meetings are held once per term) If bookings have not yet opened, express an interest and you will receive an email when bookings open.

Click here to join the WebLearn User Group.

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