Use of WebLearn to Support Teaching, Learning or Outreach

This category seeks examples of using WebLearn in innovative ways to support online study and interaction as part of a course or programme of study at undergraduate or graduate level.

Winner: Dr Lucy Tallents for ‘Conservation Statistics’

WL-Sakai_teaching awardLucy is a prize-winner in the 2015 International Teaching with Sakai Innovation Awards, and has recently returned from presenting her work at the international Sakai conference held in Baltimore, USA. Although the WebLearn team is prominent in the Sakai development community, this is the first time that an academic from Oxford University has won a Teaching With Sakai Innovation award.

Lucy Tallents with some of her students

Lucy Tallents with some of her students

Lucy is a postdoc researcher, course developer and tutor in the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit , part of the Department of Zoology. Wildlife conservationists in the developing world are the keepers of biodiversity, yet they lack access to training in research techniques to support their valuable work. By studying online they don’t need to interrupt their work or pay the costs of overseas travel. This online WebLearn course is full of team activities and engaging learning materials. Students from around the world work together to learn how solutions developed on a different continent can help species in their local area. Feedback from their tutor and fellow students helps them to assess their attempts to save species, using scientific methods to improve their approach.

Lucy has made pioneering strides in using the new Lessons tool in WebLearn. This tool allows a tutor to plan a pathway of activities and learning materials, which can be set up as prerequisites where necessary. Activities can be restricted to certain study groups of students. Students can create their own pages and forum discussions can be integrated in the learning pathway to prompt reflection through questions.

Runner-up: Dr Richard Harrington for Promoting Online Learning and Collaboration with Graduate-Entry Medical Students

WL-RichardHarrington_photoRichard is Associate Director of the graduate-entry medical course (GEC) and a practising GP in Thame. He runs a series of case-based seminars often using videos of his own patients which WebLearn feedback indicates are appreciated by students. However, it can be difficult to timetable these seminars as Richard is based outside Oxford and his students have multiple commitments. The WebLearn Forum seemed a great way to address some of these competing challenges.

By posting clinical details and photographs of a real patient (with their specific consent for use on Weblearn), Richard is able to create an online learning environment similar to that of one of his classroom seminars. In addition, the forum style enables students to integrate their learning across a number of domains as details of the case unfold. Some students clearly research their contributions to the discussion, and the Forum has perhaps enabled those with less prior knowledge to contribute more confidently than they would in an interactive face-to-face classroom environment. What seems like a relatively minor patient problem (e.g. bruising) may uncover multiple complexities and Richard is able to moderate the discussion at a distance.

Richard says: ‘The case discussion moved well beyond the students’ current syllabus, extending into cardiovascular disease, oncology and pharmacology. The Forum tool didn’t just give the students space to research their answers it allowed me to do the same … I was able to do some background reading before responding. The process was educational for me too.

The judges felt that Richard deserved recognition for his willingness to experiment with electronic tools to facilitate discussion about real-life patients, and to use the opportunity to allow his students to move beyond the syllabus, deserves recognition.

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