E-Learning Strategy 




This paper details the e-learning strategy for UoL for 2005-8.  The strategy will promote the building of pedagogical innovation, increase the deployment of learning technologies and enable research into e-learning in a way that directly addresses business opportunities and imperatives. It provides for equivalent and enhanced learning and support experiences for all Leicester students. It offers a framework that not only develops and extends the range of services and approaches already in place but also looks to deepen understanding and deployment of learning technologies in the University. Strategic aims and targets are outlined. The key players, components and issues to ensure successful and achievable implementation are laid out. An agreed start up budget is specified.




E-learning is Critically Important for UoL in 2005 and Beyond for:


Importance for the University in Wider Context


Importance for Learning

·         Equivalence - for distance, mixed mode & campus based learning


Importance for Teaching


Nature of the Strategy




Section 1: A sub-strategy to the Learning and Teaching Strategy forming a strategic framework and targets for e-learning and pedagogical innovation at UoL over the next 3 years, including 15 strategic aims.


Section 2: A framework for the implementation plan.


Section 1


1.1 Benefits of E-learning for UoL


We can view e-learning and its associated innovative pedagogies as a continuum with entirely remote and distance at one end, through purposeful use for enhancing learning in blended or mixed modes to the integration of e-learning into all teaching and learning experiences at the other.


The key potential benefits of increasing the use of e-learning in the University are to:


1.2 Scope of this Paper


The e-learning strategy takes a view of worthwhile business development, quality learning processes and pedagogical innovation at UoL. What it does not do is consider a wide range of other missions that can be addressed by e-learning such as increased openness, cross and borderless education, and outreach into the community. It also does not address the pros and cons of existing technologies in use (particularly the Virtual Learning Environments VLEs) since that would be a diversion and attention currently needs to be focussed on pedagogical and business development and providing a stable technological environment.   Furthermore it does not specify very detailed use of certain learning technologies and their links with directly addressing learners’ needs or applications.  They need to be developed close to the learners, researchers and teachers through the implementation of this strategy, rather than prescribed.  The strategy makes provision for this to continue in a wide variety of ways and puts resources in place in terms of plans and people to ensure it is achieved.


Within UoL, ‘lone rangers’ with special energy often achieved many of the more entrepreneurial actions including the development of distance learning.  Commitment and organizational processes have grown up around these accordingly. These are not easily transferable or scalable. The strategy in this paper seeks to provide a framework to embed awareness of distance and e-learning and research into teaching innovation into the much wider consciousness of UoL.  The recent interim report lays out in much more detail the UoL’s capabilities and markets in distance learning and the need for associated systems development (Continuing the Development of Distance Learning - An Interim Report, David Christmas, January 2005)



1.3 A Key Moment in Time


Three years appear to be the longest we should strategize in the current rapidly changing climate.  In addition, to benchmarking, we suggest an initial review towards the end of the first 2 years with a more substantial review towards the end of the third year. At this point, the aspiration should be to integrate the e-learning strategy into the broader Learning and Teaching Strategy.


Recently, the early focus on technological infrastructure has given way to emphasis on pedagogy, connectedness and in blending newer and older approaches to learning.  The new buzz word is ‘blend’. However this cannot be seen as a panacea: choices of pedagogy and technology are complex. If students are offered regular teaching and learning processes (books, lectures, face-to-face seminars) together with somewhat uncertainly presented e-learning, it is inevitable that they will prefer the familiar.


1.4 Principles of the E-learning Strategy in UoL


1.4.1 Core Capabilities


The framework for the UoL e-learning strategy takes a ‘resource-based’ definition of the match that we can make between our internal resources and skills, and the opportunities and risks created by our external environment.  Such a framework both implies  identifying what core capabilities and existing strengths (what are we good at, what makes us special?), and how a strategy can take advantage of these in a competitive world (what can we do well and differently?). A strategy based on our strengths will be more durable, and harder to imitate than ‘off-the-shelf’ strategies (Hamel and Valikangas 2003) or those based on traditional marketing approaches.


For these purposes, we can identify our core capabilities as:


  1. UoL’s status as a major provider of post graduate distance learning
  2. strengths in sectors which may lend themselves to e-learning approaches including archaeology, genetics, science and education
  3. teaching fully informed by research
  4. networked within region and FE
  5. diverse and non-elitist
  6. international
  7. teaching excellence including acknowledgement of distance learning and e-learning plans (QAA)


Of these, probably only item 1 truly differentiates UoL from other UK universities, some

of whom could claim all or some of the others.


The core capabilities that are obvious or we most enjoy or admire, may not be strategically relevant. Instead they need to be those that our wide range of ‘stakeholders’ (students, clients, partners, funding bodies etc.) both perceive and value. Choices of where to be innovative, and where to increase the development of e-learning should not be based on a bland view of ‘market’ but a more complex view of the value of e-learning meeting mission and objectives.


1.4.2. Differentiation of Technologies


We can distinguish between core technologies and peripheral technologies.  The core forms the basis of current activities that must be maintained, and since effort and investment have been put into them, they do not present a high risk. For the purposes of this strategy we consider the use of commercial Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), and the e-resources provided by the library to be core technologies.  Nearly all universities are currently adapting to using VLEs, so in the medium term these core capabilities will no longer be innovative. Peripheral technology is on the ‘edge’ and offers more choice. However some peripherals will become mainstream over time so the strategy needs ways of including potential new technologies and preparing for new capabilities. Hence, it is also important to focus on building increased capacity and capability for e-learning innovation and on looking ahead to potential and new learning technologies and their applications in our context. 



1.5 The Challenges and Opportunities to be Addressed for UoL and E-learning


There is considerable evidence that most HEIs are still struggling to engage a significant percentage of students and staff in e-learning and real development beyond projects by innovators has so far been modest.  At UoL we need to recognise these challenges and implement our strategy very specifically to address them. They include:



·         There are two main ways in which e-learning can be introduced into traditional teaching, whether on campus or at a distance.  One is through large scale centralisation and provision of professional services. The second is more incremental, perhaps a little slower and more challenging, but gradually involving all members of staff to make their contribution. This involves the choice of easy to use technologies and investment in personal, course and departmental learning. The latter has the advantages of developing capabilities for the longer term and keeping ‘ownership’ with the academic departments.  It is this model we chose as most appropriate for UoL.




·         Attempting scaling up of distance learning through ‘hand crafting’ (in a way that is possible in campus based learning) is uneconomic and unsustainable for distance. Therefore predictions need to be made about which courses are worth funding in this way, serious choices made and resources diverted in those directions.

2. The E-learning & Pedagogical Innovation Strategic Framework for UoL


































2.1 Quadrant One


The top left hand box of the matrix suggests achieving growth with our established technological products, especially our VLEs (Blackboard™ and Tribal Learning’s le™) embedding them further into our teaching and learning processes and using them for increasing numbers of purposes and students.


Much can be achieved by deploying such ‘off the shelf’ technologies but this requires careful business planning, investment in staff development and support and excellent provision of ICT within university systems.  It also requires that we plan our markets and student requirements and the resource implications of supporting this technology.


For DL, the focus should be to further develop communication and group teaching in the online environment, rather than a major shift from the delivery of print to online resources at this time.  Content is rarely viewed as a major differentiator; value lies in brand, support, group teaching, communication with staff, accreditation and licenses to practice.  At a discipline level, the relevant HEA (ex-LTSN) Subject Centres can often provide academic courseware that is freely available. 


We should first identify and target those areas where there is potential for growth, rapid improvement in quality or efficiency gains. The aim is to move more of our regular learning into the e-environment but in a way we can pilot transferable or scalable processes.



Recommendations: Quadrant One


Time scale: immediate and ongoing



Promote use of the VLEs for all distance learning (DL), including the evaluation of existing distance learning courses


Enhance the experience of campus based students through the use of e-resources and learning support through the VLE


Key actions for Quadrant One



Revise pedagogy to ensure excellence for topic in terms of resource delivery, accessibility to diverse student groups and communication


Sustain or promote growth in student numbers


Enable efficiency of delivery


Enable efficiency gain for staff


Make economies of scale


Develop a wider range of online services and support, including for diverse student groups


Promote effective communication and identification with the University


Promote completion and continuing study with the University


Reduce face to face components for DLs and replacing with high quality e-seminars


Ensure equivalence for DL and campus based students


Build on the work started to inspire, increase awareness and applications of e-learning


Explore how e-learning relates to conventional and traditional forms of learning and teaching


Increase quality of experience for students, especially from perspective of flexibility, diversity or engagement


Pilot research-led innovation in teaching through VLEs


Pilot potentially scalable processes


Increase services, resources, communication or value for students already using the VLE


Note 1




Experience in and development of the skills of e-learning design and teaching online with and for remote students is not widespread in UoL. There is a need to enable more teams in departments to understand and develop effective e-learning using the VLEs. All need support in designing for participation and intervening for learning. Many of the problems and benefits of using the VLEs can be dealt with by appropriate design before the students arrive. In addition, we plan that selected members of staff and relevant assistants are further trained to initiate and maintain quality online tutoring.


In order that academic departments can focus on high quality e-learning design using the VLEs, services including student support services, the library, and the Students’ Union will be developed and brought together through the VLE (project title ‘Leicester Online’) thus providing an excellent service to distance students and good access to all students when working remotely.  This will enable the University to embed holistic support within departments and subject areas.  It can become a part of the student experience naturally, rather than appearing as a ‘bolt-on’ facility to which students may feel they are driven when difficulties arise.


Note 2


Full time campus students


We do not intend to replace face-to-face teaching in the university for campus based students but instead extend and enhance their experience, and enable them to study in more flexible ways.  Furthermore, there is increasing evidence of students presenting with wireless enabled laptops and/or the desire to use broadband from residences. We will promote and encourage blended learning on campus especially towards innovative e-teaching, learning or assessment approaches where we can offer improved quality in resources and/or delivery, enable effectiveness and efficiency and aid retention and completion of students.  Some staff may be happier to gain experience in blended learning before considering distance.


Quadrant Two


Time scale:  Medium - pilots to start in 2005 and ongoing for foreseeable future


The top right hand quadrant (existing mission/new technologies) addresses the many new learning and mobile technologies now available. Most of the newer widely used technologies such as smart phones, ipods, GPS etc have not been developed for learning and need good understanding of potential teaching applications to be successful in new contexts. Many new technologies are appropriate for off campus use, as combinations and blends, for dynamic delivery of content and for human intervention and support of distance learning processes.  There are new understandings of the use of knowledge creation, sharing and repositories that can be deployed. Many technologies can be channelled through the VLE but are not limited by the obvious VLE operations.  Many applications are at the pilot stage and the opportunity here is for UoL to be at the forefront of developments. 


Recommendations: Quadrant Two



 Research and pilot the use of the new technologies for distance learning, where value might be gained for students or staff, access, retention or achievement


Enhance the experience of campus based students through the use of new technologies


Key actions for Quadrant Two



Research applications and pilot applications to go ‘beyond the VLEs ‘


Encourage students and staff to explore everyday technologies for learning, communication and support purposes


Improve accessibility for all, especially using everyday communications technologies


Talk  to providers of technology and find a good fit at the right price for pilots


Provide for evaluation and dissemination of selected projects for scalability and transferability to distance learning or transferability from department to department



Quadrant Three


Time scale: immediate and ongoing


The lower left hand box (existing/new) represents using e-learning technologies to address different and new markets, missions, levels and disciplines of learning and teaching (compared to now) but using the expertise and technologies already developed.  Realistic approaches must be taken to the market to reduce risks as far as possible.  As distance learning depends on volume, there should be a minimum contracted commitment before new e-learning processes are developed.


In addition, UoL’s CETLs are charged with not only developing excellence in their fields but also transferring understanding to others, including outreach and virtual networking activities, application to other disciplines of techniques and approaches developed, links University-wide initiatives, such as the e-learning strategy & development of a pedagogic research agenda.


There is an opportunity to enable joined up provision through e-resources across the UoL but also to have students make stronger and easier connections between the subject areas they study and the services they can use, and for the first time to move towards an equality of experience for every student of the UoL.


Recommendations: Quadrant Three



Identify, create and deliver, using the VLE to new markets, countries and groups


Focus on transfer of learning and technology applications from one department to another thus providing enabling technologies through the university


Key Actions for Quadrant Three



Identify untapped markets and develop distance learning deploying e-learning in a new topic areas or levels


Enable understanding, appreciation of and transfer of e-learning successes from one department to another.


Collaborate through e-learning with our associates, partners, collaborators and lower costs through economies of scale



Quadrant Four


Time scale - medium to long - research during 2005 with one or two high profile pilots to start by 2006.


The lower right hand box (new/new) is the most challenging, risky and potentially rewarding.  Research about e-learning is being published and goes beyond the simplistic ‘what works’ scenarios of stage one of technology introduction. In this quadrant lies power behind the e-learning movement and the greatest potential to put UoL on the global e-map.  The Beyond Distance Research Alliance will focus on bringing forward ‘weaker’ signals from the technological and e-learning environment for consideration.


Recommendations: Quadrant Four



Develop 1 or 2 large innovative projects


Seek several smaller but highly innovative projects using peripheral technologies


 Actions for Quadrant Four



Search for models of success and application of future technologies


Integrate research understanding from e-learning and innovative pedagogy in future business, planning and budgeting processes


View learning technologies as iterative processes, between what technology makes possible and what demands are made on that technology, and be involved and influential in the e-learning world


Build research into all and any projects.


Seek collaborative partners




1.5 Summary of Strategic Aims : Each aim will be planned as a project, and tied into the relevant committee structure.  Some adjustments to targets and timescales may be made in discussion with individual departments and faculties.


Strategic Aim


Achievement Time

Unit/dept Responsible For lead


e-learning strategy

DfES e-learning strategy

An enabling policy related to full access & equivalence






1. UoL part time and distance students to be advised to have regular Internet access, indication in prospectuses immediately.  See note 1 below


Oct 2006 for brochures October 2007 for access


1.1, 7.1

under-representation, flexible mixes

2.  VLE available for all UoL distance students by 2007 See note 2 below


Oct 2007

Beyond Distance

1.1, 1.5, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 7.1

under-representation, flexible mixes

3. VLE available for all campus based students See note 2 below


Oct 2007

Beyond  Distance

3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 7.1

under-representation, flexible mixes

4.  Distance learners receive equivalent support to campus attendees

100% of DLs

Oct 2007



under-representation, flexible mixes

B  Staff development and enablement






5.  Staff to have basic VLE access, training, support & encouragement


 Oct 2006

Staff Development

4.1, 4.4,  7.1

training leadership, refining practice of front line staff, flexible mixes

6.  Media zoo & demonstration lab available for staff and associates


Dec 2005

Beyond Distance

1.4, 2.1,2.3, 3.3, 4.4

new understandings of pedagogy, training, leadership, refining practice of front line staff

7.  Deployment of teaching initiatives funds


Oct 2006

L & T

1.1, 4.1

New understandings of  pedagogy  flexible mixes

8.  High profile celebration and reward of individual and department innovation in teaching

 100% awareness

Jan 2005

Beyond Distance


new understandings of pedagogy training, leadership, refining practice of front line staff

9.   Training in online teaching and delivery provided for associate tutors, where required

100% of D&ML

Oct 2006

Beyond Distance

4.4, 4.5

refining practice of front line staff

C E-learning research






10.    Attendance by staff of Beyond Distance Research Alliance events & availability to all staff of Beyond Distance  Blackboard™  site

50% pa

  2006 & 2007

Beyond Distance

2.2, 2.3, 3.3, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3

new understandings of pedagogy, refining practice of front line staff, flexible mixes urgent develop research in pedagogy & e-learning & inf sharing

11.  Staff researching into their own teaching, attracting external funds and publishing in area of e-learning

10% overall pa

By 2008

Beyond Distance

1.4, 4.4, 4.5, 5.1, 6.1, 6.2

training, leadership, refining practice of front line staff flexible mixes

D Future projects and positioning






12.   Online assessment for appropriate D&ML courses

40% of distance

Oct 2007

Beyond Distance

1.3, 1.4

demand for e-assessment, flexible mixes

13.  Students using learning technologies other  than VLE and e-library 


Oct 2008

Beyond Distance

4.3, 7.2, 7.2

training, leadership, refining practice of front line staff flexible mixes

E Impact on business development






14.   New courses use VLE         productively See note 3 below


Oct 2005

Beyond Distance

2.1, 5.1

new understandings of pedagogy, flexible mixes

15. New courses and modules assessed for distance, e-learning or distributed teaching applications See note 3 below.


Oct 2005


2.1, 2.2, 5.1

new understandings of pedagogy flexible mixes

Note 1: This statement of policy can also accommodate exceptions.  If it can be demonstrated that access to the Internet operates in a discriminatory manner then the University will seek to find an acceptable alternative.


Note 2

VLE use is already developing rapidly in UoL:


In April 2005:

·         Blackboard course sites activated to date:  715

·         Blackboard course sites currently in use: 519 

·         Active students on Blackboard: 5043

·         Students enrolled on more than one course site: 6730

·         Instructors on Blackboard : 687

·         All pre-clinical modules are in Tribal’s Technology’s le™. 1st years 13, 2nd years 23 & 3rd years 28 modules.

·         Phase 2 (clinical) modules are being launched on le™   this semester.

·         Learners on le™ : 3000

·         Tutors on le™ : 170


Note 3: course approval processes


Individual departments are best placed to take decisions on content, level, the demands of accreditation by professional bodies and a wide range of other issues. Intervention in course approval processes is intended to raise awareness of the possibilities and enable the strategic aims to be fulfilled in the most appropriate manner. Those proposing to mount new courses will need to demonstrate that they have considered distance and e-learning. Those proposing new e-learning courses will need to demonstrate that they have the skills for effective and efficient design and delivery, or are seeking funds for appropriate support.





Summary of Recommendations




Target Completion


Promote use of the VLEs for all DL, including the evaluation of existing distance learning courses

Professor of E-learning

Immediate & ongoing


Enhance the experience of campus based students through the use of e-resources and learning support through the VLE

Professor of E-learning

Immediate & ongoing


Research and pilot the use of the new technologies for distance learning, where value might be gained for students or staff, access, retention or achievement

Professor of E-learning

Immediate & ongoing


Research and pilot the use of the new technologies for campus or mixed mode students where value might be gained for students or staff, access, retention or achievement

Professor of E-learning

Immediate & ongoing


Identify, create and deliver new modules, courses and programmes, using the VLE to new markets, countries and groups

Director of International Office & Programme Dvpt Working group

Immediate & ongoing


Focus on transfer of learning and technology applications from one department to another thus providing enabling technologies through the university

Director Staff Development Centre

Immediate & ongoing


Develop 1 or 2 large innovative projects associated with new media and markets

Professor of E-learning

Commence 2006


Seek several smaller but highly innovative projects using peripheral technologies for learning

Professor of E-learning

Commence 2006


Develop communication plan and use new channels to ensure all staff are informed about and involved in the e-learning strategy

Director of Marketing

Autumn 2005


Ensure computer services develop to accommodate increasing numbers of remote learners and increased use by campus students of mobile and remote technologies

Director Computer Centre

To 2008


Develop the project ‘Leicester Online’

Professor of E-learning

Autumn 2006


Ensure equivalent experience for all Leicester students regardless of location

Pro Vice Chancellor

Learning & Teaching

Autumn 2007


Advise on the provision of specialised software and support for students with specific learning difficulties and disabilities, with appropriate resourcing

Head of AccessAbility Centre

Autumn 2007


Review progress of e-learning strategy at end of 2 years, major review at end of 3

Professor of E-learning

2007 & 8



Relevant recommendations from Continuing the Development of Distance Learning (January 2005)

There are strong connections between the E-learning Strategy and the development of DL.  Listed below are DL recommendations that are particularly relevant here (using the original numbers).





Target Completion


Encourage DL staff to become actively involved in the Beyond Distance Research Alliance.

Professor of E-learning



Explore the potential for extended Computing Helpdesk opening hours

Director DLA

On- going


Work with EDSC to develop electronic student support services

Professor E-learning

From March 2005


Produce DL Business Plans with departments

Director DLA

By April 2005


Explore options for enhancing programme approval processes to identify opportunities for extending the DL curriculum and inclusion of effective e-learning

Director DLA and Professor of E-learning

Report to VCACAO 21st March 2005


Use DL Business Planning process to explore new product and market opportunities with DL departments

Director DLA and Director of Marketing

By April 2005  ongoing


Document the use of external teaching staff (based on information gathered during business planning).

Director DLA

By June 2005


Work with the Professor of E-learning to produce proposals for improvements to the management and ongoing development of external teaching staff, drawing on Open University practice and the potential for using e-learning techniques

Director DLA

By September 2005


Establish an annual review of competitor activity in DL and e-learning, reporting to VCACAO and the DL and E-learning Sub-committees of the T&LC

Director DLA, Director of Marketing and Professor of E-learning

September 2005


Review overall approach to student support

Professor of E-learning and Director DLA

Early 2006



Section 2: Action Plan


Many agencies (people, departments, units) in UoL are keys to the success and achievement of the e-learning strategy through support, development and implementation.  Resourcing is provided in two main ways:


1.       through repositioning, focus and alignment of many plans and actions throughout the university

2.       through recognition of the need for start up and booster resources of various kinds (see Appendix 4).


2.1 Academic staff, Academic Related Staff, Departments and Course Teams

Academic staff are naturally reluctant to change their methods of teaching and learning without a deep understanding of why and how, due to concern for quality and benefits. Furthermore, there is a belief that e-learning is about technical ‘solutions’ rather than pedagogical innovation. In practice, e-learning, whether combined with other forms of teaching and learning or not, is complex and involves shifts both in understanding and behaviours, well beyond the provision of technology. There are few direct reasons for academics to become involved in innovations in teaching as time for research competes on a daily basis, hence staff development, support and information is crucial to success.  The e-learning strategy seeks to ensure that ownership, not only of content but also of pedagogy, continues to lie directly within academic departments but recognises that a wide variety of mechanisms must underpin the continued developments.


2.2 Communication Strategy

At UoL, with its separate operations in departments, it is difficult to develop a joint ‘vision’ and direction and engage in a development process involving the maximum possible number of staff. The e-learning strategy is, of necessity, complex. Each of the quadrants needs a different approach to understanding appropriate technologies and pedagogies.  UoL marketing department has agreed to put together a professional communication plan and use new channels to ensure all staff are informed and involved.


2.3 Staff Development


Quadrants One, Two and Three

The Academic Practice award provides continuing professional development (CPD), rather than an academic hurdle, for all staff new to teaching in HE.  It ensures that such staff are introduced to the potential of VLEs whilst exploring the broader theory and practice of their work.  This demand is likely to increase significantly as the Higher Education Academy requirements for new and existing staff are published for implementation in 2006.


Shorter interventions in both pedagogy and e-learning (First Friday, bespoke training and e-Reflections sessions) meet the needs of more experienced staff.  The appointment of a Materials Developer to support the work of the Educational Developer (e-learning) has significantly increase capacity.


Increased developments that will support achievement in these quadrants include:-


1.   Adaptation of modules specifically promoting e-learning as part of the expanded Academic Practice Award.


2.   VLE training sessions for support staff.


3.   Awareness of and engagement with other new technologies JISC Plagiarism

      detection, Classroom Performance System, SERSI Rooms, Impatica & Breeze,

      specialised software for disabled students.


4.   Engagement with the ‘Media Zoo’ as part of the revised Academic Practice award,

 maximising size, flexibility and equipment levels of staff technology training space

 (including ‘Media Zoo’).


5.   The Teaching Enhancement Forum together with TAN plans to take a ‘Community of

Practice’ approach to generating initiatives and pedagogical projects including e-



Quadrant Four

The promotion and support of research activities through ‘Beyond Distance’.  The Staff Development Centre plays a major part in dissemination of new technologies to new staff (through Induction and the Academic Practice award) and existing staff (through the Teaching Enhancement Forum and training events). 


2.4 Computer Centre

The Computer Centre is responsible for the provision of core academic systems and services, including the VLE, and the network infrastructure, for both campus and Internet access.  It will support and share the aims and objectives of the e-learning strategy in terms of the development of IT systems for both teaching and research throughout the University.


In order to achieve facilitation of the strategy with relatively modest resources (especially manpower) it will be necessary to standardize on a limited set of software and hardware types, especially for Quadrants One & Two.  In addition, resources will need to be found to research technological developments and implement new services in an efficient way, (Quadrants Three & Four) whilst at the same time maintaining existing core services for campus based learning and teaching.


The e-learning strategy increases the reliance on the University’s IT infrastructure.  The Computer Centre will consider the resilience of services, disaster recovery planning and support cover.  In each of these areas we will need to balance additional cost against risk and perceived value of the service. The Computer Centre is continuing to develop and improve service resilience in the selection of server hardware and with recent SAN (Storage Area Network) developments.  It also has a commitment to review and document Disaster Recovery plans by the end of 2005.  Consideration of e-learning servers and file storage will be incorporated within this review.  Any recommended improvements will be costed for further consideration and budgeting.


The services are essentially running on a 24x7 basis, but availability of human support is based around the UK 'working day', with some Help Desk support available on Saturdays.   The acceptability of these hours and associated staffing requirements will be reviewed with respect to increasing use of our e-services by Distance Learners, in different time-zones.


2.3.4 Library

There is close alignment between the e-learning strategy and the direction already being taken by the Library over the last few years. The new Library is being planned as the hub of an exciting hybrid service, encompassing both print and digital materials. Alongside these physical changes the capabilities are being developed to enable the Library to adapt readily to the wider changes underlying the e-learning strategy. The Library can add value to e-learning by:


·         providing access to high quality information to UoL students which is integrated with the curriculum


·         ensuring that UoL learners are information literate and able to discover, evaluate and manage information


·         providing advice and assistance to learners through a range of services, ensuring that these services are effectively communicated to students.


The Library has invested heavily in digital resources, particularly in terms of e-journals, abstracting and indexing services and large datasets.  These developments have been particularly strong in the science, technology and medicine fields, but there is also considerable progress in arts and social sciences.  The coming year will see growing investment in e-books.  The coming year will see growing investment in e-books which is increasingly important for students with specific learning difficulties and disabilities.  Access to print resources remains essential and the Library works to ensure that these resources are known to learners at a distance and accessible to them through efficient document supply services of various types.


The Leicester Digital Library provides a range of services and tools which provide enhanced access to information resources. These include Leicester e-link providing access to the full text of over 10,000 electronic journals with links to the catalogue entries for print journals, SingleSearch software allowing simultaneous searching across a range of databases, and, most significantly, the Rooms context management project supports specific subject areas and courses in conjunction with Blackboard. In the next few months the online catalogue software will be upgraded to enhance services.


The Library is in the forefront in developing e-learning resources to teach information retrieval and information management skills and the use of bibliographic software. A growing range of interactive online tutorials, multimedia tutorials and text based web tutorials is available. As well as standalone tutorials the Library can also offer ways of embedding information retrieval skills into the curriculum so that they integrate, for example, into PDPs, course objectives and assessment. A current project is investigating the use of e-assessment in the form of diagnostic tests for information retrieval skills, which could be integrated into the PDP e-portfolio developments. Information librarians offer training to complement that offered by Staff Development and are happy to be involved in training staff to use e-resources in relation to e-learning.


Increased investment in information in all formats is already a key component of the Library’s strategy and it will be essential that the Library’s materials budget is able to accommodate new developments such as e-books. The Library will be working on specific proposals over the coming year.


E-learning  and distance learning is a  24/7 activity and it will be necessary to investigate increasing the hours in which reference desks are available and to explore innovative ways of supporting learners, for example via 'chat' software. Working alongside academic colleagues, Library staff will keep abreast of new software to support e-learning. The Media Zoo will provide an excellent environment for this exploration and discovery.


The Clinical Sciences Library has experience in the use of PDA/handheld technology to deliver e-learning to junior doctors. There are opportunities to develop this work further for other user groups. E-learning raises a range of new copyright and IPR issues and there will be a need for additional expertise in this area within the University.


The Library plans to work more closely with other services to provide support for the diverse student body.  This will help with the implementation of the "Leicester Online" project to provide an integrated online presence for student support services.


2.3.5 Beyond Distance Research Alliance

In some areas of e-learning, research data remains embarrassingly thin, and even published papers, when examined, rely largely on anecdotal evidence, personal experience, expert opinion and general ‘wisdom’. To underpin the e-learning and pedagogical innovation UoL needs to focus on the research opportunities and the scholarship associated with applied e-learning to enable all lecturers, units and departments to exploit the new opportunities in a cost effective way with direct impact on student learning, build capacity in R & D into ICT and Learning Technologies, provide focused ways of networking nationally and internationally in the field and avoid technology-driven approaches. It is essential to promote a systematic application of the core body of knowledge and principles that have built up around e-learning and integrate new paradigms and processes as they are understood, and avoid highly descriptive approaches (often based in individual disciplines) or the tendency towards context free ‘prescription’.   The Research Alliance draws together teachers and researchers from a wide variety of areas to bid for research funds, provide for publications and dissemination both internally and externally. Broad areas addressed are development of concepts, theories and rigorous and appropriate methodologies, identification, promotion and support of good practice and models of change related to human intervention and sustainability. In addition, focusing on e-learning is a key way of providing for multi and interdisciplinary research agendas through virtual research environments. 


The Beyond Distance Research Alliance is now established, running a series of regular seminars, has its own web site as well as a Blackboard informational site and has had its first external funding research success.


We plan that the Beyond Distance Research Alliance will contribute to building what the Faculty of Science suggests: “… is that the University see itself as a community recognised (nationally and internationally) for contributions to research and/or teaching, the latter through action research publications based on innovative implementations (whatever the RAE status of these). (Minutes Faculty Board of 18.3.05).


2. 3. 6 EDSC

EDSC is planning an increased range of processes and projects to underpin student online support and development associated with the e-learning strategy, and to reinforce the development of the ‘Leicester Online’ concept.


 Projects and resources include:


1.   A consistent and structured approach to websites for advice and guidance, further development planned for distance learners

2.   E-guidance, further development planned using a bespoke system

3.   The Leicester Employability Skills Award will make use of a Blackboard environment for student support.


Further developments planned shortly include:

·     Pilot e-learning workshop for distance learners

·     An e-learning course ‘Starting Your PhD’ using Blackboard

·     Using Blackboard to support central face to face workshops

·     Personal Development Planning - e-learning to support the involvement of both students and staff

·     Pilot project on e-counselling

·     Collaboration with other departments to produce concept and scope for ‘Leicester Online’

·     Investigating support and on line support modules for dyslexic students


2.3.7. QA

The e-learning strategy and aims fit directly with UoL QA processes and no additional attention need be given at this time.  The recent QAA audit welcomed the strategic approach in UoL to e-learning.  Quality will be judged in addition from the perspective of the student experience.


2.3.8 Student Perspective

The strategy for e-learning is welcomed by all students, as it looks to greatly improve the quality of e-learning resources and provision throughout the University.  Distance learners may benefit the most.


The SU view is that for campus-based courses, e-learning and VLEs should be utilized by the University appropriately, in the sense that they should support and enhance the overall learning experience, rather than simply replace existing core methods of learning and teaching.


The SU is interested in being involved in the ‘Leicester Online’ concept and investigating improved representation through the online world over the next years.


Students are expressing considerable interest in e-PDP facilities, and in student and collaborative e-work space, which can be investigated as part of technology developments in the Media Zoo.


2.4   Risks

Risks to the strategy include:


2.4.1 Research not Teaching

The biggest challenge to the e-learning strategy is a focus in UoL on research more than innovations in teaching and the development of distance learning.  The e-learning strategy seeks to support equal weighting and value to research and teaching in the University, and, over time to develop excellence in research into teaching.  The strategy seeks to raise the value and reward of e-learning for all teaching and learning processes and to engage a much higher percentage of staff into research in e-learning. The strategy provides for a variety of support and development mechanisms and assurances of quality teaching, and plans some form of visible benefits for academics and others who engage.


2.4.3 Efficiency and Economies of Scale

Missed business opportunities and unsuitable adaptation may occur due to lack of knowledge transfer. The development of DL provision should address business development, efficiency and effectiveness in systems. The Beyond Distance and Staff Development Centre approaches should provide appropriate and constant knowledge transfer. We need to review models of practice frequently.


2.4.4 Complexity and Delay in Decision-Making and Governance

Appropriate use of committee structures and working groups without adding complexity.


Professor Gilly Salmon 8th July 2005


Appendix 1: Consultation pathways


This paper has been in consultation since November 2004 through formal and informal processes.   Many different individuals and groups are highly supportive and gave detailed feedback. The main adjustments based on extensive discussions were: the justification and need for strategic aim 1 (100% access for DLs), concerns of students that face to face elements of teaching may be reduced or inappropriately substituted for campus based students and the demands on staff for the development of e-learning understanding and support.  All of these have been addressed in the appropriate location in this paper. There were several requests for detailed support to understand how pedagogies and technologies can be applied to specific disciplines and categories of learners.  Strategic aims 4 to 9 address these requests, and Prof Salmon will also bring forward a series of working papers in support.


DL & e-learning Sub Committees 22.2.05. & 10.5.05

Board of the Faculty of Education and Continuing Studies 23.2.05

Board of Faculty of Social Sciences 2.3.05

Board of Faculty of Law/ Department of Law 2.3.05 & Faculty Learning & Teaching Committee 4.5.05

Board of Faculty of Medicine & Biological Sciences 18.5.05 & Faculty Learning and Teaching Committee - Faculty of Medicine &  Biological Sciences  31.3.05

University’s Learning & Teaching Committee  meetings, 3.11.04,  3.3.05, 18.5.05

Board of Faculty of Science 9.3.05  Faculty Learning & Teaching Board 18.3.05

Board of Faculty of Arts 9.3.05 & further feedback paper received 18.5.05

Consultation with Dr M Higgins of ULMC 20.4.05

Consultations with VP Education Theresa Pollard and through her to student faculty reps, on 3 separate occasions. Thanks to Social Science Faculty Rep Parras Majithia for his written comments. 

Appendix 2:  Underlying Principles & Strategies


1. UoL Strategic Plan 2003-7, Strategic Vision point 1, p3:

The University will ensure that for all programmes of study both campus based and distance learning:


  1. The curricula, teaching, learning and assessment methods take account of the learning needs of a diverse student body.
  2. Provide a supportive environment for students and foster their engagement with the learning process.
  3. The value that it places on teaching is recognized throughout the institution and that staff development and promotion policies are consistent with the learning and teaching strategy.


2. UoL Learning & Teaching Strategy. www.le.ac.uk/teaching/strategy.html

The L & T Strategy currently includes guidelines for IT and information handling skills. These will need to be extended to include e-learning skills. 


UoL L & T principles:

Campus & distance students: needs of diverse study body, campus & distance students: supportive environment and foster engagement with learning, recognition of value of teaching including staff development and promotion, business development, equivalence.


3. HEFCE E-learning Strategy Harnessing Technology: HEFCE  published 9th March 2005.


Emphasizes the need for HEIs to make independent progress within a supportive national framework, key change is institutional focus, scalability, innovation, embedding ICT as an element in all learning, online skills, all staff ICT trained, possibly accredited qualifications in future, key link with HE Academy, subject centres and CETLs.


Strands in HEFCE e-learning strategy

Strand 1: pedagogy, curriculum design & development

Strand 2: learning resources & networked learning

Strand 3: student support, progression & collaboration

Strand 4: strategic management, human resources & capacity development

Strand 5: quality

Strand 6: research & evaluation

Strand 7: infrastructure & standards


4. DFES http://www.dfes.gov.uk/publications/e-strategy/ published 15th March 2005

Unified strategy covering all sectors but emphasizing schools & FE, sustainability & reusability change processes, transitions across education, infrastructure to pedagogy, mainstreaming of e-learning, needs of economy & employers. Technology has been used in education for many years. It has not yet transformed teaching and learning, but it has made a major impact in many schools, colleges and universities. It has also made information more accessible and administration more efficient.  We can achieve more Higher Education by ensuring that research in e-learning and the pedagogy of subject teaching is given full recognition, incorporating the use of online learning into new staff courses and other staff development programmes to encourage the wider use of ICT to promote individual learning.


5. QAA http://www.qaa.ac.uk/academicinfrastructure/codeOfPractice/fullintro.asp

E-learning strategy embraces the key principles including a clear definition of responsibilities, consistent application of policies and practices that are underpinned by principles of fairness and equality of opportunity.  The availability of clear and accessible information, the competence of staff, monitoring and review of policy, procedures and practices. UoL Code of Practice on DL (2004/5), CoP on Collaborative Provision 2004/05 and CoP on Practice on Programme Approval are all accommodated.  We need to ensure that systems provision and continuity are assured.









































Appendix 3: Brochure Text



You will need to think about where and when you are going to study, and how regular study time will fit into your life. You need to prepare a place or places that will provide you with the most comfortable and convenient environment to study. This may be at home, at your place of work or in a study centre.

You will need to make sure that you effectively have regular access to the Internet as this will help you to benefit from of the resource and aspects of life at the University of Leicester. The University’s online environment will then be available to you, at any time, from anywhere to suit your busy lifestyle.

Online you will be able to contact your lecturers and tutors and your fellow students and you will be able to access:

·         departmental web sites, resources and informational services

·          resources from the e-library

·         information about future course choice

·         the Student Union services

·         study support and welfare services

Your regular connection to the Internet can be by dial up or broadband access from your home, workplace or through a learning centre or Internet cafe. If you are travelling on business or privately, you will be able to connect with Leicester Online from anywhere with internet access and through any networked computer, simply by knowing your user name and password, which will be provided for you at the start of your programme. We suggest you aim to log on at least once a week during your studies to benefit the most.

Some programmes will require more frequent access, and a few may suggest that you will benefit from using broadband, so please check your course brochure if you have any concerns. Please e-mail **** if you have any questions.






Appendix 4 Business Plan and Budget: For Initial Implementation of the E-learning Strategy

HEFCE has allocated one-off funding to all HEIs in the UK. The money is the residual of the failed UK E-university budget. UoL has been allocated £301K.  Use has to be reported to HEFCE but is fairly unrestricted.


We anticipated this funding when we developed the UoL e-learning strategy, giving us a one-off chance to give implementation a boost.


HEFCE’s e-learning strategy was published on 9th March and underpins UoL’s e-learning strategy


Our intention is to deploy this one-off funding to enable effective implementation of the e-learning strategy, especially from perspective of:



Evaluation of the use of the funds will be based on the UoL e-learning strategy


We are currently working on sustainability and embeddedness of resources for the future.


The University’s E-learning & Distance Learning Sub-committees supported the use of this budget during their meetings on 10th May, with minor adjustments, which are reflected here. The budget was supported by the University’s Learning & Teaching Committee on 18th May, and by VCAC on 23rd May.






Role, Projects & Benefits

UoL Strategic  aim

HEFCE strand

Year 1

Year 2










2 year post

Evaluate, review, report on e-learning strategy implementation, support bidding for funds, write up, dissemination, publication of e-learning projects, environment scanning. Aim to enable Beyond Distance Research Alliance becomes self financing within 2 yrs.

C 9-10 D 12-3





E-learning Lecturer

continuity of funding provided by university

after 2 years

Work with departments to develop effective e learning by transferring models & understandings, research and publish in area of e-learning and support others to do so, facilitate Carpe Diem processes

A1-3 B 4-8 C 9-10 D 12-3 E 14-5





Technician/ demonstrator

2 year post

Zoo keeper, demonstrator, search for new technologies, support on Blackboard & Breeze developments

A1-3 B 4-8 C 9-10 D 12-3 E 14-5








Subtotal staffing











Appreciation  & celebration

2 parts: study of opportunities for non-pay rewards, celebration, publicity, implementation from 2006

B 4-8 C 9-10 E 14-5





Online associates

Training and development in online teaching & facilitating to all UoL and partner associate lecturers/consultants, i.e. directly supporting Departments in successful and effective online delivery

A1-3 B 4-8





Staging Conferences

2 conferences in 2005, July 6th conference is internal delegates (apart from external speakers) only to launch e-learning strategy, 2 in 2006, costs are associated with speakers, technology & catering.

B 4-8 C 9-10 D 12-3 E 14-5






Beyond Distance Research Alliance is attracting much interest and the potential is strong to find good partners for research bids. Occasional seminars enable community to meet, find shared interests and potential

C 9-10





Technology innovation

The need to focus on the use the VLEs could squash opportunities for the use of other low cost learning technologies. Projects in this field will include digital broadcasts, mobile technologies & online assessment

A1-3 B 4-8 C 9-10 E 14-5






EDSC wish to offer counselling online to DLs and campus based students.  There’s a need to establish best practice from elsewhere and test viability.

A1-3 E 14-5





Leicester Online

Using Blackboard as a framework, offer the experience of studying at UoL to students including library & support services. Other agencies e.g. SU are interested in being involved. It will link with other DL and IT developments in the University. This project will work out a low cost, viable & effective way of enabling everyone to work together and present the support services online

A1-3 E 14-5








Subtotal  projects




Media Zoo








The media zoo will provide an effective environment for staff to experiment with new technologies for themselves and to evaluate packages & processes that may be relevant to their teaching or research & to explore applications from other departments in UoL that they may wish to transfer.

B 4-8 C 9-10 D 12-13 E 14-5






To support demonstrations and collaboration

B 4-8 C 9-10 D 12-13 E 14-5








Total Media Zoo




Direct time creation







Support to individual academics working on e-learning developments

This funding will enable short term ‘buy out’ or additional support to academic or academic related staff to create time to work on e-learning developments in their department, or to run a specialised e-learning training event for a small group of staff. Criteria will be developed to support development against business objectives, especially the development of distance learning.

A1-3 B 4-8 E 14-5





Contingency & opportunities

For so far unanticipated eventualities e.g. purchase of specialist software, essential travel for an individual to an e-learning event etc.









Total each year











References & Sources:


HEFCE e-learning strategy consultation, May 2004, which incorporated comments to DfES relevant to HE.

Online learning in Commonwealth Universities, 2004 Observatory survey, the

Observatory on borderless higher education, international strategic information service October 2004

When World Collide: changing cultures in 21st Century education, HEFCE/JISC info net June 2004


http://www.jisc.ac.uk/interview with Sir Howard Newby Winter 2005.

Bacsich, P. & Ash, C. Costing the Lifecycle of Networked Learning: Documenting the Costs from Conception to Evaluation, ALT-J 8, no. 1 (2000), 92-102.

Brindley, J.E., Walti, C & Zawackie-Richter, O. 2004 Learner Support in Open, Distance and Online Learning Environments, BIS Oldenburg.

Hamel, G and Valikangas, L 2003 The Quest for Resilience Harvard Business Review September pp 52-63

Rumble, G., 1997, The Costs and Economics of Open and Distance Learning, London: Kogan Page.

Slater, J 2005 Hepi Report Summary 16: Spent force or revolution in progress? ELearning after the eUniversity



Survey by Sally Gatward in CLMS of Internet Access, Jan 05.

Survey and Report on Internet Use in the Museum Studies Distance Learning Programme March 2005