Return to current & ongoing projects

snow020400.jpgWe have completed work on our Building Capacity project for JISC. Please see the final report and the following links for information:

[Photograph taken by Paul Bacsich from the Senior Common Room during the pilot showcase event, used by permission.]

Aims of the project

The aims of the project, as extracted from our bid, are detailed below.


There is an institutional need at Aberystwyth University for a more integrated way to share good practice in technology-enhanced learning from the HE sector with AU staff, and for AU staff to share good practice with each other. We already promote relevant JISC and HEA materials to staff and senior management in a number of ways, but would like to embed a formal dissemination channel to ensure that useful documents reach the people who need them the most in a timely fashion in order to bring excellence into the University.

Therefore, the aim of this project is to scope, review and promote relevant resources and project outputs from JISC and the HEA for supporting good practice in technology-enhanced learning, creating a virtual (online) information commons and exploring proof-of-concept for future development of a physical (face-to-face) information commons. Please note that the Building Capacity Programme funding will not be used for the actual development of the physical information commons, but only the research necessary to plan it appropriately. The online and face-to-face activities will be designed to complement each other and extend the dissemination of good practice as widely as possible.

Virtual Information Commons

We want to expand our Nexus technology-enhanced website ( into a virtual information commons. Nexus is the cornerstone of our Gwella outputs, collecting case studies, good practice guides. It already includes a range of JISC materials, such as: JISC InfoNet, the HEA EvidenceNet, our JISC Heat4Wales project, JISC Digital Media resources, JISC e-Portfolios event, the JISC Welsh Repositories Network (an AU-based project), conference report from A Word In Your Ear, report from the HEA Annual Conference, JISC Concept Linkage project, materials from the Media-enhanced Learning SIG (MELSIG), JISC Innovative Practice with E-learning, JISC Web 2.0 and Policy, JISC Exploring the Tangible Benefits of e-Learning, JISC E-learning Pedagogy Programme. We have also bookmarking a total of 49 JISC publications and web pages in our Delicious account Within this project, we aim to further highlight such materials by creating a special section of the website for JISC publications, identifying and classifying the resources that are most relevant to the institution, and promoting them in an organised fashion on the Nexus website and through Delicious. We also want to cross-link the most relevant pages from Nexus into EvidenceNet, in order to share the materials on Nexus with the sector.

Physical Information Commons

Currently we share relevant materials from JISC and the HEA with senior management as well as academic and support staff (for example, we requested several copies of Exploring Tangible Benefits of E-learning to give to senior management), but there is no formalised channel for such sharing, and few opportunities for bringing together interested staff for face-to-face idea exchange. The actual development of the physical information commons is outside the scope of this project, but we aim to test proof-of-concept by making small adjustments to an existing space in order to bring JISC and other materials to the attention of the widest possible range of staff. We have identified a suitable under-used space, known as the Senior Common Room but primarily used by university staff as a coffee room. The room will be used as a showcase for good practice in technology-enhanced learning by the addition of a display rack for JISC and other relevant publications, a plasma screen where changing displays of good practice can be shown, and a display board for posters, etc. During a regular time slot (e.g. one afternoon a week), a member of the E-learning Team will be on site to provide consultations to staff on a drop-in basis. A good practice dissemination event will be held in the space. The dissemination event will include a visiting speaker from a JISC project (subject to availability, the ideal speaker would Becka Currant from Bradford, as we are currently working on a Learner Experience study as part of our Gwella project). The last portion of the event will consist of a focus group, in order to collect the responses of staff attending the event to see whether this type of space should be developed as an information commons.

The model for the physical information commons is an outgrowth of our Gwella launch event, at which we featured talks by academics sharing good practice, technological kit for people to try out, and a table with publications for attendees to take away (TechDIS essentials, Higher Ed in a Web 2.0 world, Managing Curriculum change, Effective practice in a digital age, Learning Literacies in a Digital Age, Scoping a Vision for Formative e-Assessment, Review of Advanced e-Assessment Techniques, Tangible Benefits of e-Learning: Does investment yield interest?). We also had on display large copies of the postcards from the Responding to Learners Pack.

Relevance to Strategy Documents

The project is directly relevant to AU’s Gwella projects as noted above, as well as AU’s Learning and Teaching Strategy and HEFCW’s Enhancing Learning and Teaching through Technology strategy.


The focus of our Gwella projects has been to grow and share good practice through in-person as well as online channels including the Nexus website. We aim for an evidence-based approach to maximise the reach of dissemination and act as catalysts for development and collaboration. To build on our Gwella projects, we will highlight timely information from the sector on Nexus and on the plasma screen in the physical space. This project will enable us to increase dissemination and awareness of JISC and HEA activities, making it easy for AU staff and others to access the expertise and knowledge gained from across the UK.

AU’s Learning and Teaching Strategy

The work stream initiatives identified in this document have clear relationships to areas of priority identified in AU’s Learning and Teaching Strategy. The most relevant items from that strategy are listed below:

  • 1.1 Ensure that teaching and programme development are informed by current research and scholarship. 
  • 1.4 Develop more effective means of identifying and sharing good practice.
  • 2.3 Promote and facilitate the appropriate use of information and communications technology (ICT) as a means of improving access to learning and enhancing the quality and effectiveness of the learning and teaching experience. 
  • 3.4 Improve dissemination of information on good practice in learning and teaching.
  • 3.7 Promote links with the HE Academy and work with colleagues in Wales to promote learning enhancement across the sector.

HEFCW Enhancing Learning and Teaching through Technology

The project directly targets the core sections of the HEFCW Enhancing Learning and Teaching through Technology strategy under Enhancement of Learning, Teaching and Assessment, and of Core Processes, in particular:

  • 7.2 Emphasising learning rather than technology – We will provide and link to channels for sharing good practice including JISC Projects and Services’ artefacts, outputs and HEA activities.
  • 7.3 Mainstreaming the role of technology in enhancing learning, teaching and assessment – work on online support will explore a robust methodology for monitoring alerting services (such as JISC reports, event announcements etc) and embedding awareness-raising into routine operations.
  • 7.4 Staff development – The E-learning Team provides its training through the staff development office, so the event will be publicised via normal staff development channels as well as the Nexus website and other means. To promote outputs from JISC and HEA project, events organised by the Staff Development office such as the Action Learning Research Conferences and PGCTHE peer support group can take place in the space, thus exposing the outputs to a wider audience. 
  • 7.5 Normalising the role of technology within other core processes – Through our work streams to scope online support methodologies and in-person support, academics involved with teaching and research will help the project explore the most effective and efficient ways to make it easy to include innovations into core processes.  
    The project will also support several other items in the Strategy:
  • 7.6 Enhancing the student learning experience – This project directly supports the short-term Indicator of Success by raising the profile of research and technological developments that can enhance the student experience. 
  • 7.10 Increased flexibility and accessibility – Our staff training sessions already address the issue of mainstreaming accessibility as part of general good practice. This will be further enhanced by establishing the best routes (online and/or in person) for easy access to materials such as JISC TechDIS publications. 
  • 7.11 Collaboration – One key aim of the project is to consider the optimum environments conducive to collaboration and sharing of ideas among individuals within and across departments. The virtual and physical spaces we explore will take a university-wide approach, not belonging to any particular Faculty or Department, and thus will bring together practitioners from a range of disciplines.

The work streams we have identified will allow the project to explore virtual and physical environments, to maximise the dissemination, impact and adoption of best practice from JISC, the HEA and other external catalysts for change. The project will report to the ALTO Steering Group chaired by Martin Jones, the PVC for Learning and Teaching. This group is a user forum for the exchange of information and experience between academic, administrative and IS staff on the use of learning technologies in learning and teaching.

Created by Mary Jacob on 24/06/2010
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