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Enriching Teaching and Learning *

01 Oct 2007

Professor Colin Stirling appointed Associate Vice-President for eLearning

The recent appointment of Professor Colin Stirling as Associate Vice-President for eLearning signals the University's renewed commitment to the Manchester 2015 goal of "enriching face-to-face teaching and learning through the provision of highly interactive on-line learning environments" and to invest heavily in technology-enhanced education.

One important element of this is to ensure the right infrastructure is in place, which is why the University is upgrading its present virtual learning environment (VLE), from WebCT Campus Edition, to the next generation product, the Blackboard Learning System (Vista edition).

Blackboard is being implemented in three phases. In the first phase, 16 pilot projects from across all four Faculties will be deployed in Blackboard for the start of the new semester.

A wider group of exemplar projects will then be identified for the second phase of development designed to go live to students at the start of the second semester (February 2008). Faculties have been busy identifying suitable exemplars, while the Blackboard team have been auditing existing WebCT Campus Edition courses to ensure all those that need to be migrated can be scheduled to move into the new VLE at an appropriate time in semester 2.

Phase three will see Blackboard go live to all staff in February 2008 and the migration plan for WebCT Campus Edition courses will be completed by the end of the 2007/08 academic year. A comprehensive training and support programme will be put in place to ensure that individual staff have the skills needed to take advantage of this new environment. The Campus Edition of WebCT will continue to be supported until the end of the 2007-08 academic year and is expected to close in September 2008.

Feedback from pilot users of the new VLE has been very positive. Roger Pearson, Learning and Assessment Developer and eTutor for the Manchester Leadership Programme said, "the new VLE has many new, and more enhanced features than WebCT. For administration and teaching there are far better student group management and assessment tools. A richer educational experience can be created whereby students are able contribute to their own learning through, for example, peer review and collaborative blogs, or reflect on their own learning with a personal journal".

Regular updates on progress with the implementation will available as it progresses through the three phases.