Learning Materials

Scran Learning Materials
Case Study

1. Author details

Name: Matt Sillars
Job title: Senior Lecturer, Art Design and Media
Institution: Inverness College, University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institution

About the author:
I have been teaching in Further Education for 14 years in wide range of subjects from Photography to Social Science. I have taught on an equally wide range of programmes from foundation course National Certificate Modules to 2nd Year Modules in Degree Programmes of the UHIMI. I have also taught for voluntary agencies such the W.E.A and the statutory sector as a Community Education tutor. I have created traditional paper-based learning materials for Open Learning Units and have designed personal web sites. This is my first foray into e-learning. My current interests lie in Visual Sociology and the impact of the Still Image on Culture and National Identity.

2. The materials

The materials take the form of a 2nd Level Module for the UHIMI Degree course in Cultural Studies (Highlands and Islands) in Visual Sociology. They use WebCT as a virtual learning environment.

They comprise the main teaching materials, or links to them, for the 2nd Level Unit “Images of Scotland: An Introduction to Visual Sociology.” They contain an Image Database drawn from Scran, seminar topics, lecture notes and assignments. The class is also supported by a one hour Video Conference Tutorial each week which will utilise the seminar material. The material is designed for students with some experience of mainstream Sociology and Political Science.

Why did you want to create these materials?

I wanted to deliver a course in Visual Sociology as I feel that the still image in the form of the snapshot and the social history image is particularly under-represented in the field, where the focus is television, film and advertising.

How will your materials benefit learners?

The materials allow me to take advantage of the many web sites which provide access to important images and text based sources that normally would be outside the scope of a classroom based course. I am also able to interact with the material and reproduce information quickly and efficiently. Therefore learners can have up to date and relevant material presented to them in a form that allows high levels of access and information in a regulated and controlled manner.

How will they improve on previous methods of teaching this topic?

Most materials in this type of course are paper based an internet activity can be disruptive to classroom time. Classes are also really only able to access information in a form very heavily mediated by the Tutor. Accessing the WWW as a means to provide examples and access to other ways of thinking and examining a topic is healthy and allows students to be in more control if their own learning. However, as the Web is not without deceit the VLE allows me to have a modicum of control and the tutorials by VC allow me to mediate against any mis-information that may be out there.

3. Creating the materials

Essentially I worked very traditionally. I mapped out the course structure and then found the texts, sites, sources, etc that I needed to write the material. I knew the point of view I wished to argue and I knew very quickly how I wished to get students from A to B. However, as I explored the material I did change aspects of the course to allow for areas I had not fully realised in the planning stages.

Design Tools:
I worked on an iMac with Word 98 as the word processing software and Claris Home Page to create HTML files.

I used Netscape Navigator to browse the web and to check the HTML files. I also used Internet Explorer to check for browser compatibility.

The VLE was supplied by the UHIMI and is WebCT. This has upload facilities built in so no separate FTE programme was required.

That additional support did you need in creating the materials?
I was inducted into WebCT by the UHIMI WebCT co-ordinator.

What are the main skills required in creating materials like this?
Apart from patience and a lot of time available, I needed to be able to understand basic HTML code, such as Bold, Fonts etc. I also need to familiar with moving files around computers. Luckily I had already studied a course at Stirling University using WebCT. This helped familiarise me with the concept and experience it from a users perspective.

Describe any difficulties you experienced and how you went about addressing them.
I simply found time to be problematic. Everything seems to take much longer than expected. I also found that web based material such as Scran and the UHIMI home page is constantly changing and all lecture notes dealing with access to sites had to become very general rather than specific.

What would you do differently next time?
Not a great deal. I feel that the course gradually came together over the allotted time and that as a result of reasonable planning I was never in a position where I felt I had over committed myself or was barking up the wrong tree.

What hints and tips would you offer to a colleague planning to create a similar resource?
Good paper-based planning is the key. Make paper copies of everything on screen (as well as security copies of all electronic material of course). Paper copies allow you to scribble on them and to add margin notes etc. which help in the intellectual process of building a coherent course.

Have it proof read, I have not spent enough time evaluating grammar or cohesion.

Recommendations – please note any reading, software, websites, online courses etc that were useful to you.
The VLE (WebCT) has an excellent on-line tutorial section with downloads for templates etc.

There are many documents available on the Web giving information on usability of VLEs and how to allow access to people with disability.

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