The online studio: using Technology Enhanced Learning to support independent learning

Dr Jeanne-Louise Moys, School of Arts and Communication Design
j.l.moys@reading.ac.uk
Year of activity: 2014–15

Overview

Typoresources-1-3The project explored what kinds of online resources BA Graphic Communication students engage with and need and, through an iterative design process (combining prototyping and user testing), developed a new online resource interface to support learning.  As a result, staff and students within the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication were able to gain a better understanding of students’ preferences and needs, with regards online resources.

Objectives

  • Identify what kind of resources students prefer and what kind of interaction they should support.
  • Develop a prototype that responds to these needs.
  • Test the prototype and refine it further.

Context

Typography students engage in a great deal of independent learning. This includes a significant amount of online research that students conduct in relation to their studies. The Department wanted to find ways to support this and extend it through Technology Enhanced Learning.

Implementation

First, tutors and students took part in collaborative brainstorming workshops, in which the main issues which the project sought to address were discussed. These workshops fed into the creation of a short questionnaire, which the student project leaders used to elicit feedback from their peers about their preferences and common methods of working and communication both among themselves and with staff. The findings of the questionnaire, which was completed by 25 students, reinforced the need for a new online resource interface and allowed the creation of a focused design brief to guide the development of the prototype.

As a result of the questionnaire feedback, the prototype prioritised ease of navigation, as respondents had indicated that they wanted the resource to allow them to browse well-structured categories, and also to make searches for specific resources.

Following the development of the prototype, a series of semi-structured interviews with staff and students was conducted, to gain feedback on the resource, with this feedback being used to refine the prototype.  For example, feedback indicated that students wanted to be able to search for resources thematically rather than necessarily be limited to a structure that reflected the structure of particular modules taught within the Department.

Impact

The project has enabled staff within the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication to improve their understanding of students’ preferences and needs and the ways in which they engage with online learning resources. This forms a useful foundation that can inform the ways in which we continue to support teaching and learning. The prototype that has been developed is an excellent starting point, and has received positive feedback from both students and staff.

Reflections

Given the positive feedback of students and staff, there is a strong desire within the Department to continue to explore ways of implementing the resource to benefit students for the long term. Two Study Abroad students continued to work on developing and testing materials for the proposed resource over the summer. The project is on-going, although resourcing it sufficiently continues to be a challenge.

One of the main difficulties faced during the project was timing. As a result, the opportunity to use the full budget was missed, and a number of the resources that were originally envisaged could not be utilised within the time available.

The success of the project is fully attributable to the efforts of the three students who worked on it. As the project was student-led, this allowed the project to respond directly to the challenges that students face. The student team benefited from their involvement in the project as they gained experience of conducting end-user research, and using this research to iteratively design and develop a prototype, as well as developing skills such as the ability to work effectively within a team, and written and verbal communication within a number of different contexts.

Links

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