4. Communication

Purpose: Demonstrate knowledge and skills in communication either through working with others.

4 a) Interactive Tool

Requirement:  Working with others
Description / Evidence

What I did

The launch of PORT in January 2015 coincided with the opening of discussion with the Bloomsbury Colleges BLE group and the hiring of a new learning technologist to support staff at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) to develop content for PORT. At the same time I began talking individually and in small groups with institute staff to discuss possible options for collaboration. These internal and external collaborations and discussions have already begun to produce fruit, as can be demonstrated through our decision to purchase a new tool to develop interactive content on PORT.

The intention is to provide PORT resources to users for free and without the need for registration. This meant that the inbuilt quiz system in Moodle would not work. In addition, the decision was made in SAS to develop more interactive and exciting content, moving further away from ‘guidebook’ style content that had primarily been created for the legacy courses.

Via our new collaboration with the BLE Network I was made aware of an event that they were hosting promoting the Xerte learning tool. Through further discussion with the new IALS learning technologist, we decided to try Xerte for PORT. Although this is not a service ULCC usually supplies they agreed to test the service with us by setting up a limited-support version on a server. However, the annual costs for this proved expensive and would have doubled our annual cost for PORT.

A meeting was then held at IALS. IALS made it clear that they were very much in support of Xerte and the IALS learning technologist volunteered to lead in writing up a business case. Over the next week we developed the business case for Xerte.

Evidence: BusinessCase for Xerte

Meanwhile, in discussion with my line manager at SAS I decided to assess not only Xerte but also alternative interactive learning tools by developing a simple tutorial on ‘writing blog posts’ on each service. I also discussed the proposals on an individual basis with various stakeholders within the School of Advanced Study to gauge interest and to assess likely take-up of an interactive tool by staff members. These informal discussions and testing of alternate services lead me to believe that even a simple to use tool might not be well used by staff as there would still be a learning curve. Time-limitation would also be a factor.

Evidence: Assessment document of interactive tools

Before the final decision was made I discussed my conclusions with my line manager and separately with the IALS learning technologist to ensure that we could find agreement with the proposal. This done we went ahead and purchased 2 licences for Articulate Storyline.

Evidence: Video demonstrating the sample ‘Writing Blog Posts’ tutorials I created as tests. This video shows Xerte and Articulate Storyline 2 (there is no sound)

Xerte vs storyline.mp4

Reflection  The benefits of Xerte would have been a relatively simple to use tool on a server which any member of SAS could use at any time without limitation. However, discussions with stakeholders and colleagues and my own user-testing proved that alternative tools could provide nicer looking content with less difficulty and the cost for the server was too high (and on an annual ongoing basis). Although discussions with IALS had indicated that they were particularly keen to have access to Xerte I had to make the decision not to pursue this further within SAS as I believed that it did not prove to be good value for money and uptake might have been low amongst SAS staff (thus the risk of this purchase was also too high).Through consultation, discussion, and my own testing of alternative software I came to the conclusion that the best option would be to go with software that myself and the IALS learning technologist was happy to use and software that would best allow us to create innovative tutorials. To satisfy the need for SAS staff to be empowered to create their own content I created a form which would guide staff members through the creation of an interactive tutorial. In some cases the staff member would then be able to create that content on the dedicated laptop. In other cases, the actual creation of the tutorial would then fall to the PORT Manager (currently myself).  This decision could not have been made if I had not worked with others and listened to the various advice that was offered.

I chose a mixture of face-to-face meetings (both formal and informal) and email communication as the primary means to work through this issue. Both were necessary to make progress and to ensure that stakeholders could help me with their advice, whilst also remaining informed of developments. The decision lay with me as PORT Manager, although the final say on the decision would lie higher up in the SAS administration.  Through these communication means I was able to make an informed decision that would be of maximum benefit and acceptability for my colleagues, for students using the service, and for the Central SAS administration.

Core Areas