• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!


Wales at Swansea technology-supported learning environments (vr-links) case study

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 4 months ago


University of Wales Swansea - Collaborative teaching and video-conferencing


 Swansea V-C links CS Cover Sheet.doc



Author: David Gill, Department of Classics, Ancient History and Egyptology



1. Why did you use this e-learning approach?


Video-conferencing allowed students to benefit from the range of expertise within classics departments in Wales. Smaller institutions could draw on the broad range of academic skills from across three institutions. It allowed the development of parallel MA schemes which could be taught collaboratively across three institutions.



2. What was the context in which you used this e-learning approach?


Video-conferencing is used to support and deliver modules for Swansea University’s MA in Ancient History and Classical Culture, University of Wales Lampeter’s MA in Ancient History, and Cardiff University’s MA in Ancient History. The initial scheme (from c. 1994) was to have an intercollegiate University of Wales MA in Ancient History under auspices of the University of Wales Institute of Classics and Ancient History (UWICAH). However with the growth of institutional modular schemes the three institutions operate parallel schemes with a pool of modules. The initial design was to have blocks of video-conferencing (2 hour sessions) with the lecturer in one institution and students in the other three; twice a term there would be live sessions when a series of live seminars would be held in one of the three institutions. However pressure on timetables has meant that the live element has been dropped and the modules are delivered in total by video-conferencing.


Some modules are taught jointly by staff in the three institutions. The Greek and Latin epigraphy module covers 5th (Swansea) and 4th (Cardiff) century BCE material from Athens, Latin epigraphy from the western provinces (Cardiff, Swansea) and Greek epigraphy from the Roman east (Lampeter). Other modules are taught by a member of staff from one institution but are taken by students in other institurions. The further advantage is that the students from the three institutions can form a useful seminar group.



3. What technologies and/or e-tools were available to you?

The video-conferencing is provided by the Welsh Video Network (WVN) (http://www.wvn.ac.uk/). Swansea has several rooms (most recently in the School of Humanities). These allow for use of laptops, white boards etc which can be transmitted to other sites.


More experienced users engage with the full range of facilities on offer; others just use it as an interactive seminar.



4. What was the design?

The video-conferencing for the MA in Ancient History and Classical Culture is co-ordinated by David Gill in Swansea who acts as the chair of learning and teaching for UWICAH. Lampeter and Cardiff have named representatives.


The MA seminars are booked for 2 hours and students in any of the three locations are asked to prepare material as for any other class.


A video-conferenced module is supported by a Blackboard site where teaching materials can be placed.


Modules were chosen to be delivered across the network for their appeal to the schemes in the other institutiions. It was decided that each institution should be responsible for research methodologies due to differences in library holdings, electronic resources etc.


The design of modules is monitored by the School learning and teaching committee and confirmed by the Faculty. The Swansea University form for new modules asks for information about the e-learning component(s).



5. How did you implement and embed this e-learning approach?

Video-conferencing is an integral part of the Swansea MA in Ancient History and Classical Culture. Some students choose not to take modules in this format but others have enjoyed the variety.


Modules were selected where staff members felt comfortable with the technology.


There was training provided to staff and students by members of the WVN team. More experienced staff tend to come along to initial seminars to ensure that a new member of staff understands the equipment.


MA modules are more seminar-based so that there is not an emphasis on a staff member delivering a lecture. There type of class is more informal with a high degree of student participation.


The dynamic of the class is changed as staff are (usually) seated rather than standing at a lectern.


Modules are assessed in the normal way (by double blind marking). This means that there is usually a degree of externality at the initial marking level (perhaps one lecturer in Lampeter and one in Swansea) as well as with the external (institutional) external examiner.


There is feedback from students at the end of each year as part of the module and scheme review. This draws attention to any problems with the use of the WVN.


6. What tangible benefits did this e-learning approach produce?


Students enrolled in all three institutions (Cardiff, Lampeter and Swansea) were able to pursue modules which could draw on external resources. As the MA is designed as preparation for a research degree this is felt to be a key strength. The pool of lecturers in three institutions allows the syllabus to be enriched in a way that each institution acting on its own internal strengths could not. The collaborative provision also allows students to be introduced to leading scholars in the field.


There is the benefit of teaching as part of a wider team and sometimes colleagues from other instutitons attend the seminar. I have found this beneficial for the Greek epigraphy module where we have been discussing complex texts and two academic can emphasise different aspects. Students seem to have enjoyed the dialogue aspect of the module especially when they see staff members explaining difficult issues, for example possible reconstructions of damaged texts. They can also observe how academics handle scholarly disagreement in a gracious and friendly manner. (The nature of the videonetwork encourages politeness.)


There are clear cost-saving benefits. An institution might not be able to employ four epigraphists to contribute to a single module - but across three institutions there can be experts in the field of (say, taking areas from the current grouping) 5th century Attic, late classical Greek, Roman provincial Latin, and Greek from the eastern provinces.

It encourages staff to think about their dress sense.


The statistical analysis (for up to 2005/6, but not yet including 2006/7) suggests that students enrolled on modules delivered by video-conferencing are not disadvantaged.


7. Did implementation of this e-learning approach have any disadvantages or drawbacks?



There is an initial period of adjustment to using the video-conferencing network (though in Swansea there is an excellent group of support technicians). There is also a training issue for staff who perhaps come in for one or two classes as part of a series. (Student feedback highlighted this as an issue.) There needs to be easy access to an on-site support technician who can solve problems swiftly. (This has not been an issue in Swansea but can be a problem at other locations.)


Small groups of students can feel isolated from the member of staff if they are in another institution. There needed to be local academic support. DG is the nominated module co-ordinator for modules taught by either Cardiff or Lampeter.


The increased use of the network for meetings has meant that it is sometimes difficult to book a regular slot (e.g. Thursday, 1-3 pm for eleven weeks) for a module. Booking for an academic year needs to take place by early May to ensure rooms. Swansea now has a wide range of studios but this is not the case for Cardiff or Lampeter. Some institutions allow certain subject areas to have priority over a pre-booked room which can cause problems for courses.


There is a need to balance teaching between institutions. Thus each of the three departments tries to offer at least one module for the pool. Greek and Latin epigraphy is taught by staff in each of the three institutions.


The collaborative MA helped to develop the training element for PhD schemes in Ancient History, Classical Civilisation and Classical Archaeology. It feeds into departmental research groups (e.g. The Centre for Egyptology and Mediterranean Archaeology; KYKNOS: the research centre for ancient narrative literature; UWICAH University of Wales Institute of Classics and Ancient History).


Video-confencing is now an integral part of the School of Humanities which opened its own dedicated video-conferencing facility in 2006/7 to meet the growing demand for use.


The Swansea E-Learning Strategy states:


"When students were surveyed on their attitudes towards and perceptions of e-learning within the University three key themes emerge.


* Students see e-learning as an important part of their studies.

* They do not see e-learning as a replacement for traditional lectures.

* They feel that the provision of e-learning within the University should be extended and enhanced."


The delivery of lectures by video-conferencing enhances rather than replaces traditional lectures. It maintains a strong contact with members of staff.


9. Summary and Reflection


The video-conferencing delivery of modules has greatly enhanced the provision of teh taught MA in Ancient History and Classical Culture. We would like to explore the possibility of linking with other institutions who have expertise in related areas to develop the possiblity of an enhanced Egyptology taught MA (which exists but does not at present use videoconferencing except for the module in Greco-Roman Egypt which is available for Ancient Historians).


There is potential for linking up with scholars from across or outside the UK to offer invited seminars for postgraduate students. It is also prompting us to think about 'invited' lectures for undergraduate classes where there are facilities in the lecture rooms.


The technology is cost effective and has a low carbon footprint in that it cuts down travelling times if students were meeting up for a 'live' class. (Lampeter is just over 1 hour away from Swansea by car; Cardiff is about 1 hour away by motorway / train).


Videoconferencing optimises staff time for all three institutions. It also allows the development of a large group of students.


Videoconferencing also encourages collaborative working which is beneficial for research-led communities.


The School of Humantiies now has a dedicated video-conferencing facility which will improve the student experience.


Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.