Plymouth is implementing a new digital learning environment to become a ‘university without limits’ #FutureofEducation – FE News
Plymouth University selects CoSector – University of London for its digital learning environment
Plymouth University has over 20,000 students and over 2,900 staff. A further 13,000 off-campus students are enrolled in Plymouth University degrees.
Founded in 1862 as the School of Navigation, Plymouth University is today the 15and largest university. It is the first and only post-1992 university to launch its own medical and dental school.
Five years ago, the University began to review its existing learning environments. The institution had several systems built in-house. The University decided that it wanted to standardize on a single system, in order to align it with its digital strategy.
“Our digital strategy speaks of us as a university without limits,” said Paul Westmore, IT director at the University of Plymouth.
“It is our vision that students and staff can experience the university entirely digitally if they so choose,” he added.
“We’re not forcing digital interaction, we’re not saying you have to do everything digitally, but the intention is that you can interact fully digitally with the University if you wish.”
Plymouth decided to implement a new Digital Learning Environment (DLE) to meet this vision. Create an online environment where students and staff could access all content such as lectures and course materials, submit assignments, receive results, and interact with each other through an online system.
To move to a single solution for a complete digital learning environment, Paul Westmore explains: “We wanted a complete product rather than building our own solution, as we were aware that we had quite a modest expertise in digital learning environments. ‘learning. ”
The University wanted to create a learning environment that is the sum of all the components that go into its student experience. “We had a very holistic view of what a learning environment was, and we wanted to make sure of that when we put it in place,” Westmore said.
“We didn’t just want to install a SharePoint-based system, we wanted to make sure we were providing a completely different experience for our students, where they could access an online environment and do whatever they needed.”
Paul and his team also wanted the DLE to be available on multiple platforms, including mobile.
Plymouth put out a G-Cloud tender and the University shortlisted a range of vendors, but CoSector – University of London far outpaced the competition. The Digital Services team has over 50 years of experience providing high quality, cost-effective IT and digital solutions to over one million higher and further education users.
The University has selected CoSector – University of London to implement and support the hosting of Moodle, an online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) platform that manages data specific to students, teachers and other university staff.
Westmore said: “We looked at a number of vendors, and CoSector – University of London was the only vendor who had both the knowledge and the experience, as well as the understanding of how a learning environment can improve the student experience as a whole. So we felt there was a match to provide consulting, support and application development to continually improve our offering.
One of the constraints of Moodle is that documents generally cannot be shared with different programs. However, CoSector – University of London has implemented a bespoke solution where documents are held in a different system, creating a shared learning asset across multiple programs.
During a year-long project in 2013, CoSector – University of London rolled out the new DLE across multiple sites at the University of Plymouth. CoSector – The University of London seamlessly managed the migration process ensuring that all content from previous platforms was transferred securely. To ensure this goes as smoothly as possible, it has also supported the conversion of university courses from its previous platform to Moodle versions.
In 2014, all University staff were given access to work with dedicated support and training teams to ensure that the DLE was filled with ready-to-use teaching and learning materials at the start of the university term. A limited number of students were given access to the system to enable modules that started earlier, including modules for Hong Kong Business School and an electronic submission test for a master’s project. Developments continued throughout the summer, including the advanced assignment tool, mobile app integration, and subject view courses. The DLE was operational and ready for the start of the academic year on September 22, 2014.
From the early stages of integration, it was clear that the new solution was superior to the legacy systems. As university departments previously used the many systems, this meant that there was no central hub where all students and staff could access the information they needed. Plymouth’s new DLE now brings together a number of systems integrated through Moodle as a hub. Single sign-on technology allows easy integration/movement between systems such as Talis Aspire (playlists), PebblePad (ePortfolio), Panopto (content/conference capture), Turnitin (originality check), plus a range of great tools provided by Moodle including formative testing, submission and feedback. A subscription to Lynda.com offers a wealth of online video lessons for staff and students to enhance their lessons or develop their own skills.
Adoption and usage of the system has been unprecedented, averaging over 16,000 unique users per week and a total of 4.4 million hits in the first 12 weeks of use.
Following the integration of the new system, the University received a very positive response to the National Student Survey (NSS). Some of the student comments included: “The DLE is a fantastic and easy to use resource” and “The resources available in the library and the DLE are excellent, with a good range of books, articles, webinars , etc.”
“One of the main things that working with CoSector – University of London has allowed us to do is provide what we believe is an excellent learning environment with very little dedicated resources from the university itself,” said Westmore. “As we don’t have a dedicated DLE team, we have an owner for the DLE system and that’s it.
“I think basically because CoSector – University of London comes from the higher education sector, they really understand, they understand what we’re trying to do. They understood our vision and they understand the constraints in which we work.
“I never doubted for a minute their commitment to providing us with the best possible solution and service. They truly understand the Moodle product and what is achievable, and the depth of expertise really helped bring our vision.
“After working with them for four years, I still think we made the right choice. I am a very satisfied customer,” concludes Westmore.
“The centrality of having a single integrated user experience was really crucial to the success of the project. Plymouth had a very multidisciplinary team. The project manager was a professor who had a real vision of what he wanted to achieve. he professional services team, the technology team, the academic team and CoSector – University of London have worked closely together to realize this vision.”
Dave Kenworthy, Director of Digital Services, CoSector – University of London, has managed the project since inception in 2014. He said:
“Plymouth University’s vision of a global digital learning environment has proven far ahead of its time and aligns very closely with CoSector’s notion of an integrated digital learning platform.
“Working with Plymouth to deliver a central piece of this vision has been hugely rewarding. It may sound like a cliché, but working with Plymouth as a trusted partner truly feels like part of a common team of equals with a clear and shared objective. It is rare but it is the basis of everything that has been achieved since 2014.”
Recommend0 recommendationsPosted in