'But my subject's different': a web-based approach to supporting disciplinary lifelong learning skills
McAvinia, Claire and Oliver, Martin (2002) 'But my subject's different': a web-based approach to supporting disciplinary lifelong learning skills. Computers and Education, 38 (1-3). pp. 209-220.
Many new initiatives in Higher Education institutions choose to develop web sites to support their work, not least because web-based delivery of support materials from a central unit can help to deliver development materials via a single point of access, and 'on demand'. But this presents its own difficulties in terms of the selection and structure of generic material, and in making students aware of its existence. In this paper, the problem of designing a centrally managed web site (both in terms of structure and format) that adequately supports students across the institution will be discussed, and a strategy for developing a site that meets departmental needs will be presented, together with a discussion of the impact of this approach on the role of the developer. This is illustrated within the context of supporting Key Skills. 'Key' or 'transferable' skills are now recognised as being essential for most people in work and in life. Development of these skills is being encouraged at every level in education, and is demanded with increasing frequency by employers and professional bodies. Within Higher Education, the skills debate has prompted an examination of how students manage their own learning, and skills development initiatives encourage learners to seek ways of filling gaps in their knowledge and experience. However, at university level, it is frequently the case that explicit development of key skills must fall to students' spare time or to their extracurricular activities. This is partly explained by departmental traditions and experience, which may not encompass skills development. The UCL Key Skills site model, based on a 'core' website with customised departmental homepages, allows departments to make best use of central resources by 'personalising' the routes into these for their students. It also draws an important distinction in terms of the purpose of the web site, between management of information (for the central site) and pedagogy (for the departmental pages). The model helps to lay the foundations for graduates' lifelong learning by encouraging skills development, within a discipline-specific setting. The benefits of this approach which included greatly increased levels of engagement and raised awareness amongst staff are illustrated by a case study from the UCL Geography department, and wider applications of the model as a way of supporting centralised initiatives are discussed.
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