Our department is quite a typical art, design and media area. There are courses that range from level 1 to 5 and cover most of the major qualifications. The team is made up of about 15 full time lecturers and supported by some associate lecturers and technicians. For the most part communication is good, especially between specific course teams. The team tries their best to share good practice and support others with resources. Everyone realises that trying to teach so many hours of contact time is tough and welcomes a lesson plan or media to include in their teaching from others.
In the best cases, staff know who to ask for a certain kind of resource because they might have spotted them delivering something similar. They might have been team teaching or just passed through the studio and been inspired by what was going on.
However, there will be duplication of research, organisation and production of resources. This is not only frustrating, but it has a direct impact on the quality of teaching. Just imagine the lost time that could have been spent on something else, such as stretch and challenge exercises. So is it possible to eliminate duplication?
Some tactics do make subtle differences. These might include using Inset or Study days to share resources, network and discuss what others are doing or emailing all staff in the area the schemes of work for the following year and hoping they will read them.
After some time of trial and error we found the most effective method for increasing productivity of resources to support learning was creating a space on a shared network or intranet. Ideally, this goes on a cloud so that it can be accessed from anywhere, but sometimes there is no budget to accommodate such large cloud based spaces and the school or college intranet will suffice.
Considerations to make on production of a shared intranet network space
1. An allocation of storage space
2. Back-up times
3. Short Cut on Desk-top for access on all computers across the establishment
4. Access rights of who can “read” the resources and who can “write”
5. Agreement on a usage policy between the team
Much of this structure now seems obvious, but it took some time to work out what would suit our team the most. Instead of dividing up everything into specific courses, it was easier and more logical to separate by discipline. This was because it is so common for lecturers to teach across a range of different levels and courses.
The first three folders are Art, Design and Media which then contain the relevant course folders. Many of the team now produce resources directly in this space instead of on their local computer or personal space. These resources are produced more efficiently as they “borrow” images, format and content from other resources already available on the network.
The following folders contain resources that the whole team contributes to, not only their own course folders:
• Visual Library: whenever a lecturer produces handouts they inevitably collect reference material by artists, designers or professional practitioners for students to analyse. While they are also stored in the respective course folders we have agreed to copy these to the Visual Library where they are kept in folders by the artist/designer’s name or book title. This means that every bit of research into a specific book, artist, art movement technique or specialism gets shared with everyone.
• Image Resources: Many classes, especially those like Graphic Design, involve the use of stock images. While there is no substitute for learners taking and producing their own images from scratch, there are many occasions when this isn’t always possible. We took advantage of the fact that many lecturers were giving students image resources to use in their work, like anatomical parts or patterns and made sure that they were kept in this central location for everyone else to use. We also made sure that for every outing that supported courses, the learners then shared their images in this central file, which also made the following year far more productive. This space may start small, but will quickly grow as more people contribute to it.
• ILT Resources: For every process related to production on the computer, from printing to scanning, from PowerPoint to using a digital camera, the team produces a handout. This is probably the single biggest area of duplication we found. Many of these are available on the internet as written tutorials and even as videos, but specific hardware can often mean that each establishment will need to produce their own. Now, every time courses engage in a specific practice, we first check if a handout has already been produced by someone in the team. In most cases we found there was something that only needs slight adjustments and we can now concentrate more on how to facilitate the creative use instead of how to use.
• Lessons – Tutorials: Sadly, for every time a lecturer thinks, “that lesson went so well,” there is a time when they think, “if only I knew how to…” or “I just haven’t got the time to write the lesson plan.” We have also all been caught out having to cover for another member for the team, but haven’t got the resources. Lecturers are also constantly producing lessons that they might only deliver once. Moreover, because of the progressive nature of this area’s technologies, we are also continually developing our own abilities. To meet these demands, the whole team copies highly successful lesson plans and relevant resources. We also make sure there are links to or copies of tutorials we have used to train ourselves.
• Archive of Best Practice: Every year students leave and take their wonderful products with them. From sketchbooks to animations, from web pages to movies. No doubt, most lecturers have made copies and photographed those Distinction or A* level products for use as exemplar material the following year. This space is used for sharing those kinds of materials that the learners have produced. Most importantly, it quickly becomes clear that the creative cycle and skills used to produce those products are transferable to other qualifications across the area. Now it is common for a design student to look at and learn from a movie produced by a media student and vice versa. Crossing these boundaries has transformed the delivery of many of the programs we now deliver for good.
The benefits of this system are manifold. Here are some of the notable changes and how the network has contributed to course delivery:
• All team members can see what others are delivering
• Team can use other’s resources
• Resources are shared across subjects
• Learning is richer as students are exposed to a wider range of subject areas
• Production of resources is quicker
• Each team member feels more able to deliver subjects that were otherwise unavailable for their particular students
• Productivity in lessons has increased
• Learner’s work has a richer variety of references
• Lecturers are more confident when developing their own skills
Agreement on usage policy
1. Area team have full read and write privileges
2. Students only have “read” access privileges
3. No team member will delete or change resources produced by other members
4. Team members will contribute where possible
5. Nominated members will organise and collate resources on an annual basis
Extending the shared space
As this is written, technologies are developing and more and more opportunities are becoming available for this network and shared resource to grow and expand. After Virtual Learning Environments like Moodle, possibly the single biggest contribution will come from Online Storage Spaces. There are many springing up that offer free Internet space that could eliminate the need for an Intranet space such as